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Filmmakers express concern as Central government abolishes FCAT

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on April 08, 2021

Any filmmaker, who is aggrieved by the order of the Central Board of Film Certification, will now need to directly approach high courts

The film fraternity has expressed concerns about the recent decision of the Central government to dissolve the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). Any filmmaker, who is aggrieved by the order of the Central Board of Film Certification, will now need to directly approach high courts.

While some in the film industry called the move as arbitrary, others said this could lead to delays in the release of films as courts are already overburdened. Legal experts also pointed out that statutory bodies with experts are more equipped to look into content-related issues.

Path to abolishment

On April 4, Ministry of Law and Justice, issued the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, which has abolished certain appellate tribunals and transferred their functions to other existing judicial bodies. The abolition of tribunals or authorities has been done with amendments in various Acts which includes Cinematograph Act, 1952, the Copyrights Act, 1957, the Customs Act, 1962, the Patents Act, 1970 and the Airport Authority of India Act, 1994 among others.

Intentions

Tanu Banerjee, Partner, Khaitan & Co said, “The intent behind this move appears to be to reduce an additional layer of litigation, so litigants can directly approach the High Court or the Commercial Court, as the case may be. However, a benefit of subject specific tribunals, and the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal in particular was the presence of expert members who were qualified to judge the effect of films on the public and adjudicate matters related to cinema specifically.”

Experts also believe the move may discourage filmmakers to approach overburdened courts against censor board decisions.

“FCAT bridged the gap between the CBFC and the Courts effectively. The FCAT helped address the grouses of the filmmakers against the proposed cuts by the CBFC to a large extent. However with the existing caseload of the courts and delays due to the ongoing pandemic restrictions, the abolition of the Tribunals may deter some filmmakers from approaching courts,” said Chandrima Mitra, Partner at DSK Legal said.

Industry reaction

Several in the film fraternity expressed surprise with the Central government’s move and took to social media to express their concerns.

“Courts move slow, movies that are finished lose value quick in the marketplace, they are a perishable item. It’s not good for art or business to direct filmmakers to an overburdened judiciary,” tweeted film director Ritesh Batra.

Filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj called it a “sad day” for Indian cinema. Meanwhile producer and director Hansal Mehta tweeted, “Do the high courts have a lot of time to address film certification grievances? How many film producers will have the means to approach the courts? The FCAT discontinuation feels arbitrary and is definitely restrictive. Why this unfortunate timing? Why take this decision at all?”

Over the past few years, several films, which had run into trouble with the Censor Board, got relief from FCAT. Take for instance, Prakash Jha’s Lipstick under my Burkha , which was denied a release by the Censor Board after it refused to give it a certification. This led the filmmakers to approach FCAT against the decision, which then directed the Board to grant an ‘A’ certificate to the film with “voluntary and some additional cuts and deletions’.

Published on April 08, 2021

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