Delhi High Court issues notices to Ministry of I&B and Censor Board
Delhi High Court issues notices to Ministry of I&B and Censor Board (CBFC) on MWI’s PIL against the scandalous practice of ‘conversion’ of ‘A’ films into ‘U/A’ and ‘U’ to enable their telecast on TV channels Hon’ble Delhi High Court today issued notices to Ministry of I&B and Censor Board (CBFC) on the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) – (WP (C) - 5203/2013) by ‘MediaWatch-India’, inter alia, against the informal and scandalous practice of ‘re-certification/conversion’ of duly certified adult (‘A’) films into ‘U/A’ and ‘U’ to enable their telecast on television.
The petition is filed by Sri Edara Gopi Chand, Vice-President, ‘MediaWatch-India’and represented by advocate Sri Gaurav Kumar Bansal. The Court directed Ministry of I&B and
CBFC to file responses within four weeks and posted the matter for next hearing on 9th October, 2013.
‘MediaWatch-India’ filed the petition against the prevailing policy vacuum and legal lacunae being perpetuated by Ministry of I&B and the informal and illegal practices put in place by CBFC which are primarily responsible for exposing the children and adolescents in the country to ‘ADULT’ film material through television, viz., drug use, adultery, extramarital affairs, ribald comedy, intimate scenes of romance and sexuality, so-called ‘item songs’ with vulgar lyrics and dance sequences, scenes involving rape and other heinous acts against women, films with extreme violence, films of horror and thriller genres etc. The adverse impact of such content on the impressionable minds of children and adolescents is well-established by various research studies at national and international levels. By such exposure, the due right of minors to be protected from harmful/age-inappropriate media content is being violated.
The issues raised in brief are as follows:
1. A. Presently, as per Programme Code (Rule 6 (1) (o) of Cable Television Networks
Rules, 1994), ‘adult’ film content (‘A’ certified films, trailers, songs etc.) is expressly prohibited on all television channels and cable networks irrespective of timings. To circumvent this restriction for telecast of adult films on television and to ‘facilitate’ the commercial interests of the film industry (by enabling the producers to sell satellite rights of their ‘A’ films for telecast in TV channels), CBFC and their regional offices were indulging in the practice of ‘re-certification’ of ‘A’-certified films into ‘UA’ or ‘U’ with token cuts to enable their telecast in television.
B.As per the provisions of Cinematograph Act, 1952 and Cinematograph Certification Rules, 1983, the regional offices of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) are examining and certifying all films into the following categories: (i) unrestricted public exhibition (‘U’) (ii) unrestricted public exhibition but with parental guidance for children below twelve years (‘U/A’) (iii) public exhibition restricted to adults only (‘A’) (iv) public exhibition restricted to members of any profession or any class of persons (‘S’).
Section 4(1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 mandates that the CBFC shall sanction films for public exhibition “having regard to the nature, content and theme of the film…”As such, once a film is certified by CBFC under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, the question of any subsequent re-certification/modification of the same film into another category doesn’t arise. Any such act of ‘re-certification’, apart from lacking legal sanctity, has the effect of stultifying the legislative intention embodied in said section 4(1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
However, the CBFC, in brazen disregard to the extant legal position had been indulging in the informal and illegal practice of ‘re-certification’ of ‘A’ rated films into ‘U/A’ & ‘U’ by token cuts, i.e., deletion of few scenes/ dialogues etc.
C.Due to this illegal practice of ‘re-certification’ undertaken by CBFC, almost all the ‘adult-themed’ films are being broadcast on television channels, thus exposing the children and adolescents in the country to mature and age-inappropriate film content. Even the foreign/Hollywood films with mature themes (rated „R‟ in USA for adult themes, strong language, intense violence, sexual situations, drug abuse etc.) are being indiscriminately re-certified by CBFC from ‘A’ into ‘UA’ to facilitate their telecast on television. CEO, CBFC and many members of CBFC openly acknowledged that the ‘recertification’ has no legal basis but they are doing it to ‘help’ film industry.
MWI asked the court to direct CBFC to stop the ‘re-certification’ business which is outright illegal and to direct Ministry of I&B to issue necessary orders that such ‘re-certified’ Adult-themed films shall not be telecast on TV channels.
2. When it comes to certification of films, there is lot of difference when the film being certified is meant for limited theatrical/video exhibition and when it is meant for universal television viewing. Accordingly, the certification norms for the film content meant for television viewing by all age groups have to be more specific, stringent and necessarily be different from the norms that apply to certification of films meant for theatrical/video release. However, due to the sheer negligence and apathy of Ministry of I&B in protecting the interests of viewers, even to this day, there are no statutorily laid down norms for certifying films for television nor any audience-friendly rating systems for the content (including films) shown on television.
MWI asked the Court to direct Ministry of I&B to prescribe separate ‘certification norms’ and ‘ratings/categories’ for films meant for broadcast on television in a time-bound manner.
3. The films certified/re-certified with ‘U/A’ rating by CBFC contain many visuals and dialogues which make the film unsuitable for the children. As per law, ‘U/A’ films require parental guidance for children below twelve years. Further, Rule 6(5) of the statutory Programme Code stipulates that “Programmes unsuitable for children must not be carried in the cable service at times when the largest numbers of children are viewing.” However, the films certified as ‘UA’ by CBFC are being telecast by all the TV channels in their original versions (without any toning down of content) and anytime during the day, i.e., without any restriction on the timing of their telecast. But, the Ministry of I&B which is the competent authority is neither taking action nor stipulated any specific timings for the telecast of ‘UA’ films in television. It is an unfortunate situation today that even the so-called kids’ channels are airing ‘UA’ films having adult themes with a pure commercial intent to garner advertisement revenue.
MWI asked the Court to direct Ministry of I&B to suitably amend the Programme Code providing for specific timings and any other conditions as deemed fit to govern telecast of ‘U/A’ films on the television.
As the issue involves public interest and relates to millions of TV-watching audience in the country, the same may be carried prominently by all media.
General Secretary, ‘MediaWatch-India’