Film Certification in India: Politicisation and Moral Conservatism of the ‘Censor’ Board

The abolition of the appellate tribunal for film certification has brought into sharper focus the politics of film censorship by the state, which shows continuity in its implications from pre- to post-independence India.

With the Tribunal Reforms Ordinance, 2021, the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) stands abolished. The FCAT was the statutory body available to a film-maker if they wished to appeal a certification decision of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). With its abolition, an aggrieved film-maker would now have to approach a high court directly, instead. 

While the government has cited a need to streamline tribunals and the functioning of the FCAT has also been criticised in the past, the abolition of the FCAT may create a precarious situation for the film fraternity, especially independent film-makers. This is because approaching the high court is likely to involve greater cost (including fees for legal representation) and more time as compared to the FCAT. Moreover, being a specialised tribunal, the FCAT included technical members, usually industry veterans—some film-makers have expressed concern that judges would look at a movie and edits from a legal perspective alone and ignore the creative dimensions. 

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