Shyam Benegal Committee: Certify vs Censor Game

The  Information and Broadcasting Ministry set up a committee under  filmmaker Shyam Benegal to review the  film certification process

Let’s first dive into some details of the Censor board

  • The Central Board of Film Certification (also known as the Censor Board ) is a statutory censorship and classification body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
  • It regulates public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952
  • It assigns certifications to films, television shows, television ads and publications for exhibition, sale or hire, in India.

Let’s know about the composition of the board

  • The censor board consists of 25 other non-official members and a chairperson. <All are appointed by the Centre>
  • Pahlaj Nihalani currently presides the board, replacing Leela Samson who resigned last year
  • The board’s headquarters is in Mumbai. It has nine regional offices

What happened to Mukul Mudgal committee report? Wasn’t it tasked to do the same thing?

In February 2013, the UPA govt. appointed Justice Mukul Mudgal to head a committee to examine issues of certification under the Cinematograph Act, 1952. Precisely the same thing.

  • The Mudgal Committee submitted its report in September 2013
  • It went into considerable detail, looked at the existing law and where it could be amended, even worked on a draft law
  • It formulated a system of certification for films to replace the current one

Why appoint another committee to do the same work?

What were the recommendations of Mudgal Committee?

  • It noted that the nature and size of the film industry has changed beyond recognition since the 1952 Act and the same set of rules had little relevance today
  • It said no criteria had been set for selecting those who were on the advisory panels of the film certification boards. This lacuna is glaringly evident in the selection of some of those on the current censor board, including its chair
  • Suggested replacing the term ‘advisory panel’ with screening panel. This more accurately represented the task before the CBFC
  • Questioned the manner in which state govternments frequently suspend or cancel screening of films anticipating law and order problems when individuals or groups object

It also suggested five categories for film certification as the existing two categories were insufficient.

What were those five categories?

A new form of classification of films:

  • Unrestricted exhibition  U
  • For persons who have completed 12 years of age  12+
  • For persons who have completed 15 years of age  15+
  • Restricted to adults  A
  • Restricted to members of any profession or any class of persons, having regard to the nature, content and theme of the film  S

These categories reflect similar categories followed in many other countries.

But frankly, tell me what’s CBFC’s job? To certify or to censor!

Yes, the government needs to remember that the job of the CBFC is to certify films and not to censor them

  • There are very few specific areas under which the board could ask the filmmaker to make changes or cuts
  • But the Censor Board has often demanded cuts in films based entirely on the subjective interpretation of the law by its members

How can an advisory panel have people with no expertise in cinema or art?

  • In any case, terms such as “obscene” or “immoral” that appear in the law can only be subjectively defined. Often filmmakers complain of films being viewed through a conservative “moralistic prism” by the panel
  • Some women’s groups and individuals accuse the CBFC of giving too much latitude to filmmakers
  • The CBFC has earned the infamy of demanding random and illogical cuts, leaving filmmakers with no option but to accept them or delay release by going into appeal. If its job is to certify, that is what it should be doing

But, how does one determine whether obscenity and violence are actually detrimental to society?

These are not the things one can sit down in judgement over, at least so easily.

  • This is where we need to address the question of how much philosophical, psychological and sociological expertise members of the censor board have
  • Recently, CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani has invited the ire of the industry for his overbearing ways and for being excessively censorious
  • These are problems that have happened in the censor board even in the past

So then the onus of censorship should be on the filmmakers. Is that a possible way out?

  • It’s a very difficult responsibility, because at the end of the day cinema is a commercial business and audiences have to be drawn in to recover investment
  • The govt is not going to get rid of the censor board any time soon
  • Many even say there is no need for a censor board in a democracy
  • If we are capable of changing governments on the basis of our votes, we know what’s good for us when it comes to watching films

So why can’t we decide what is good for us to watch?

It would have been simpler to accept Mudgal Committee suggestions rather than asking another committee to go over the same ground unless the purpose is to use this to push these issues under the carpet once again. Finally, cinema is the mirror of society and reflection of what society is!


Any doubts?

[op-ed snap] Cutting tribunals to size



Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the Tribunals involved

Mains level: The entire controversy shows the non-debatable side of the Money Bills. As on the Money Bills, Lok Sabha has more power than Rajya Sabha.



  1. The article is about the controversy over the Finance Bill, 2017
  2. And  the legality of the merger of several tribunals

 The Finance Bill, 2017

  1. It is being passed as a money bill
  2. What is there in the bill: The Bill included amendments to legislation on multiple subjects, in an attempt to rationalise the functioning of multiple tribunals

Rationalisation of the Tribunals

  1.  Due to merger, the number of tribunals has decreased to 19 from 26
  2. Merger:  the Competition Appellate Tribunal will be merged with the National Company Law Tribunal
  3. The Telecom Dispute Appellate Tribunal will also do the work of the Cyber Law Appellate Tribunal and and the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority Appellate Tribunal
  4. The tribunal relating to the Employees’ Provident Fund will be subsumed in the Industrial Tribunal

Now, more control rests with the Central Government

  1. Under the Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017  (1) the qualifications, (2) tenure, (3) conditions of service, (4) removal and emoluments of the chairpersons and members of these tribunals will all be under the control of the Centre


  1. The Madras Bar Association has challenged in the Madras High Court the validity of the amendments in the Finance bill, 2017
  2. Controversy over : The process(Implemented through the recent amendments) through which adjudicatory bodies under different laws can be abolished by a money bill
  3.  And, the Centre taking over the entire process of removing the presiding officers

Celebrities to face law for misleading ads

  1. News: The Centre will soon introduce a new consumer protection law to impose stringent punishment for misleading advertisements on manufacturers, celebrities endorsing products and publishers
  2. Data: Since March 2015, 3,220 complaints had been received through the Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements (GAMA) website
  3. While 1,683 complaints were resolved, 715 were rejected
  4. Background: The government had earlier introduced the Consumer Protection Bill, 2015, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which recommended several changes to the Bill
  5. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry had constituted an inter-ministerial committee to examine the complaints or take suo motu cognisance of alleged violations of the Programme and Advertising Codes
  6. On adulteration: Hallmarking of gold is being made mandatory, wherein the weight and the company’s name would have to be given


Keep track as the draft law gets released. Celebrity endorsement can be asked as an ethical issue in GS-4.

[op-ed snap] Missing the spirit for the body


  1. The Central Board of Film Certification has turned down yet another film, Ka Bodyscapes directed by Jayan Cherian
  2. By its act the Board has lowered its credibility, and by association that of the Indian republic in whose name it acts
  3. It is time that its authority to effectively ban films should go
  4. By refusing to certify the film in question, it has revealed itself as tendentious, driven by prudery, ignorant of India’s history and unmindful of the Constitution

The narrative circle:

  1. We get an idea about the film from the writ petition filed in the High Court of Kerala seeking restraint on the CBFC’s virtual ban
  2. It revolves around three characters: Haris is a free-thinking artist who also happens to be a Muslim and in a relationship with Vishnu who comes from a family of right-wingers and is a Hanuman-bhakt himself, which presumably makes him Hindu but does not bring acceptance from his family
  3. They have a friend in Sia who comes from a conservative background and is as Muslim as Haris is
  4. She chooses feminism and faces flak for it
  5. On behalf of the director, the petitioners clarify that the film is about societal attitudes towards individual freedom and is not a critique of religion
  6. Finally, the film is set in Kozhikode, a city the rooted cosmopolitanism of which belies its size

What are the Board’s objections?

  1. The Board has reasoned: “… the film is glorifying the subject of gay and homosexual relationship, nudity accentuating vital parts of male body (in paintings)… The film is explicit of scene offending Hindu sensibilities depicting vulgarity and obscenity through the movie”
  2. There is also recourse to the trope of ‘law and order’
  3. It is extraordinary for an order from a public body that there is no trace of reasoning to be found in all this

Relevance of the objections:

  1. The Board appears innocent of both our storied past as a people or of the Indian Constitution
  2. Temple sculpture celebrates sexual union of every kind, which only the philistines miss
  3. Moreover, there is no stricture against the depiction of nudity in Hinduism
  4. Further, the Board appears to not have heard of court judgments which categorically reject the argument of ‘law and order’ as a criterion for banning a film
  5. As for religious sensibilities, the Constitution gives an individual the freedom to practise his or her religion but not the right to be protected from any reference to it that may be interpreted as giving offence
  6. All practices are open to scrutiny and no ‘religious immunity’ is on offer
  7. India is a secular republic and, accordingly, no special rights are accorded to religion

The ‘religion’ in India:

  1. In India religious identity is often an ascriptive marker of persons, and it is difficult to get very far away from it
  2. But the role of public institutions in a democracy is to wean society away from this practice by weighing in on behalf of individuals trying to break free of oppressive social custom so long as this does not violate the freedom of others
  3. If religions are to be granted sensibility and the religious is the only identity a person is allowed to have, in this instance India’s religions must find the film affirming, because when forming intimate associations with persons of other religions, we seemingly recognise one another’s religion
  4. But, actually, all this is utterly irrelevant in the context as religion should have no role to play in determining the sexual lives of people

Religion or homosexuality: where does the problem lie?

  1. The CBFC cannot be allowed to get away with the pettiness that it hides behind the fig leaf of religion
  2. Its beef clearly is with “glorifying the subject of homosexuality”, by which prospect the Board is clearly shocked
  3. The Board has taken the law into its own hands as there is no legal stricture on the representation of homosexuality in any form

Looking through different lenses:

  1. There are three ways of seeing Ka Bodyscapes
  2. The first one is the construction that it is an affront to religion
  3. Consider the imagery of Indra’s youthful companions, the Marut, as men in the sky who relish one another’s bodies
  4. Devout Hindus are not upset by this picture as they treat it as beside the point of their belief
  5. The second is to see it as a story of friendship between a Hindu and a Muslim directed by a Christian
  6. The academic secularists would be made happy by this characterisation, but it gives primacy to religion, which is what the film is trying to get away from
  7. The most promising way of seeing the film is to see it as showing how Indians are rejecting social strictures to follow their instincts


The op-ed has good points to incorporate in your essay/ answer on censorship. Know about CBFC for Prelims.


The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC):

  1. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) (often referred to as the Censor Board) is a statutory censorship and classification body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India
  2. It is tasked with “regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952”

Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they are certified by the Board, including films shown on television

SC agrees to hear bar dance girls’ plea

  1. The Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition filed by women working in Maharashtra’s bars, including dancers and waitresses
  2. Petition: Against the constitutionality of a 2016 State law containing a rather explicit definition of what is “obscene” in dance
  3. Background: The Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016 was passed by the State Assembly
  4. This was to circumvent a 2015 Supreme Court judgment which ordered dance bars to be thrown open again and classified dance as a profession
  5. The Bench has already expressed its suspicion that this law was just a ruse to “circumvent” the court’s order
  6. The Act: An ‘obscene dance’ consists of “a sexual act, lascivious movements, gestures for the purpose of sexual propositioning or indicating availability of sexual access to the dancer, or in the course of which, the dancer exposes his or her genitals or, if a female, is topless”
  7. Criticisms: Legal experts said terms used like “lascivious movements,” etc., is at best vague and exposes the dancer and her establishment to the whims of the authorities itching to crack down on them
  8. Arguments against ban: The bar girls’ union argued that the 2016 law stigmatised their profession and unreasonably interfered with their free choice of expression through dramatic performances
  9. The act of tipping or giving gifts as a token of appreciation has been customary and an integral part of traditional dance culture
  10. This decades-old practice is akin to those performing Mujra, Lavani [traditional Marathi song and dance] or Tamasha [traditional Marathi theatre] where performers earn their living through ‘bakshisi’ offered by the audience as a token of appreciation of the performances


Know about the arguments from mains perspective. The issue of livelihoods v/s obscenity is important here for ethics.

Can’t prevent uploading of objectionable content, Google tells SC

  1. Context: The SC hearing a PIL filed by NGO Prajwala highlighting the increasing number of instances of sexual assault videos of women and children being uploaded on the Internet
  2. SC: Whether google can set up some a mechanism or a body to identify and prevent those who upload obscene content featuring women and children
  3. Google: Trying to prevent a person from uploading objectionable content online is like attempting to prevent a murder, unless it is a case of a repeat offender, like a serial killer
  4. There is no reasonable way to prevent a person from uploading even before the said content is originated. It is well-nigh impossible. No way to nip it in the bud. Data numbering in billions are uploaded


Not directly important for exam but can be a point in prevention of sexual abuse.

Self-regulation important for media: Modi

  1. Source: PM Modi at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Press Council of India (PCI)
  2. Views: There should be no govt interference in the functioning of media, but advised self-regulation by making appropriate changes with times
  3. Gandhiji had said uncontrolled writing can create huge problems but he had also said that external interference would wreak havoc
  4. Journalists cannot make corrections today because of the fast-paced nature of electronic and digital media
  5. Referring to the Kandahar hijack in 1999, he said new channels’ did round-the-clock reportage of angry reactions of the families of passengers in the Indian Airlines
  6. This emboldened the terrorists as they thought they can get anything from the Indian govt with this kind of public pressure
  7. This set off introspection in the media, which later came with up with norms to prevent it

If you don’t like a book, throw it away, says HC

  1. News: The Madras High Court upheld freedom of expression, as it delivered a verdict refusing to ban Madhorubhagan, a fictional work written by Perumal Murugan
  2. Context: The local community and right wing organisations have been demanding to ban the novel, based on events at Tiruchengode, Tamil Nadu
  3. The HC said that the choice is with the reader, who could always opt not to read a book
  4. The HC also observed that though literary tastes may vary, the right to write should be unhindered

Shyam Benegal committee submits recommendations on film certification

  1. CBFC: The Central Board of Film Certification should only be a film certification body
  2. Its scope should be restricted to categorizing the suitability of the film to audience groups on the basis of age and maturity
  3. The CBFC should refuse certification only when a film contains anything that contravenes the provisions of Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952
  4. Or also when its content crosses the ceiling laid down in the highest category of certification
  5. The categorisation of films should be more specific and apart from U category, the UA Category can be broken up into further sub-categories – UA12+ and UA15+
  6. The A category should also be sub-divided into A and AC (Adult with Caution) categories

Better to dance in bars than beg on streets

  1. Context: Supreme Court slammed the Maharashtra Govt for delaying licences to hotels & bar
  2. SC: state’s job is to protect dignity of women in their workplace
  3. State should not go into extremes of prohibition when only supposed to regulate
  4. Consider dance as a profession & art; when it slips into obscenity, IPC will take care
  5. It is better for women to dance professionally on a platform rather than beg on the streets or get into other undesirable means of livelihood

Mandate of Benegal panel unclear

Despite the impeccable credentials of the Censor Board revamp panel some questions.

What happens to Mudgal report, raised more questions?

  1. The government’s appointment of a panel headed by veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal to revamp the Censor Board has raised more questions than answers.
  2. Does this mean that the new committee will just be a teacher and monitor to the current board?
  3. Or will it go deeper and look into the procedural rehaul of the process of censorship of films itself?
  4. And if it has been formed to usher in sweeping changes then what happens now to the Mudgal Committee report?

Let’s know about Central Board of Film Certification?

  1. The Central Board of Film Certification (often referred to as the Censor Board) is a statutory censorship and classification body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  2. It is tasked with regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952.
  3. It assigns certifications to films, television shows, television ads, and publications for exhibition, sale or hire in India.
  4. Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they are certified by the Board.

Shyam Benegal to head panel to revamp Censor Board

The committee would also look into the CBFC’s staffing pattern so as to recommend a framework for efficient, transparent and user-friendly services.

  1. Call it a sign of no-confidence in Pahlaj Nihalani, Chairman, Central Board of Film Certification, or an attempt to suggest corrective measures.
  2. Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry constituted a committee, headed by Shyam Benegal.
  3. To suggest measures to help Board members understand the nuances of film certification.
  4. UPA government had set up a panel headed by Mukul Mudgal, to recommend good certification processes and measures to revamp the CBFC.
  5. Mr. Benegal committee will recommend the broad guidelines and procedures under the Cinematograph Act for the benefit of the chairperson and members of the screening committee.

Not for moral policing, says Centre

  1. Clarifying its stand on porn ban, Attorney General told the SC that the Centre does not intend to intrude into the private lives of citizens or act in an authoritative way.
  2. However, he defended the banning of child porn sites indicating that India is no exception from the developed world in banning child pornography.
  3. He also mentioned that banning other forms of porn is a matter of debate, probably in the Parliament. It would be interesting to see what logic our lawmakers put forward should such a debate happen in the Parliament.

Porn websites ban effectively in place as ISPs seek clarity



ISPAI has written to DoT saying its members will continue to block the 857 URLs mentioned in a govt note, till they receive clearer directions.

Internet Service Providers Association (ISPAI) is the main lobby group for the country’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs).


What do they seek clarity on?


The ISPs don’t have mechanism to check the content, as the same is dynamic in nature, hence we request your good self to advise us immediately the further course of action in this regard. Till your further directive, the ISPs are keeping said 857 URLs disabled.

Ban on Pornography: Between prurience and pragmatism

  1. The definition of what constitutes pornography is open to misinterpretation, unless it is drawn from various legal provisions.
  2. There is a flip-flop by the govt. on the issue of banning porn websites due to policy confusion and the difficulty involved in it.
  3. Even the enforcement becomes farce and is often counter-productive due to the lack of technical know-how to bypass the restriction.
  4. There are legal provisions available in IPC, IT Act and POCSO Act to prohibit such content.
  5. Experts argue that any ban on pornography is an encroachment on right to privacy.
  6. Therefore, govt. should be vigilant mostly against child pornography.


What do you think? What’s the fine balance at stake here? Right to Privacy vs. Societal Ethics? What is the larger implication?

Ban only on sites promoting child porn, says Centre

  1. Following massive uproar over its move to ban 857 pornography sites, the Union government on Tuesday said the ban would be lifted.
  2. However, sites that promoted child porn would continue to be prohibited.

SC helpless on blocking the pornographic websites

  1. If we block one site, other crops up. There are also hidden servers in the country and it is difficult to control them. All social media are being operated from foreign land.
  2. Suggestions to amend the Section 88 of IT act invited – constitution of Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee.

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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