Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

[op-ed snap] The virtual effacement of civil libertyop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Right to internet - Internet bans


A study of India’s civil liberties record will desiccate its status as republican democracy.


  • The ongoing repression of freedom in the Kashmir Valley is extraordinary.
  • Since August 4, 2019, most residents in the region have no access to the Internet.
  • India took a unilateral decision to revoke its compact with the State of Jammu and Kashmir and a total communication and information blockade was placed on the region.
  • A complete curfew was placed on movement in the region.
  • Kashmiris were deprived even of any means of finding out what was actually transpiring.
  • Certain limited channels of communication have been opened up, access to the web remains elusive.

The import of a ruling

  • These facts form the backbone of Anuradha Bhasin and Ghulam Nabi Azad’s challenges in the Supreme Court of India.
  • A three-judge Bench will pronounce its verdict. 
  • Given the growing ubiquity of the Internet, and the state’s use of blockades on the web the judgment will have a bearing on the endurance of the constitutional promises of liberty and equality.

Deleterious effects in Kashmir

  • The blackout of the Internet impinges on the right to freedom of expression.
  • Despite the partial lifting of some restrictions, with journalists affected by the absence of the Internet, only a pruned version of the newspaper is published.
  • Internet ban also denies right to health care caused by people’s inability to access government schemes such as Ayushman Bharat, and a withdrawal of education to students at different levels due to the closure of institutions.
  • The shutdown has inflicted economic damage on the region. Even conservative estimations released by the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry show that the State economy has suffered a loss of no less than ₹15,000 crore since the dilution of Article 370.

Government’s stand

  • It claims that there is no obligation on it to disclose the orders through which the restrictions have been imposed.
  • It contends that judges must grant the state substantial leeway in matters of national security.
  • It says that if the executive believes that freedom ought to be restricted, the court must not review the validity of such measures.

Limitations of the argument

  • Its order imposing the Internet ban was made under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017.
  • This law requires the executive to provide a reasoned order when it directs the withdrawal of the Internet. 
  • Thus, access to the web cannot be shut out through the issuance of furtive instructions.

Issue of rights

  • Free speech was a promise preserved in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. 
  • This guarantee contains both an inherent and an instrumental value
  • It is inherent because it is important to respect every individual’s equal right to personal autonomy and dignity.
  • Its instrumental values lies in promoting free speech – better dialogue stimulates a more informed polity.
  • The instrumental value of speech prompted the court, in Sakal Papers (1961), to hold that no policy of the state can regulate the circulation of a newspaper, as it will directly impinge on the right to freedom of expression.
  • Human costs go even further. A report in The Hindu shows that, with jobs already hard to come by, there has been an 80% loss of employment among start-ups in Kashmir that rely on the Internet.

Need for security

  • It doesn’t mean that terrorism does not require counteractive actions.
  • Law demands that any measure taken by the state in restricting a fundamental right is necessary and proportionate to the goal that it seeks to achieve. 
  • The court needs to scrutinise whether a wide-ranging ban on the Internet on an entire populace is justifiable.
  • In the past, the state has segregated people possessed of a potential to terrorise from others.


  • Stifling dissent through bans on the Internet will only send us racing towards a bottomless pit.
  • As a recent report in Live Mint underscores, 67% of the documented cases of web shutdowns around the world last year took place in India.
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

Animals in Wrong RoleDOMRPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of the vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Various Permissions

Mains level: Protection of Animals rights


Concern on use of animal s for entertainment purposes

  1. Union WCD Minister has concerned the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) for being lax in enforcement of rules that specify how wild animals can be depicted in films and television programmes.
  2. The Minister listed “blatant errors” by the AWBI subcommittee that screens applications from film-makers.

Preventing Cruelty to Animals

  1. It was alleged that the committee did not seek details of the species being used, which were required to determine whether they were protected.
  2. It had even allowed their depiction in scenes that could promote cruelty to animals.
  3. The letter cites an instance of approval given for a scene showing animal sacrifice, which is against the Supreme Court’s orders.

Depiction of Animals

  1. While tigers, monkeys, lions, bears, panthers (including leopards) are banned from being exhibited under Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the government body has allowed their use on several occasions.
  2. All Indian snakes and birds except the crow are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act and any certification for performance or exhibition is only possible after permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden of the relevant State.


Animal Welfare Board of India

  1. The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), headquartered at Ballabhgarh in Haryana state, is a statutory advisory body advising the Government of India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  2. It was previously based at Chennai
  3. It was established in 1962 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960.
  4. Well-known humanitarian Rukmini Devi Arundale was instrumental in setting up the board and was its first chair.
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

International Press Institute terms contentious fake news guidlines ‘misguided policy’IOCR


Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: International Press Institute

Mains level: The menace of fake news and how to deal with it

Curbing press freedom a misguided policy

  1. The International Press Institute said that the Indian government’s contentious guidelines on fake news, which had to be withdrawn, was a “misguided policy”
  2. It would have severely impaired the freedom of journalists and their ability to report on crucial issues
  3. The new norms would have deprived journalists of government accreditation for publishing what it termed “fake news”


  1. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) had issued a statement, announcing that it would withdraw accreditation of journalists found to have published or broadcast fake news
  2. The announcement did not define what constituted fake news


International Press Institute

  1. International Press Institute (IPI) is a global organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of press freedom and the improvement of journalism practices
  2. Founded in October 1950, the IPI has members in over 120 countries
  3. IPI’s membership is made up of editors and media executives working for some of the world’s most respected media outlets
  4. IPI is a member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a global network of non-governmental organizations that monitors press freedom and free expression violations worldwide
  5. IPI enjoys consultative status with the UN, UNESCO and the Council of Europe
  6. Each year, IPI publishes an authoritative report on media violations around the world: The World Press Freedom Review
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

In name of fake news, Government frames rules to blacklist journalistsDOMR


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association

Mains level: Ethical issues related to Media in India

New guidelines for journalists

  1. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has amended guidelines for journalists’ accreditation
  2. If a journalist is found to have “created and/or propagated” fake news, the journalist’s accreditation will be suspended or permanently canceled

Authorities to take the decision

  1. The Press Council of India and News Broadcasters Association (NBA), the two regulatory bodies for print and television media respectively, will determine whether the news is fake or not
  2. These bodies are not “regulated/operated” by the government
  3. The regulatory agencies will examine whether the `Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ and `Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards’ prescribed by the PCI and NBA respectively are adhered to by the journalists


Press Council of India

  1. The Press Council is a statutory, quasi-judicial body which acts as a watchdog of the press
  2. It adjudicates the complaints against and by the press for violation of ethics and for violation of the freedom of the press respectively
  3. It was first set up on 4 July 1964 by the Parliament to regulate the press in India
  4. The basis at that time was the Press Council Act, 1965 which resulted from the recommendations of the First Press Commission of India (1952-1999)
  5. After 2017, the Council functions under the Press Council Act 1978 which arose from the recommendations of the Second Press Commission of India (1978)
  6. The Press Council is headed by a Chairman: usually, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India
  7. It consists of a Chairman and 28 other members. Of the 28 members, 13 represent the working journalists

News Broadcasters Association

  1. The News Broadcasters Association is a private association of different current affairs and news television broadcasters in India
  2. It was established by leading Indian news broadcasters in October 2008
  3. The association was set up to deal with ethical, operational, regulatory, technical and legal issues affecting news and current-affairs channels
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

‘We are autonomous,’ Prasar Bharati rejects Ministry’s directives


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Ministries & Departments of the Government

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Prasar Bharati, Prasar Bharati Act, DD Free Dish

Mains level: Autonomous organizations and their powers

Prasar Bharati rejects ministry “directives”

  1. Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has rejected a range of “directives” coming from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry
  2. It said that they constituted “contempt” of the Prasar Bharati Act and are against its autonomy

What is the issue?

  1. I&B ministry had directed to terminate the services of all contractual employees of Prasar Bharati
  2. Ministry had also directed to stop all e-auction of channels on DD Free Dish
  3. The Ministry also wants general entertainment channels to be replaced by channels run by Union Ministries
  4. There was proposal of appointment of a serving IAS officer as Member (Personnel) on the Prasar Bharati Board

Prasar Bharati’s arguments

  1. Under the rules, a committee led by the Vice-President has to recommend the person to be appointed as Member (Personnel) and Member (Finance), who have to be whole-time members and employees of Prasar Bharati
  2. DD Free Dish directive will wreck the finances of Prasar Bharati and the Corporation stands to lose ₹300 crore
  3. Replacement of general entertainment channels would make the bouquet uninteresting and viewership of Doordarshan would crash


Prasar Bharati

  1. Prasar Bharati is a statutory autonomous body established under the Prasar Bharati Act and came into existence on 23.11.1997
  2. It is the Public Service Broadcaster of the country
  3. The objectives of public service broadcasting are achieved in terms of Prasar Bharati Act through All India Radio and Doordarshan
  4. The Act grants autonomy to All India Radio and Doordarshan
  5. They were earlier working as media units under the Ministry of I&B and since the above-said date became constituents of Prasar Bharati
  6. The President of India appoints Chairman and the other Members, except the ex officio members, nominated member and the elected members
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

No proposal to ban junk food advertisements on television: Govt


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Food and Beverage Alliance of India, FSSAI

Mains level: Rising use of junk food among children and its harmful effects

Advertisements of junk food on television

  1. The government has said there is no proposal at present to ban advertisements of junk food on television
  2. Alternatively, nine major food business operators have decided not to advertise products with high fat on children’s channels
  3. Bodies like the Food and Beverage Alliance of India (FBIA) have already decided to voluntarily restrict food and beverage advertisements concerning children

Expert group constituted by FSSAI

  1. Concerns are constantly being raised about junk food affecting the health of children
  2. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had constituted an expert group to address the issue of high fat, sugar and salt foods
  3. The expert group in its report made a recommendation regarding ban on food with high fat, sugar and salt advertising on children’s channels or during children shows


Food Safety and Standards Authority of India

  1. FSSAI is an autonomous body established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India
  2. The FSSAI is responsible for setting standards for food so that there is one body to deal with and no confusion in the minds of consumers, traders, manufacturers, and investors
  3. The FSSAI has been established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006
  4. It  is a consolidating statute related to food safety and regulation in India
  5. The following are the statutory powers that the FSS Act, 2006 gives to the FSSAI
  • Framing of regulations to lay down food safety standards
  • Laying down guidelines for accreditation of laboratories for food testing
  • Providing scientific advice and technical support to the Central Government
  • Contributing to the development of international technical standards in food
  • Collecting and collating data regarding food consumption, contamination, emerging risks etc.
  • Disseminating information and promoting awareness about food safety and nutrition in India
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

Govt bans condom ads from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. because they are “indecent”


Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)

Mains level: Ban culture being imposed in name of culture

TV channels not to air advertisements selling and promoting condoms

  1. The government strictly asked TV channels not to air advertisements selling and promoting condoms
  2. Reason given that these are “indecent especially for children” and can create “unhealthy practices” among them
  3. Such advertisements may be telecast between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to avoid exposure of such material to children
  4. Apart from this, indecent, vulgar, suggestive, repulsive or offensive themes or treatment shall be avoided in all advertisements

Under which provision does this ban apply?

  1. The advisory invoked Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, banning an “advertisement which endangers the safety of children or create in them any interest in unhealthy practices or shows them begging or in an undignified or indecent manner.”

Why this move?

  1. The missive comes after the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) requested the ministry earlier this month to take a call on such ads and their telecast timing


Advertising Standards Council of India

  1. It is a self-regulatory voluntary organization of the Advertising Industry
  2. ASCI seeks to ensure that advertisement confirm to its Code for Self-Regulation
  3. Established in 1985, is committed to the cause of Self-Regulation in Advertising, ensuring the protection of the interests of consumers
  4. ASCI was formed with the support of all four sectors connected with Advertising, viz. Advertisers, Advertising Agencies, Media (including Broadcasters and the Press) and others like PR Agencies, Market Research Companies etc
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

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
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

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
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

Better to dance in bars than beg on streetsSC Judgements

  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
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

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?
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

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.
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

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.
Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

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.

Censorship Issues – Censor Board, Banning films, etc

Ban on Pornography: Between prurience and pragmatismop-ed snap

  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?

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