Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023 passed in Rajya Sabha: What new provisions say on piracy, certifying movies


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill

Mains level: Film piracy issues, Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and its significance

What’s the news

  • The Rajya Sabha on July 27 passed the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023, that introduces stringent anti-piracy provisions, expanding the scope of the law from censorship to also cover copyright.

Central idea

  • The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023, seeks to amend the Cinematograph Act, 1952, which authorises the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to require cuts in films and clear them for exhibition in cinemas and on television. It also empowers the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to give separate certificates for a film’s exhibition on television or other media.

What is meant by film piracy?

  • Film piracy refers to the unauthorized copying, distribution, exhibition, or downloading of films without the consent of the copyright owner or the film’s creators. It involves the illegal duplication and dissemination of copyrighted movies through various means.
  • Film piracy is a significant concern for the film industry, as it undermines the economic viability of films and negatively impacts the revenue generated from legitimate sources.

What is the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)?

  • The CBFC, commonly known as the Censor Board, is a statutory body in India responsible for certifying films for public exhibition.
  • It operates under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
  • The CBFC’s primary role is to review and rate films based on their content and to ensure that films adhere to the guidelines and principles laid down in the Cinematograph Act, 1952, and the rules framed thereunder.

Key provisions of the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023

  • Crackdown on Film Piracy: The bill aims to address the issue of film piracy by imposing strict penalties on those involved in making pirated copies of movies. It prescribes a three-year jail term and a fine of up to 5% of a movie’s production cost for offenders.
  • Introduction of New Certifications: The bill proposes three new certifications under the ‘UA’ (Parental Guidance) category: UA 7+, UA 13+, and UA 16+. These certifications indicate that children younger than the specified age limits can watch such movies with parental guidance.
  • Empowerment of the CBFC: The bill grants enhanced powers to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to issue separate certificates for films to be exhibited on television or other media platforms. It also clarifies that the CBFC certificates will be valid perpetually and that the Centre will not have any revisional powers over them.
  • Harmonization with Existing Laws: The bill aims to harmonize the Cinematograph Act, 1952 with other laws that tangentially address piracy, such as the Copyright Act, 1957, and the Information Technology Act, 2000.

The journey of the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill

  • Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2019: The first version of the bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 2019. It was primarily focused on addressing film piracy. The bill aimed to introduce measures to tackle the unauthorized recording and exhibition of films, which had been causing significant financial losses to the film industry.
  • Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021: In response to the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Information Technology and the feedback received from stakeholders and the public, a revised version of the bill was released.
  • Public Feedback and Consultations: The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021, was made available for public comments and feedback. This step allowed individuals and organizations to provide their views on the proposed amendments, ensuring a more inclusive and participatory legislative process.
  • Industry Stakeholder Consultations: In 2022, consultations were held with industry stakeholders, including representatives from the film industry and related sectors. The input and concerns raised during these consultations were taken into account to further refine and finalize the provisions of the bill.
  • Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023: Based on the inputs gathered from public feedback and industry stakeholders, the final version of the bill, now known as the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023, was prepared. This version included all the proposed changes and updates aimed at addressing film piracy, enhancing film certification, and aligning the Cinematograph Act with other relevant laws.

Significance of the Bill

  • Curbing Film Piracy: The bill introduces stringent penalties to deter film piracy, addressing a significant concern for the film industry and protecting intellectual property rights.
  • Age-Appropriate Film Viewing: The introduction of new age-based certifications ensures that films are categorized appropriately, allowing parents to make informed decisions about their children’s film choices.
  • Modernizing Film Certification: The bill empowers the CBFC to issue separate certificates for films shown on various media platforms and provides perpetual validity to CBFC certificates, streamlining the film certification process.
  • Aligning with Existing Laws: The amendment harmonizes the Cinematograph Act, 1952, with other relevant laws, ensuring consistency and coherence in the legal framework governing the film industry.
  • Addressing Industry Demands: The bill responds to the film industry’s demand to combat unauthorized film exhibition and recording, protecting the industry’s interests and fostering a thriving creative environment.
  • Strengthening the Film Industry: By curbing piracy and protecting intellectual property, the bill aims to strengthen the film industry, attract investments, and contribute to India’s cultural and economic landscape.


  • The passage of the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023, is a significant step towards protecting the film industry from piracy and streamlining the film certification process. By embracing the necessary amendments, India reaffirms its commitment to nurturing a vibrant and thriving film industry while safeguarding creative content from piracy-related challenges.

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Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

How are films Certified in India?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CBFC, Film Certification Process

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • Union Information & Broadcasting Minister has expressed displeasure with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) over its approval of the Hollywood film “Oppenheimer.”
  • The Minister has reportedly asked officials to remove a particular scene from the movie that has generated controversy on social media.

Understanding the CBFC


  • Role: The Central Board of Film Certification is a statutory body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, responsible for regulating the public exhibition of films in India under the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
  • Certification Requirement: Films can be screened in India only after receiving certification from the Board.
  • Composition: The CBFC comprises a Chairperson and members appointed by the Central Government. There are nine Regional Offices with Advisory Panels to assist in the examination of films.

Film Certification Process

  • Examining Committee: After submitting all film materials and requisite fees, a regional officer forms an Examining Committee to view the film. For short films (shorter than 72 minutes), the committee includes a CBFC officer and one advisory panel member, with at least one being a woman. For long films (longer than 72 minutes), at least two committee members must be women.
  • Certification Recommendations: Each committee member provides a written report with their recommendations for modifications and classification of the film.
  • CBFC Decision: The Chairperson reviews the committee’s reports and initiates further procedures based on their recommendations.

Types of Certifications:

  1. Unrestricted Public Exhibition (U)
  2. Parental Guidance for children below age 12 (U/A)
  3. Adult (A)
  4. Viewing by specialized groups (S)

Controversies and Appeals

  • Suggested Changes: CBFC may suggest modifications or excisions in the film before granting certification. Applicants dissatisfied with the certification or suggested changes can apply to the Revising Committee.
  • Revising Committee: The Revising Committee consists of the Chairperson and up to nine members from the board and advisory panel.
  • Appellate Tribunal: If disagreements persist, the Appellate Tribunal, an independent body, can be approached.

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Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cinematograph Act, 1952

Mains level: Read the attached story


Central Idea

  • Union Information and Broadcasting Minister has introduced the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023, in the Rajya Sabha, with the goal of addressing piracy concerns in the film industry.
  • It seeks to amend the Cinematograph Act, 1952.

What is the Cinematograph Act, 1952?

  • The Cinematograph Act of 1952, was enacted by the Parliament to ensure that films are shown in accordance with the limits of tolerance of society.
  • The Act establishes the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC, or the censor board) to certify films.
  • Under the Act, the Board scrutinizes the films following the procedure laid down in the Act and can either reject or grant a certificate, valid for ten years.
  • The Act authorizes the police to perform search and seizure actions if the film is being exhibited in contravention of any of the provisions of the Act.

Cinematograph Amendment Bill, 2023

Amendment The bill proposes to amend the Cinematograph Act, 1952
Harsher Penalty The act has provisions for harsher penal provisions for film piracy
New Age Categories It introduces new sub-age categories for films to bring about uniformity in categorisation across platforms
Perpetual Certification The certification once given will be perpetual
New Sub-age based Certification UA-7+’, ‘UA-13+’, and ‘UA-16+’ in place for 12 years
Alignment The act will be aligned with Supreme Court judgments
Recertification Recertification of the edited film for television broadcast
Public Exhibition Only Unrestricted Public Exhibition category films can be shown on television
Uniformity It will make the act provisions in line with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 to maintain uniformity

Stringent Laws against Piracy

Imprisonment and Penalty It includes imprisonment for three years and a Rs 10 lakh penalty for those found involved in piracy
Legal Offence The act of piracy will be a legal offense, and even transmitting pirated content will be punishable

Indian Cinema: A Backgrounder

  • The history of Indian cinema dates back to the late 19th century, with the screening of the Lumiere Brothers’ short films in Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1896.
  • Dadasaheb Phalke is considered to be the father of Indian cinema.
  • The first Indian-made film, Raja Harishchandra, was released by him in 1913 and marked the beginning of Indian cinema.
  • The first Indian talkie, Alam Ara, was released in 1931, marking a new era in Indian cinema.

Contribution of Indian Cinema

(1) Economic contribution

  • Revenue Source: The film industry contributes significantly to the country’s economy, generating substantial revenue through production, distribution, and exhibition.
  • Employment Generation: The film sector offers employment opportunities to millions of people in various related fields.
  • Allied Sectors: The film industry provides a boost to other industries like advertising, hospitality, tourism, and fashion.
  • Entertainment Economy: Cinema houses and multiplexes generate revenue through ticket sales, concessions, and merchandise sales.

(2) Societal Contribution

  • Social Cause: Movies have addressed crucial social issues, raising awareness and encouraging discussions.
  • Breaking Gender Stereotypes: Strong female characters in films challenge traditional gender roles, positively impacting women’s status.
  • Accessible Entertainment: Cinema breaks social barriers by providing affordable and accessible entertainment.
  • Inspirational Aspects: Movies inspire the youth, leading them to look up to their favorite stars as role models.

(3) Nation Building

  • Promotion of Social Harmony: Indian cinema showcases diversity and cultural richness, promoting social harmony and unity.
  • Inculcation of Moral Values: Films play a crucial role in imparting moral values and social responsibilities.
  • Creating Awareness about Social Issues: Movies raise awareness about various social issues, breaking taboos and addressing important topics.

Issues with Indian Cinema

  • Portrayal of Violence and Sexuality: Some films depict violence and sexual content, impacting younger viewers negatively.
  • Reinforcement of Stereotypes: Certain films reinforce gender, caste, and religious stereotypes, perpetuating prejudice.
  • Promotion of Materialism: Movies that promote materialism can lead to unrealistic expectations and values.
  • Lack of Diversity: The lack of diversity in mainstream films needs to be addressed to ensure equal representation.
  • Undue Commercialization: Excessive commercialization may overshadow the importance of quality content.
  • Nepotism: The practice of nepotism can hinder deserving talent from entering the industry.

Way Forward

  • Revising the Certification Process: Ensure transparency and accountability in the certification process.
  • Protecting Artistic Freedom: Safeguard artistic freedom and creativity in filmmaking.
  • Encouraging Regional Cinema: Promote and support regional cinema through incentives and subsidies.
  • Promoting Cultural Diversity: Encourage filmmakers to explore diverse cultures and promote intercultural dialogue.
  • Combating Piracy: Take effective measures to combat film piracy and protect revenues.
  • Developing Film Infrastructure: Invest in developing film infrastructure and educational facilities.

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Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

What govt proposes to change in film certification


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Censorship of movies

The Centre has recently released the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 to the general public for comments.

Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021

  • The new draft proposes to amend the Cinematograph Act of 1952 with some provisions.
  • It seeks to give the Centre “revisionary powers” and enable it to “re-examine” films already cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

A look at what the draft proposes to change:

(a) Revision of certification

  • This will equip the Centre with revisionary powers on account of violation of Section 5B(1) (principles for guidance in certifying films).
  • The current Act, in Section 6, already equips the Centre to call for records of proceedings in relation to a film’s certification.
  • The Ministry of I&B explained that the proposed revision “means that the Central Government, if the situation so warranted, has the power to reverse the decision of the Board”.
  • Currently, because of a judgment by the Karnataka High Court, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in November 2020, the Centre cannot use its revisionary powers on films that have already been granted a certificate by the CBFC.


  • The draft comes shortly after the abolition of the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal, which was the last point of appeal for filmmakers against the certificate granted to their film.
  • The draft has been criticized by filmmakers and term it a “super censor”.

(b) Age-based certification

  • The draft proposes to introduce age-based categorisation and classification. Currently, films are certified into three categories — ‘U’ for unrestricted public exhibition; ‘U/A’ that requires parental guidance for children under 12; and ‘A’ for adult films.
  • The new draft proposes to divide the categories into further age-based groups: U/A 7+, U/A 13+ and U/A 16+.
  • This proposed age classification for films echoes the new IT rules for streaming platforms.

(c) Provision against piracy

  • The Ministry noted that at present, there are no enabling provisions to check film piracy in the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
  • The draft proposes to add Section 6AA that will prohibit unauthorized recording.
  • The proposed section states, no person shall, without the written authorization of the author, be permitted to make an audio-visual recording device.
  • Violation shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than three months and may extend to three years and with a fine which shall not be less than Rs 3 lakh which may extend to 5 per cent of the audited gross production cost or with both.

(d) Eternal certificate

  • The draft proposes to certify films for perpetuity.
  • Currently, a certificate issued by the CBFC is valid only for 10 years.

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