Government’s decision to scrap the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal – an appellate authority that filmmakers approach to challenge the decisions of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) – is another blow for the country’s film fraternity. In an ordinance notified earlier this month, government amended the Cinematograph Act, 1952, to clarify that filmmakers aggrieved by the decisions of the CBFC – also known as the censor board – will now have to approach the high courts. This is truly problematic given the huge backlog of cases high courts are already grappling with – they have 57 lakh cases pending.
Thus, it’s difficult to see high courts paying attention to film certification issues with consequent delays mounting costs for film producers. The move also needs to be seen in the context of the film industry’s circumstances since last year. The post-Covid lockdown and restrictions on theatres hit the industry hard. A further jolt was dealt by the Narcotics Control Bureau investigations against certain Bollywood personalities.
All of this is seriously undermining the biggest film industry in the world. Add to this right-wing elements in society frequently filing FIRs for so-called objectionable content – even with respect to content on OTT platforms – and an impression has been created that authorities today take a dim view of the film and entertainment industry as a whole. This is unfortunate because the industry is India’s biggest soft power asset. And at a time of increasingly competitive geopolitics, with the China-Pakistan axis getting increasingly assertive and confronting India with the prospect of a two-front war, soft power can be India’s trump card. Hence, government should be helping the film industry’s creative capabilities to flourish. Rescinding the ordinance disbanding the appellate tribunal would put everybody at ease.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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