The abolishment of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) by the government has left the film industry disappointed. Film makers will now have to approach the high court directly, instead of FCAT for the redressal of their grievances.
FCAT was introduced in 1983 as a statutory body, which constituted Section 5D of the Cinematography Act, 1952 (37 0f 1952) by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
Filmmakers like Alankrita Shrivastava had approached FCAT in 2017 after the CBFC had refused to certify Lipstick Under My Burkha, whereby the statutory body ordered CBFC to grant an ‘A’ certificate after recommending a few edits. Anurag Kashyap had also reached out to FCAT in 2016 when the censoring body wouldn’t give Udta Punjab clearance for release. The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal was very instrumental in giving the go ahead for the release of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz after a few “voluntary cuts” instead of 48 cuts that CBFC had ordered.
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? The FCAT discontinuation feels arbitrary and is definitely restrictive. Why this unfortunate timing? Why take this decision at all?
— Hansal Mehta (@mehtahansal) April 7, 2021
A number of film personalities have expressed concerns over the government’s move. Taking to Twitter, Hansal Mehta described the abolishment as “arbitrary and restrictive”. “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? The FCAT discontinuation feels arbitrary and is definitely restrictive. Why this unfortunate timing? Why take this decision at all?” Vishal Bhardwaj described it as a “sad day for cinema”.
Such a sad day for cinema
FILM CERTIFICATION APPELLATE TRIBUNAL ABOLISHED | 6 April, 2021
— Vishal Bhardwaj (@VishalBhardwaj) April 6, 2021
Chandrima Mitra, partner at DSK Legal, pointed out that FCAT had representation more diverse than just lawyers, and therefore, was in a position to have more broad-based views and appreciate the variety of issues that were before them. “Limiting powers to courts effectively takes away a right of one round of appeal for the film makers and it adds to the caseload of courts,” he said.
Filmmakers fear they will get no hearing and will have to bow down to the diktats of the censor board while legal experts point to the possible lack of understanding and time among courts which do not have background in cinema and are already handling multiple cases.
In February, the government had introduced a three-tier mechanism for controlling the digital news media and OTT video streaming platforms.