As of August 11, 2023, the Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Act, 2023 (“JV Act”) received assent from the President of India to be enacted as law. For context, the JV Act was promulgated by the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry (“Ministry”) with the objective of promoting the ease of doing business in India. To this end – the JV Act decriminalizes and rationalizes punitive provisions across 42 Indian statutes (pertaining to diverse fields of business and industry) and is intended to be gradually enforced in a phased-out manner.
The Cinematograph Act, 1952 (“Cinematograph Act”) and Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1955 (“Cable Act”) – which provide for certification and exhibition of films and regulation of cable network services and operators in India, respectively (as further elaborated herein below) – are the key media statutes amended under the Act.
The Indian Ministry of Broadcasting and Information (“MIB”) has recently notified the dates of enforcement of the relevant amendments made under the JV Act to the Cinematograph Act as well as the Cable Act. The specific amendments introduced by way of the JV Act to each of the above-mentioned statutes as well as the notifications issued by the MIB in this regard have been analysed in detail herein below.
The Cinematograph Act provides for regulation (while prescribing applicable procedures and obligations) of the film industry inclusive of films that are exhibited in India, filmmakers, and the persons exhibiting such films in the country.
Interestingly, the Cinematograph (Amendment) Act, 2023 was passed earlier this year (as of July 31, 2023) to amend the Cinematograph Act, 1952 (for the first time in decades) inter alia with the aim of introducing stringent measures to combat piracy of films. In this regard, the amendment to the Cinematograph Act introduced offences and strict penalties for copyright infringement (with the objective of protecting the interests of filmmakers and deterring piracy) therein.
Pursuant to the enforcement of the JV Act, significant amendments have now been incorporated into the Cinematograph Act for the second time within the year. Importantly, the MIB has notified September 1, 2023, as the date of enforcement of the relevant amendments made to the Cinematograph Act.
What are the significant Amendments introduced by the JV Act?
Notably, the JV Act introduces substantial changes to the penalties associated with various offenses related to the exhibition and use of films (and considerably increases the quantum of prescribed monetary penalties in this regard) in the Cinematograph Act.
The Cinematograph Act, prior to the amendment, had prescribed imprisonment (up to three years) as well as monetary penalties (up to INR 100000, and in the case of a continuing offence a further fine of up to INR 20000 for each day during which the offence continues) or both in respect of the following offences: the unlawful tampering or altering of certified films under the statute; the exhibition of uncertified films or video films; exhibition of films or video films with tampered or no prescribed mark of the Board of Film Certification (constituted thereunder); the exhibition of films certified as suitable for public exhibition for adults to minors, or exhibition of films certified as suitable for public exhibition to members of a specified profession or class to persons not belonging to the relevant specialized profession or class; and/or the failure to comply with any order passed pursuant to the Cinematograph Act.
Pursuant to the amendment, the quantum of the prescribed monetary penalties for the above offences under the Cinematograph Act has been significantly increased (to INR 1000000). Surprisingly, however, the imprisonment term prescribed for such offences has been retained in the statute (and no amendments have been made in respect thereof under the JV Act).
Moreover, the Cinematograph Act notably also prescribed imprisonment (of up to three years) as well as monetary penalties (up to INR 100000) in the event of failure by any person delivering a film to a certified distributor or exhibitor under the Cinematograph Act, to provide the information and documents (with respect to certified film) mandated per the Cinematograph Act (such as the film’s title, duration, certification etc) to such distributors and exhibitors, or a failure to comply with an order passed by the MIB or the Film Board pursuant to the Cinematograph Act. Pursuant to the amendment, the quantum of the prescribed monetary penalties for contravention of the above-mentioned requirements under the Cinematograph Act similarly has been increased (to INR 500000) – however, no amendments have been made in respect of the prescribed term of imprisonment.
Further, pursuant to amendment, the quantum of the prescribed monetary penalty prescribed under the Cinematograph Act in respect of a contravention of requirements imposed under the Cinematograph Act (or the terms of any license granted under the same) by an owner or person in charge of a cinematograph film or the place of exhibition of the firm has also been increased significantly. Now, for such contravention, the relevant owner or person in charge can be subject to payment of a monetary penalty of up to INR 100000 (as opposed to a previous penalty of up to INR 1000) – and in case of a continuing offense, they may face a further penalty of up to INR 10000 for each day the offence continues (as opposed to a previous penalty of INR 100).
Notably, however, the JV Act has introduced provisions regarding the manner in which an appeal may be filed by any party aggrieved with the penalties imposed on such party under the Cinematograph Act (as amended and up to date) with the appellate authority (as designated under said statute).
It is also pertinent to mention that prior to the amendment, a license granted to any entity by the licensing authority appointed under the Cinematograph Act (i.e. District Magistrate) could be revoked in case of such entity’s conviction for the abovementioned offences under this statute. Pursuant to the amendment, the licensing authority now has the authority to revoke such a license for selective offences. However, if a license holder is found to have contravened the Cinematograph Act on more than three occasions within a three-year period, the licensing authority can now revoke the license by recording the reasons in writing. Further, the licensing authority can also suspend the license (for a period not exceeding thirty days).
The Cable Act, as mentioned above, provides for the regulation of cable network services and service operators in India. In this regard, it prescribes applicable procedures and obligations for TV or cable operators, multi-system operators (such as set-top box providers), broadcasters, and other persons providing such services in the country.
The JV Act summarily removes the imprisonment terms that were prescribed under the (unamended) Cable Act for contravention of provisions and non-compliance by stakeholders. Importantly, the MIB has notified October 3, 2023, as the date of enforcement of the amendments made to the Cable Act (under the JV Act).
What are the significant Amendments introduced by the JV Act?
Prior to the amendment, the Cable Act provided that a first-time offender could be punished with a two-year imprisonment term or levy of a fine of one thousand rupees (or both). Meanwhile, for every subsequent offence, the Cable Act provided for punishment with a five-year imprisonment term or levy of a fine of five thousand rupees (or both).
In lieu thereof, the JV Act introduces a tiered approach to the levy of penalties for contraventions under the Cable Act in the manner mentioned below.
- Namely, for a first-time offense, individuals or entities can now be punished through measures like advisories, warnings, or payment of fines (the prescribed amount of which has been increased up to INR 20000).
- However, habitual offenders face more severe consequences. In case of repeated contraventions (within a three-year period) offenders can be punished by the designated officer under the Cable Act with measures like advisory, censure, warning, or payment of financial penalty (the prescribed amount of which has been increased up to INR 100000).
- If there are over three contraventions within three years, the designated officer can not only impose the aforementioned measures and penalties but may also suspend or revoke the registration granted to the offender (to conduct business of cable services) under the Cable Act. In the event that the designated officer deems fit to revoke the registration of any entity however, such officer is required to issue a written order (detailing the reasons for such revocation).
- The JV Act provides that the designated officer cannot pass such an order without first granting the impacted party an opportunity to be heard and introduces a mechanism for the aggrieved party to file an appeal against the order of a designated officer. Typically, the appeal needs to be submitted within thirty days from the date the order is received. However, there is an allowance for considering appeals that are submitted after this initial thirty-day window if there is a valid demonstration of compelling reasons that prevented the appellant from meeting the original deadline.
What are the relative amendments introduced by the MIB?
Notably, the MIB is granted the power to frame rules in relation to the designated officer (mentioned above) as part of the amendments introduced in the JV Act.
Recently (as of October 05, 2023), the MIB has notified amendments to the rules framed under the Cable Act – viz. the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 (“Rules”) – for the purpose of specifying the role and scope of power of the designated officer.
As per the definition introduced in the Rules (as amended and up to date) in the case of a local cable operator (who has obtained a registration certificate from the registering authority) the District Magistrate of the area where the operator’s registered office is located will constitute the designated officer. In the case of multi-system operators, the District Magistrate of the area where the operator’s registered office is located will constitute the designated officer – particularly concerning contraventions related to exclusive platform services provided by multi-system operators to their subscribers under the Cable Act (including compliance with program code, advertisement code, and register maintenance). However, apart from the aforementioned situations, a designated officer would be an officer not below the rank of deputy secretary to the Government of India.
In light of the above, it is clear that the amendments proposed under the JV Act are a significant move towards boosting the ease of doing business in India by easing the compliance burden on stakeholders engaged across diverse industries in India as well as their apprehensions of being subjected to punitive punishment in the event of any default.
In this regard, in a welcome move for concerned stakeholders under this statute, the JV Act summarily removes the imprisonment terms that were prescribed under the (unamended) Cable Act for contravention of provisions and non-compliance by stakeholders.
However, surprisingly, similar amendments are not proposed under the JV Act in respect of the imprisonment term prescribed for offences under the Cinematograph Act (which are retained in this statute). Rather, as a matter of concern for stakeholders, several monetary penalties have been significantly enhanced under the JV Act for offences under the Cinematograph Act (even as imprisonment terms continue to be retained in the statute). As a result, it may be argued that the JV Act has not fulfilled its primary objective of decriminalizing offences, with respect to stakeholders involved in the film industry.
Since the amendments made to the Cable Act and Cinematograph Act have recently been implemented by MIB it will be interesting to witness the impact these bring about in the future.