The Centre on Friday sought public comments on its draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which proposes to bring back its “revisionary powers” over the Central Board of Film Certification. This would empower the Centre to order “re-examination” of an already certified film, following receipt of complaints.
In November 2000, the Supreme Court had upheld a Karnataka High Court order which struck down the Centre’s “revisional powers in respect of films that are already certified by the Board”.
The draft Bill also includes provisions to penalise film piracy with jail term and fine, and introduce age-based certification.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said it wanted to add a provision “for granting revisionary powers to the government on account of violation of Section 5B(1) of the Act” (principles for guidance in certifying films).
“Since the provisions of Section 5B(1) are derived from Article 19(2) of the Constitution and are non-negotiable, it is also proposed in the Draft Bill to add a proviso to sub-section (1) of Section 6 to the effect that on receipt of any references by the Central Government in respect of a film certified for public exhibition, on account of violation of Section 5B(1) of the Act, the Central Government may, if it considers necessary, direct the Chairman of the Board to re-examine the film,” it said.
It said that under Section 6 of the existing Cinematograph Act, 1952, the Centre was empowered to call for the record of proceedings in relation to certification of a film and pass any order thereon. This “means that the Central Government, if the situation so warranted, can reverse the decision of the Board,” it said.
However, it noted that the Karnataka High Court had “stated that the Central Government cannot exercise revisional powers in respect of films that are already certified by the Board”, a decision which was upheld by the Supreme Court on November 28, 2000.
But, the I&B Ministry countered, the “Supreme Court has also opined that the Legislature may, in certain cases, overrule or nullify the judicial or executive decision by enacting an appropriate legislation”.
“In this regard, it is stated that sometimes complaints are received against a film that allude to violation of Section 5B(1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, after a film is certified,” it said.
The notification, which sought comments by July 2, said the provisions relating to certification of films under “unrestricted public exhibition” category are proposed to be amended so as to sub-divide the existing UA category into age-based categories like U/A 7 , U/A 13 and U/A 16 .
On film piracy, the ministry said: “In most cases, illegal duplication in cinema halls is the originating point of piracy. At present, there are no enabling provisions to check film piracy in the Cinematograph Act, 1952…”
The draft Bill proposes to insert Section 6AA which prohibits unauthorised recording. According to Section 6AA, “notwithstanding any law for the time being in force, no person shall, without the written authorisation of the author, be permitted to use any audio-visual recording device in a place to knowingly make or transmit or attempt to make or transmit or abet the making or transmission of a copy of a film or a part thereof.”
It said that if any person contravenes the provisions of Section 6AA, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term “which shall not be less than three months but which may extend to three years and with a fine which shall not be less than Rs 3 lakh but which may extend to 5 per cent of the audited gross production cost or with both.”
It said the new Bill will also “make the process of sanctioning of films for exhibition more effective, in tune with the changed times and curb the menace of piracy”.
To tackle film piracy, the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced in Rajya Sabha in February 2019. It was sent to the Standing Committee on Information Technology (2019-20), which presented its report in March 2020.
“The observations/recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Information Technology in the report have been examined and it is proposed to suitably revise the clauses in the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2019 based on the recommendations made by the Committee,” the ministry said.
It said the recommendations of the Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee of 2013 and the Shyam Benegal Committee of 2016 had also been considered.