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Shyam Benegal Committee recommends splitting UA category into sub-categories

MUMBAI: The Shyam Benegal committee, set up by the government to lay down norms for film certification, has recommended to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) that the categorisation of films should be more specific and that apart from the U category, the UA category can be broken up into further sub-categories – UA12+ and UA15+.

The A category should also be sub-divided into A and AC (adult with caution) categories, it stated.

The committee further recommended that certification of films should be carried out in accordance with the proposed guidelines, which have been split into three sections, where each section is required to be read with the other two—general guidelines, issue-related guidelines and category-specific guidelines.

The committee submitted its report on Cinematograph Act/ Rules to I&B Minister Arun Jaitley.

The committee, which was set up on 1 January 2016, also comprised Kamal Hassan, Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra, Piyush Pandey, Goutam Ghose, Bhawana Somaaya, NFDC MD Nina Lath Gupta and joint secretary (films) K Sanjay Murthy as member-convenor.

Following are the major highlights of the report:

  • CBFC should only be a film certification body whose scope should be restricted to categorising the suitability of the film to audience groups on the basis of age and maturity except in the following instances to refuse certification
  • When a film contains anything that contravenes the provisions of Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952
  • When content in a film crosses the ceiling laid down in the highest category of certification
  • The applicant must specify the category of certification being sought and the target audience

The objective of these guidelines would be to ensure that

  • Children and adults are protected from potentially harmful or unsuitable content.
  • Audiences, particularly parents, are empowered to make informed viewing judgements.
  • Artistic expression and creative freedom are not unduly curbed in the process of classification of films.
  • The process of certification by CBFC is responsive, at all times, to social change.
  • The certification by CBFC keeps within the rights and obligations as laid down in the Indian Constitution.

The highlights of the recommendations of the committee broadly cover the areas related to the film certification process and its simplification, restructuring staffing pattern of central and regional censor advisory panels, and recertification of films for purposes of telecast on television, and measures to preserve the identity of Indian cinema.

The committee has also made certain recommendations regarding the functioning of the board and has stated that the board, including the chairman, should only play the role of a guiding mechanism for the CBFC and not be involved in the day-to-day affairs of certification of films. The functions of the board shall be confined to the duties defined in the existing CBFC rules, which, inter alia, include an annual review of CBFC work, submission of annual report to the government, review of public reactions to films, and periodic recommendations for revision of guidelines.

Given these limited functions, the size of the board should be compact with one member representing each regional office. Therefore, the total composition of the board should not be more than nine members and one chairman.

Regarding the regional advisory panels, the committee has laid down criteria for appointment. All nine regions will have advisory panels comprising persons who are acquainted with the languages being certified by that regional office.

  • Members from all walks of life, recommended by the National Film Development Corporation to the Central Government – 25%
  • Members of the public recommended by the Federation of Film Societies of India (FFSI) – 25%
  • Members recommended by the National Council for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and National Commission of Women (NCW) – 25%
  • Representatives of the local film industry, as recommended by Film Federation of India (FFI) – 25%
  • Women to have 50% representation on each panel

Additionally, the committee has recommended

  • Online submission of applications as well as simplification of forms and accompanying documentation.
  • Recertification of a film for purposes of telecast on television or for any other purpose should be permitted.
  • In order to preserve Indian cinema, the committee recommends that every applicant be asked to deposit the director’s cut to the NFAI for preservation, instead of the certified version, in order to truly reflect the cinematic history of Indian cinema.
  • For out-of-turn certification, the applicant would have to pay five times the fee if the certification were done in the normal course.
  • In the event that complaints are received by the central government, the same shall be referred to the CBFC. The chairperson may, if he considers it necessary to do so, refer the film to a revising committee for examination once again, due to alleged violation of Section 5B(1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.

The committee sought some more time to give recommendations on the certification of films regarding:

  • Issues relating to clearances to be obtained from the Animal Welfare Board under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act
  • Issues relating to depiction of smoking in films wherein films are required to show a disclaimer in every scene that involves smoking, as per a directive from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

The committee will give their recommendations on these issues by 20 June this year.