HC questions ability of Censor Board members to certify films

Questioning the Censor Board's lack of uniform guidelines for film certification, the Bombay High Court said on Wednesday that it was apparent that none of the board members had the capability to "discern" what was fit for watching and by whom.

The observation was made by a bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and G S Patel.

The bench was hearing a plea filed by the Children's Film Society India (CFSI), seeking directions to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) tribunal to hear its plea to issue a 'U' certificate to its film 'Chidiakhana'.

The CFSI claimed the film was merely about a boy who beat all odds to emerge a hero, and that it was scheduled to be screened in schools across the country.

Therefore, the film must have a 'U' certificate (unrestricted public exhibition), it said.

However, the CBFC or Censor Board, that issued a 'U/A' certificate to the film in January this year, told the HC on Wednesday that there existed inherent violence in the film.

CBFC counsel Rajiv Chavan told the HC that the film had some scenes in which children were shown holding guns and firing bullets, among other things, and therefore, it was not fit to be awarded a 'U' certificate.

A 'U' certificate indicates that the film is suitable for all age groups, while a 'U/A' certificate means that parents of children below 12 years must exercise caution while permitting their children to watch such film.

'U/A' is merely cautionary, Chavan said.

He also said that in the film 'Slumdog Millionaire', major characters were played by children, and yet, the film was given a 'U/A' certificate.

At this the bench asked, "How much do you know of the life of a child below 12 years of age? Are you aware of the level of violence one child is capable of ensuing upon another? You are stifling a childs mind (by imposing restrictions through certification)."

If this is the level of understanding of the board members then you have our sympathies, it said.

Referring to past disputes over certification, the bench said, "From the film 'Bandit Queen' to 'Udta Punjab', there has been one guiding principle that the board cant discern (who should watch a film without any need for caution and who shouldn't)."

The bench will now conduct a final hearing in the case on August 23 to decide whether the CBFC's refusal to grant the film 'Chidiakhana' a 'U' certificate is unreasonable or bad in law.

The HC said the court was not a certification board and that it would only examine the law in the case.