Abolition of Film Certification Tribunal

  • IASbaba
  • April 10, 2021
  • 0
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  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation 
  • GS-2: Rights and Freedoms

Abolition of Film Certification Tribunal

Context: The Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation And Conditions Of Service) Ordinance, 2021, which came into effect on April 4, has abolished the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) by amending the Cinematograph Act, 1952 

About the FCAT 

  • FCAT was a statutory body constituted set up by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in 1983, under Section 5D of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. 
  • Its main job was to hear appeals filed under Section 5C of the Cinematograph Act, by applicants for certification aggrieved by the decision of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). 
  • The tribunal was headed by a chairperson and had four other members, including a Secretary appointed by the Government of India to handle. 
  • The Tribunal was headquartered in New Delhi.

What it did

  • In India, all films must have a CBFC certificate if they are to be released theatrically, telecast on television, or displayed publicly in any way. 
  • The CBFC consists of a Chairperson and 23 members, all appointed by the Government of India.

The CBFC certifies films under four categories:

  • U: Unrestricted public exhibition (Suitable for all age groups)
  • U/A: Parental guidance for children under age 12
  • A: Restricted to adults(Suitable for 18 years and above
  • S: Restricted to a specialised group of people, such as engineers, doctors or scientists.

The CBFC can also deny certification a film. 

On several occasions when a filmmaker or producer has not been satisfied with the CBFC’s certification, or with a denial, they have appealed to the FCAT. And in many cases, the FCAT has overturned the CBFC decision.

Some of key decision by FCAT are

  • Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016): It had been denied certification in 2017, on the ground that it was “lady-oriented. Director Alankrita Shrivastava appealed to the FCAT, following whose ruling some scenes were cut and the film was released, with an ‘A’ certificate.
  • Haraamkhor (2015): The film revolves around the relationship between a schoolteacher and a young female student. It had been denied certification by the CBFC for being “very provocative”. The FCAT cleared the film and said it was “furthering a social message and warning the girls to be aware of their rights”.
  • There were other instances – like The Messenger of God (2015), Kaalakandi (2018) where FCAT has overruled the decisions of CBFC thereby upholding creative freedoms of film makers

Impact of abolition of FCAT

  • Approach High Court: The abolition means filmmakers will now have to approach the High Court whenever they want to challenge a CBFC certification, or lack of it.
  • Increases burden of Courts as now the appeals against decisions of CBFC reaches the door of High courts
  • Delay in grievance redressal of film makers as the court process for resolving the appeals will take much longer than it was before (in case of FCAT)
  • Disproportionately impacts small film makers: film producers of small-budget movies may not have the means to approach the courts
  • Arbitrary decision: The FCAT discontinuation feels arbitrary as the decision was taken without any consultation with the stakeholders involved. 
  • Restrictive: The move is seen as empowering the hands of CBFC, a government appointed body, which in turn increases state’s role in certifying films. This can be seen as limiting the creative freedoms of film makers impacting their freedom of speech & expression under Article 19(1)(a)

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