Is recertification of the adult films permitted under law for their telecast on television?
Delhi High Court stays television telecast of the film, ‘Grand Masti’ Today (21/08/15), Delhi High Court ordered stay on the telecast of the film ‘Grand Masti’ which is scheduled on &Pictures tomorrow (22/8/2015) @ 10 PM. The PIL was filed by Edara Gopi Chand, Vice-President, “MediaWatch-India” and represented by Smt. Madhavi Goradia Diwan and Sri Gaurav Kumar Bansal. Next hearing is posted on 16-9-2015 along with an earlier petition challenging the very process of “re-certification” of adult films by CBFC for television telecast.
As per Section 4(1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, the Censor Board has to certify/categorise each film, “having regard to the nature, content and theme of the film…” This is why, as part of every examination report, the panel members clearly note that they are granting a particular certificate/category to the film based on ‘theme, treatment and presentation’. As such, once a film is certified by CBFC under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, any subsequent re-certification/modification of the same film into another category doesn’t arise.
Despite the above clear statutory position mandating ‘theme-based’ certification of films, CBFC has put in an informal and illegal practice whereby re-certification‟ of “A” films into “V/UA” was undertaken for last many years. This is to facilitate producers of adult films to sell their satellite rights to TV channels. All these ‘adult-themed’ films are being broadcast 2 by all TV channels (without any restriction on timings), thus exposing the children and adolescents in the country to mature and age-inappropriate film content.
Recently, the office of Principal Director of Audit (Central), Mumbai, a regional audit wing of Indian Audit and Accounts Department conducted audit of CBFC and concluded that, in the absence of any enabling legal provision, CBFC had indulged in irregular conversion of hundreds of films from “A” to “UA” and “U” in the last many years. This “re-certification” of adult films by Censor Board is already challenged before Delhi High Court (by the same petitioner, Edara Gopi Chand, Vice-President, ‘MediaWatchIndia’). The film, ‘grand masti’ was also re-certified through this illegal practice of ‘recertification’ and slated for telecast on &Pictures on 22-8-2015. The film “Grand Masti” is not only replete with double meaning dialogues but has highly objectionable content that offends the dignity of motherhood and humanity. None other than the then chairperson of CBFC, Smt. Leela Samson expressed her deep shock as to how such film was passed by the examining committee. National Commission for Women also expressed their opposition for the film. The Examining Officer was also penalized for certifying the said film in violation of statutory guidelines. In January, 2014, an application for 'V/UA' certificate for the said film (for TV telecast purpose) was refused unanimously by examining committee noting as follows: “The committee…held detailed discussion on the theme, treatment and the presentation of the film…Throughout there are double meaning dialogue and visuals not suitable for non adults. Hence, refused for 'UA'.” Despite this clear-cut conclusion by an examining committee that the film is adult themed and not suitable for non-adults, in January, 2015, the film was once again taken up for examination and 're-certified' with 'V/UA' certification (with minor voluntary deletions and a single cut ordered by the Committee). In view of this irregular and illegal conversion, it was requested in the PIL that the V/UA certification granted to the film, “Grand Masti” needs to be quashed.
Presently, irrespective of timings, ‘adult’ film content is expressly prohibited on television. There is no concept of ‘watershed’ in India, i.e., the provision to show adult content during late nights, as is available in some countries. As per the statutory Programme Code (Rule 6 (1) (o) of Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, which is applicable to all satellite/cable/DTH/IPTV channels, “No programme should be carried in the cable service which…is not suitable for unrestricted public exhibition, provided that no film or film song or film promo or film trailer or music video or music albums or their promos, whether produced in India or abroad, shall be carried through Cable Service unless it has been certified by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) as suitable for unrestricted public exhibition in India”. Since the film “Grand Masti” is having pervasive adult theme (but re-certified with ‘V/UA’ rating in a patently irregular and illegal manner), it is unfit for unrestricted public exhibition and thereby not qualified for telecast on television in view of said provision in statutory programme code. Accepting the contentions of the petitioner, the court ordered stay on the telecast of the film until further orders.
Edara Gopi Chand,