The Bombay High Court on Monday directed the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to justify its decision of granting a universal/adult (U/A) certificate to a children's film.
The makers of the film contended in the high court that the CBFC be directed to grant the film a universal certificate instead.
A bench of justices S C Dharmadhikari and G S Patel were hearing a plea filed by the Children's Film Society India (CFSI), seeking directions to the CBFC tribunal to hear its plea to issue a universal certificate to its film "Chidiakhana".
The CFSI claimed the film was merely about a boy who beats all odds to emerge as a hero, and that it was scheduled to be screened in schools across the country. Therefore, the film must have a universal certificate, it said.
However, the CBFC, which issued a U/A certificate to the film in January, filed an affidavit in the court on Monday, stating that the movie was issued the certificate in accordance with the central government's guidelines on film certification.
CBFC counsel Rajiv Chavan said the film had some instances of violence, and also showed that people from north India faced discrimination in Mumbai city.
Besides, the U/A certification was a mere advisory, cautioning that children below 12 years of age required parental supervision to watch such movies, he said.
At first, the bench agreed with the CBFC and said some responsibility of such supervision lay with parents.
It told the petitioner's lawyer, Yashodeep Deshmukh, that the U/A certificate was an advisory and it merely told the parents to exercise caution if they show such films to their children.
"The question is how old must a child be to watch a film that has an underlying theme of violence, even if it doesn't show actual blood and gore. Will you want to show such film to a four-year-old? I know, I won't," the bench said.
It said popular films like "Avengers" Endgame", and "Spiderman", too, were given U/A certificates even though they are popular among children.
However, the bench also questioned the CBFC's current guidelines on issuing certificates for movies that can be watched by children.
"Who appointed the CBFC to decide what can one watch and what one can't watch?" the bench said.
The CBFC's guidelines on certification were not "in sync" with the current times, it said.
"Today, children don't just watch films in a movie theatre. They can watch them at home, even on mobile phones. They are exposed to much more. They get to know about violence not just through films but by reading and through mobile phones," the court observed.
"We are not talking about children from 1950s or 60s but these are children born in or after 2000," it said.
"Your guidelines on certification should take into account the changing times, and all the exposure that today's children get," the bench said.
It is likely to take up the matter for further hearing on August 14.
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