Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin on Tuesday wrote to Union Law Minister and Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting to withdraw the proposed Draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
"Curbing the creative thinking of the Film Fraternity and imposing conditions on them on how films are to be made are totally unjustified and, in fact, it is quite opposite to the very ideals of our Constitution. Taking away the right to freedom of thought will only weaken our democracy- which has to be vibrant always, irrespective of the parties in power," Stalin said.
According to him, the draft bill has given rise to serious apprehensions not only in the minds of the film fraternity and film industry but also among all well-meaning sections of society that cherish freedom of expression. "A vibrant democracy must provide adequate space for creative thinking and artistic freedom," he said.
However, the proposed amendment to the Cinematograph Act seeks to restrict it by restoring the revisionary powers of the Union Government that was struck down by the Supreme Court two decades ago.
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) accords certification to the films if they meet all the criteria mentioned in the Section 5(a) of the Cinematograph Act.
The Act also provides for rejection of certification for a film on certain prescribed valid grounds. Moreover, adequate provisions for exercising control over the film making is available in the form of guidelines that have been provided under section 5(b) of the Act. "Given all these, it is considered as excessive to add more Laws and Acts to throttle the freedom of a creative form in the 21st Century," the Chief Minister said.
He pointed out that following the prescribed guidelines and procedures, if a film is certified for public viewing by the CBFC, it falls within the domain of the state governments first and hence, it must be left to the states as the law and order is a state subject. "But now, the Union Government, by the proposed Act tries to go against the spirit of cooperative federalism and transgress the powers of the state governments and its own Central Board of Film Certification," he argued.
Incidentally, as a prelude to this amendment, the Film Certification Appellate Board which was functioning as an appellate body against the CBFC was dismantled.
"I wish to reiterate that the Draft amendment restoring the “revisional power” to the Centre after it is certified by the CBFC is a misuse of “reasonable restriction” clause under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India and this Draft amendment itself is against the spirit of promoting rightful thinking in Civil Society."
Stalin added that there are certain provisions which have practical difficulties in implementation like the age-wise grouping of the certification under three categories and certain amendments that makes the film making a very risky and uncertain industry like the provision enabling the Union Government direct the Chairman of the CBFC to re-examine a film after certification.
"Considering the above points and genuine concerns raised by the film fraternity and various sections of the society across India, I urge you to withdraw the proposed Amendment to Cinematograph Act 1952 and also allow for functional autonomy of the CBFC, so that we remain as a progressive nation, and where creative thinking, that includes art, culture and film making, blossom without fear or favour," he concluded in his letter.