Home / Industry / How does India’s censor board work?

Well, for starters, it’s no longer officially the Censor Board. But that hasn’t prevented the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and its chairman Pahlaj Nihalani from making it to the headlines, albeit for the wrong reasons. This time around, they’re in the news for Udta Punjab, co-produced by Phantom Films and Balaji Motion Pictures. The film, according to reports, deals with the drug menace and its impact on the youth of Punjab.

The revising committee of the censor board has passed the film with an A certificate and 89 cuts, which hasn’t gone down well with the producers, who have demanded an A certificate without cuts.

But how exactly does the CBFC, described by Anurag Kashyap as a North Korea-like institution, function?

The Censor Board of Film Certification became the Central Board of Film Certification after the Cinematograph (Certification) Rules were revised in 1983. The body is governed by the Cinematograph Act, 1952, on the basis of which it was set up in the first place. The role of the body, as per the Act, is to examine and certify films for paid public screenings in India.

The CBFC consists of three panels,. The examining committee has five CBFC members but not the chairman. Most films get the certification from this panel. The process generally takes about a week or two. Most films are sent for certification a week prior to release.

The second panel is called the revising committee. This panel, which comprises an entirely different set of members from the previous one, gets to work once the examining committee refuses certification for a film, in this case Udta Punjab.

The identity of the panel members are not revealed to the public and it includes the chairman. The panel can refuse certification if the “recommended cuts" they ask are not agreeable to the makers of film.

The final panel of the CBFC is the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal or what is commonly referred to as FCAT. This panel comprises retired judges (high court and Supreme Court) and senior industry members. Generally, films take longer to get certified—about a month—because it takes time to constitute the panel.

Often film makers agree the cuts suggested by the examining committee itself due to commercial considerations such as screening the film on release date itself.

Once the film is refused certification by the tribunal, the makers can go to the high court and further to supreme court in case of unfavourable verdict. There are four censor certificates in India: U-Universal, UA-Universal under adult supervision, A-Adult, S-For special class (like farmers, doctors and so on).

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