Analysis of the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023

Sheena Khan

August 2, 2023

Analysis of the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting introduced the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023 (“Amendment Bill”) during the Monsoon session of the Parliament, which has now been passed by the Rajya Sabha (July 27, 2023) as well as the Lok Sabha (July 31, 2023). The Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Cinematograph Act, 1952 (“Act”). 

The amendments which will be introduced in the Act are as follows: 

  1. Unauthorized Recording and Exhibition Provisions 

The Amendment Bill seeks to introduce new provisions (viz. Section 6AA and Section 6AB) in the Act to curb film piracy. These new provisions specifically prohibit the unauthorized recording and exhibition of films. Offenders found guilty of violating section 6AA or section 6AB could face imprisonment for a minimum of three months and a maximum of three years, along with a fine ranging from three lakh rupees to five percent of the audited gross production cost, whichever is higher. 

The Amendment Bill demonstrates the government’s commitment to curbing film piracy, which poses a significant challenge to the film industry's revenue and creative content protection. By introducing stringent penalties, the Bill aims to protect the intellectual property rights of filmmakers and provide a stronger deterrent against piracy related activities. 

  1. Film Certification 

The Amendment Bill seeks to make a significant change to the film certification process by replacing the existing 10-year validity period for film certification with perpetual validity. Prior to this amendment, Section 5A (3) of the Act provided that a certificate granted by the Central Board of Film Certification (“Board”) would be valid for a period of 10 years. 

By virtue of this amendment, filmmakers will no longer have to worry about renewing the certification for their films every 10 years. The move towards perpetual validity is likely aimed at streamlining the film certification process, reducing administrative burdens, and providing greater convenience to filmmakers. Overall, the introduction of perpetual validity for film certification is a notable step towards modernizing the film certification process in India and providing filmmakers with more flexibility and ease in releasing their content to the public. 

  1. Age Based Certification 

The Amendment Bill proposes to enhance the age-based certification system for films by introducing three new categories in addition to the existing ‘UA’ categories. The newly introduced categories are 'UA 7+,' 'UA 13+,' and 'UA 16+,' which are tailored to ensure that films are age-appropriate for different audience groups. Under the Act, films can be certified for exhibition without any restriction (‘U’), without restriction but with guidance for children below 12 years (‘UA’), only for adults (‘A’), or for specific professions or classes of individuals (‘S’).  

This proposed revision to the age-based certification aims to provide clearer guidance to audiences, parents, and guardians about the suitability of films for different age groups. It also acknowledges the varying levels of maturity and sensitivity among audiences of different ages, ensuring that content is appropriate and safe for children and young viewers. Additionally, requiring a separate certification for television and other media platforms ensures that films maintain consistency with their intended audience in different contexts.  

  1. Separate Certificates for Television and Other Media 

The Amendment Bill grants the Board the authority to issue distinct certificates for films intended for exhibition on television or other designated media platforms. This provision is aimed at ensuring that films comply with specific broadcasting guidelines and standards applicable to different mediums. 

The Amendment Bill introduces a new provision under Section 4(3), which mandates filmmakers to obtain a separate certification from the Board for exhibiting their films on “television or such other media as may be prescribed”. This requirement ensures that films meet the standards and suitability criteria set forth for television and other designated media platforms. Moreover, the Board is empowered to direct the filmmakers to make necessary modifications in the films as it deems necessary for the film's exploitation beyond theatrical release. 

  1. Removal of Central Government’s power of review  

Section 6(1) of the Act currently grants the central government the authority to review and issue orders concerning films that have already been certified or are awaiting certification. However, the Amendment Bill seeks to eliminate this power of the central government. This move enhances the independence and autonomy of the Board in its decision-making process, safeguarding the integrity of the film certification system. 

Conclusion:

The proposed amendments to the Act present a comprehensive effort by the government to modernize and strengthen the film certification process in India. The Amendment Bill addresses several key aspects to safeguard the interests of both filmmakers and audiences, aiming to strike a balance between artistic freedom and responsible content regulation and at the same time safeguarding the interests of audiences, especially children and young viewers. By refining the certification process and incorporating specific provisions to tackle film piracy, it signifies the government’s commitment to fostering a vibrant and responsible film industry. 

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