The film fraternity has expressed disappointment over the government’s decision to disband the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, an appellate authority that filmmakers approached to challenge decisions taken by the Central Board of Film Certification, more popularly known as the censor board.
In an ordinance notified on April 4, the government amended the Cinematograph Act, 1952 to say that filmmakers aggrieved by the decision of the Central Board of Film Certification will now have to approach high courts instead of the FCAT for redressal of their grievances.
The FCAT is one of the tribunals abolished by the government through the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021.
A bill to abolish tribunals in which the public was not a litigant was moved by MoS finance Anurag Thakur during the Budget session of Parliament this year. Since the bill could not be passed during the session, the government issued an ordinance to bring about the changes proposed in the bill.
Among those who expressed concern over the abolition of the FCAT were filmmakers Hansal Mehta, Vishal Bhardwaj and Anurag Kashyap,. Mehta, who has made films like ‘Aligarh’ and ‘Shahid’ said abolishing the tribunal and asking filmmakers to take their complaints to the HC would only delay the process of settling disputes. “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?”, he said on Twitter.
Bhardwaj also tweeted. “Such a sad day for cinema. Film Certification Appellate Tribunal Abolished | 6 April, 2021,” he said. Film trade analyst Girish Johar also said he was hopeful filmmakers would get an alternative platform to address their grievances. “With FCAT dissolved by the govt, maybe a larger body will come up. (Perhaps another body will be) set up by Govt which will not only address censor grievances of films, but also issues regarding content on OTT, short films, social media and such other content as well,” he said on Twitter.
The legal fraternity also argued that the shift would add to the courts’ already heavy burden. Advocate Apar Gupta of the Internet Freedom foundation, said, “The abolition of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal is likely to increase further delay, costs and indeterminacy for filmmakers. The writ jurisdiction of the high court will be an inadequate basis to remedy it…. While in principle there are strong arguments for the abolition of tribunals, but — till film certification is mandatory —the FCAT was largely an imperfect but a functional body…,” he added.