Censorship: Civil Services Mentor Magazine: July - 2016


History has never seen a better example of role of censorship and propoganda than the role of Joseph Goebbels. Joseph Goebbels served as minister of propaganda for the Nazi German government and is generally held responsible for presenting a favorable image of the Nazi regime to the Germans. His control of the propaganda machine stretched over all media of the time—newspapers, radio, films, theater, literature, music and the arts—and he became a figure to be feared, especially by Jews, who were now in the crosshairs of the Nazi Party. Propoganda and censorship are two sides of a same coin. Anyone, who wants to spread his propoganda, needs control over the censorship instituions. Propoganda and censorship both curb the freedom of expression. Propoganda curbs freedom of expression indirectly via not letting people get the correct information, while censorship curbs it directly. A classic example of censorship in India is the Central Board of Film Certification or Censor Board, which comes under the purview of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The Board regularly orders, directors to remove anything it deems offensive or subjects considered to be politically subversive. The Central Board of Film Certification (often referred to as the Censor Board) is one such institutions which has censorship authority over films. It has duty of regulating the public exhibition of films. Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they are certified by the Board, including films shown on television. Pahlaj nihlani is the current director of The Central Board of Film Certification.

The freedom of speech is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution of India. It has been given the highest level of protection, this was the level of importance given by the constitution makers to freedom of expression. However constituion makers believed that absolute freedom of expression can lead to chaotic and disintegrating conditions in country as diverse as India. Constitution itself provides the ways through which it can be curbed. Freddom of expression can be suppressed if it is considered objectionable, harmful, or necessary to maintain communal harmony.

Censor board has to work with in the limitation mentioned in the constitution and the cinematography act through which it derives its powers. However in various past cases The Central Board of Film Certification (or Censor Board) has gone beyond their scope. At the first place as the Bombay High court said it is not a board for censoring, it is only a authority for certification of movies in various categories like U, A, U/A etc. There are various examples which show that The Central Board of Film Certification is excedding its authority. Examples like removing the kissing scene from James bond movie or the recent example of UDTA Punjab where it came up with 90 odd cuts are clearly restricting the peoples right. These incidents put doubt over the motive and intentions over the The Central Board of Film Certification and its director. The Central Board of Film Certification should not be an instituion to propogate the ideology of government of the day.

This is a big problem and The Central Board of Film Certification should understand the mandate given to it. However a far bigger censorship has been imposed by the people on themselfs or others. There are lot of cases where ater getting certificate from The Central Board of Film Certification, films got into trouble. Examples like kissing scene in Dhoom 2 which ended in people burning its movie posters, protest from some portion of the Muslim Community against Vishwaroopam which forced to delete some important scenes from the movie before releasing the same. Similarly protest against PK by Hindu maha sabha and against Da vinci code by some of the Christian community members is a big jolt to freedom of expression.

The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech and expression with certain restrictions such as that of morality, decency, public order etc. Further, the Indian Penal Code allows cramping free speech on grounds of outraging religious feelings, making statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes on grounds of religion, caste, language or race. The Information Act, 2000 aims to punish people who send offensive messages online but is often used to target dissident and even posts on social media.

The Committee chaired by Shri Shyam Benegal submitted major part of their recommendation to Hon’ble Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting, Shri Arun Jaitley this evening. Following are the major highlights of the report –

  • CBFC should only be a film certification body whose scope should be restricted to categorizing the suitability of the film to audience groups on the basis of age and maturity except in the following instances to refuse certification –
  • When a film contains anything that contravenes the provisions of Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.

Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952- (A film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of 19 [the sovereignty and integrity of India] the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence.)

  • When content in a film crosses the ceiling laid down in the highest category of certification.

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