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14 April 2017 Question Bank


14th APRIL 2017 


(1 Question)

Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.

Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.


1.      Is there a need to censor films in India? Clearly state your stand with justification.


Judicial Ruling:

  • The last major constitutional challenge to censorship law as, nearly 50 years ago, in the landmarkS. Rangarajan v P. Jagjivan Ramcase: "Movie motivates thought and action and assures a high degree of attention and retention. It makes its impact simultaneously arousing the visual and aural senses... The focusing of an intense light on a screen with the dramatizing of facts and opinion makes the ideas more effective. The combination of act and speech, sight and sound in semi-darkness of the theatre with elimination of all distracting ideas will have an impact in the minds of spectators."
  • The Supreme Court went on to cite an academic study according to which "continual exposure to films of a similar character" would significantly affect the attitude of an individual or a group. On this basis, the Supreme Court deemed pre-censorship necessary.

Reasonable restrictions:

  • India is a very vast and complex country and the same freedom enshrined in the Constitution applies to cinema as well.
  • Neither cinema nor the press are separately listed in the Constitution, though they are derived from Article 19 (1)A, which lists the freedom of speech and expression.
  • The issue of censorship comes up when we debate whether there should be restrictions to freedom of expression. And the answer is that a total censorship and absolute freedom can both be problematic. Citizens of the country as complex as ours have varying needs, requirements and sensibilities and one has to strike a balance.
  • And this balance has been elaborated in the form of restrictions to freedom of expression under Article 19 (2) and these have to do with the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.


Colonial hangover:

  • The Cinematograph Act of 1952 was derived from colonial censorship laws.
  • The average ‘visual literacy level' has gone up dramatically in this age of 24x7 TV, YouTube and video-selfies.
  • The state considers every citizen rational enough to make serious, life-affecting decisions like who to vote for (at 18), who to marry (at 21), what career to choose, investments to make etc but, cross the threshold and enter a cinema theatre and the citizen turns into a bumbling idiot, unable to discern what to watch or not, to be lent a helping hand by the Pahlaj Nihalani-fied Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
  • Censorship has no space in a mature democracy. The jury is out, though, on the kind of democracy we are with the government actually playing a bigger nanny, regulating not just cinema but our daily lives, rationing currency, petrol, even food portions, banning liquor, meat and criminalising love. In these times of beef-lynchings, couple-thrashings, legally-sanctioned goon squads and fatwas, intolerance will beget worse censorship in the coming years.

The way ahead:

  • We need a multi-layered solution to the censorship regime in India.
  • The industry must set up the Film Council of India to deal with civil society grievances.
  • The CBFC's scope must be limited to certification, with no powers to maim, mutilate or ban any film.
  • The name of the Central Board of Film Censors was changed to the Central Board of Film Certification in 1983 and that pretty much explains the responsibility of the CBFC, which is to certify films according to age.
  • The ratings are meant to indicate the category under which the films are certified as U, UA, S, and A.
  • For any film it finds ‘objectionable', the CBFC should refer it to the Film Certification Tribunal.
  • The tribunal comprising retired judges, lawyers, filmmakers, writers and artists must become the sole forum for a considered dialogue with the filmmaker concerning any ‘censorship' of their work.
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