Tamil Nadu CM Stalin Urges Centre to Withdraw Cinematograph Act Draft
The proposed amendments to the Cinematograph Act 1952 give the Centre revisionary powers over film certification.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin wrote to Union Minister of Law and Justice, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad urging him to withdraw the proposed amendment to Cinematograph Act, 1952. The proposed Cinematograph Act Draft Bill has irked several people across the film industry.
"The draft bill has given rise to serious apprehensions not only in the minds of the film fraternity and film industry but also among all well-meaning sections of the society that cherish freedom of expression," the letter reads.
Adding that a 'vibrant democracy' must provide adequate space for artistic freedom, M K Stalin added that the proposed Draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to restore the "revisionary powers of the Union Government that was struck down by the Supreme Court two decades ago."
For context, in the November 28, 2000 ruling in the Union of India v/s K.M. Shankarappa case, the Supreme Court held that the "Executive cannot sit in an appeal or review or revise a judicial order."
The judgement further stated: “The Government has chosen to establish a quasi-judicial body which has been given the powers, inter alia, to decide the effect of the film on the public. …its decision…would be final and binding so far as the Executive and the Government is concerned."
"To permit the Executive to review and/or revise that decision would amount to interference with the exercise of judicial functions by a quasi-judicial Board. It would amount to subjecting the decision of a quasi-judicial body to the scrutiny of the Executive. …without enacting an appropriate legislation, the Executive or the Legislature cannot set at naught a judicial order."Union of India v/s K M Shankarappa
The proposed amendments to the Cinematograph Act give the Centre revisionary powers to reexamine a film that has already been certified by the CBFC citing a violation of section 5 (a).
The letter notes, "The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) accords certification to the films if they meet all the criteria mentioned in the section 5 (a) of the Cinematograph Act."
Stalin added that the current Act also has provisions to reject certification of films based on 'valid grounds'.
"Moreover, adequate provisions for exercising control over the film making is available in the form of guidelines that have been provided under section 5 (b) of the Act. Given all of these, it is considered as excessive to add more Laws and Acts to throttle the freedom of a creative form in the 21st century."M K Stalin letter to the Centre
The letter further states that the proposed amendments also go against the spirit of cooperative federalism and 'trangress the powers of the State Governments and its own CBFC'. He added that, after a film is certified for public exhibition by the CBFC, the matter then falls into the domain of respective State governments.
"I wish to reiterate that the Draft amendment restoring the 'revisional power' to the Centre after it is certified by the CBFC is a misuse of 'reasonable restriction' clause under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India and this Draft amendment itself is against the spirit of promoting rightful thinking in Civil Society."M K Stalin letter to the Centre
The letter also added that provisions like the age-wise grouping of certification under three categories pose practical difficulties.
The 2021 Draft suggests the introduction of subdivisions in the U/A category for film certification, like ‘UA 7+’, ‘UA 13+’ and ‘UA 16+’. The current act has only three categories: U for unrestricted public exhibition, U/A signifying 'parental guidance required for children under 12', or A for adult films.
Several filmmakers and actors have criticised the proposed amendments to the Cinematograph Act. Six film trade organisations also sent a representation to the Centre criticising the proposed Draft Cinematograph Act 2021.
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