New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the ministry of information and broadcasting on a plea challenging laws concerning film censorship.

A bench comprising justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan heard a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by actor-filmmaker Amol Palekar, seeking the court’s intervention in revamping the Central Board of Film Certification (CFBC).

The plea sought to “declare provision that empowers CBFC to carry out excisions or modifications in the film as it thinks necessary before sanctioning the film for public exhibition as unconstitutional." The petition referred to a 1950 ruling of the apex court that held that any kind of prior scrutiny of expression is unconstitutional.

The I&B ministry, last year, had announced the introduction of a new Cinematograph Act (which governs CBFC) to redraw CBFC’s role on the basis of reports submitted by a committee headed by veteran actor Shyam Benegal in April 2016. The plea also sought implementation of the report.

According to a written reply submitted in the Rajya Sabha by minister of state for I&B Rajyavardhan Rathore, the CBFC denied certification to as many as 77 films in 2015-16, up 64% from the previous year. “We want to revisit current CBFC system," I&B minister Venkaiah Naidu had said on 27 March at the launch of online certification system.

Benegal welcomed the plea. “The government set up our committee and we submitted the report in two parts last year but haven’t heard what the government thinks about them. They have to respond and say either yes or no (to the recommendations). So I hope this (petition) will at least help them make up their mind."

Harveen Ahluwalia and Lata Jha contributed to the story.

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