The urgent need for CBFC reforms

  • IASbaba
  • January 28, 2023
  • 0
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Context: The Benegal Committee and the Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee of 2013 had both suggested moving away from censorship towards age-based rating/classification norms for films.

About Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC):

  • Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is a Statutory body under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
  • It ensures the good and healthy entertainment in accordance with the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952 and the Cinematograph (Certification) Rules 1983.
  • Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they have been certified by CBFC.
  • The Board consists of non-official members and a Chairperson (all of whom are appointed by the Union Government) and functions with headquarters at Mumbai.
  • It has nine Regional Offices at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Cuttack and Guwahati.
  • The Regional Offices are assisted in the examination of films by Advisory Panels.
  • The Union Government nominates the Members of the panels by drawing people from different walks of life for a period of two years.
  • The Certification process is in accordance with The Cinematograph Act, 1952, The Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983, and the guidelines issued by the Central government u/s 5 (B).

About Censorship:

  • Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information.
  • This may be done on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or “inconvenient”.
  • Censorship can be conducted by governments, private institutions and other controlling bodies.

Legal backing to Censorship in India:

The Cinematograph Act, of 1952:

  • The legislation exclusively deals with the censorship of movies in India with respect to certain rules and regulations established by law.
  • The certification, Censor Board establishment, and scope of such Board is provided in this legislation.
  • The practice of censoring movies to remove any objectionable material by the Censor Board has been followed in India.
  • It is to make the movie suitable for the target audience.
  • The viewership is based on the certificate issued to every movie prescribing the audience that can watch the movie.

Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021:

  • Digital media is brought under the ambit of Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, of 2000 which gives takedown powers to the government.
  • The section allows the Centre to block public access to an intermediary “in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence relating to above”.

Digital Media:

  • It covers digitised content that can be transmitted over the internet or computer networks.
  • It includes intermediaries such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.
  • It includes publishers of news and current affairs content and also curators of such content.
  • Publishers of news and current affairs content cover online papers, news portals, news agencies and news aggregators.

Significance of Censorship:


  • Films have always been considered the most powerful medium of expression. It is stationarily accepted that cinema is a form of speech & expression.
  • They may affect public attitudes and behavior in numerous ways i.e., in negative or positive ways.
  • Removal of materials that are obscene or otherwise considered morally questionable.
  • Pornography, for example, is often censored under this rationale.

Online platforms:

  • Increasing level of poor, offensive and abusive content is sometimes spread in the name of freedom of expression.
  • With the deeper reach of smartphones, children and youth are being misled by such content.
  • Increasing digital crimes like radicalisation, terrorist recruitment, digital hacking, child pornography, etc.

Religion Censorship:

  • Religious censorship is the means by which any material considered objectionable by a certain religion is removed.

Political Censorship :

  • Political censorship occurs when governments hold back information from their citizens.
  • This is often done to exert control over the populace and prevent free expression that might foment rebellion.

Military Censorship:

  • Military censorship is the process of keeping military intelligence and tactics confidential and away from the enemy.
  • This is used to counter espionage.

Challenges associated with the Censorship:

  • Against the Natural justice and freedom of speech: Natural justice is a fundamental principle in public law when decisions affect fundamental rights such as the freedom of speech.
    • The Supreme Court of India on various occasions has recognised that the right to receive and impart information is implicit in free speech.
  • Selective targeting: Most arguments like abusive language, against the cultural ethos, are either vague or irrelevant as they often depict day-to-day life.
  • Curb Freedom of Artistic Expressions:
    • The present norms put a curb on the Freedom to Artistic Expressions under Article 19.
  • Exploitation of emergency powers: The recent blocking has been made under Rule 16(3) of the IT Rules and Section 69(A) of the IT Act, 2000 which allows for “emergency blocking”.
    • However, the term “emergency” itself is not legislatively defined, but following the dictionary, the meaning would mean “a dangerous situation requiring immediate action”.
    • It permits an expedited process that weakens the already minimal checks by bypassing a committee and eliminating the opportunity to be heard.
    • We have also been witnessing increased use of this emergency power,
  • Rising Intolerance and Populist measure: It has also been alleged that the rules will be more misused than for real regulation.
    • There are instances when the government tried to curb certain Anti- Government Agendas while ignoring populist fake news.

Way Forward:

There are numerous landmark judgements in this regard which have mostly arisen out of a conflict between the fundamental right to speech and expression and the restrictions imposed in consonance with the restrictions enshrined in the Constitution for the right. It is the obligation of the state to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens and every action while sanctioning the censorship shall be equivalent to reasonable restrictions.

Source: Indian Express

Previous Year Question

Q.1) Which of the following factors constitutes the best safeguard of liberty in a liberal democracy? (2021)

  1. A committed judiciary
  2. Centralization of powers
  3. Elected government
  4. Separation of powers


For a dedicated peer group, Motivation & Quick updates, Join our official telegram channel –

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel HERE to watch Explainer Videos, Strategy Sessions, Toppers Talks & many more…

Search now.....

Sign Up To Receive Regular Updates