The Bombay High Court rapped the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) on July 5, 2019, while hearing a petition filed by the Children’s Film Society (CFS), India, seeking directions to the CBFC tribunal to hear its plea to issue universal certificate to its film Chidiakhana.
A Division Bench of Justices S.C. Dharmadhikari and Gautam Patel has strongly rebuked the board when it was informed that the censor board had refused to issue a universal (U) certificate to a children’s film.
In January, the board asked CFS to mute a word from a scene in the movie and also delete a particular scene from the film. The society agreed to make the said changes in June and the court asked CBFC for a response thereafter, to which the CBFC submitted that the film showed violence and discrimination against a community, hence the content mandates a U/A certificate.
A U/A certificate requires adult supervision of kids below the age of 12 in order to be able to watch the film.
Hearing the petition, the Bench said the CBFC, by asking for such scenes to be deleted in films, was pretending that these issues do not exist.
“Are you (CBFC) ostriches? Put your head in the sand and pretend something does not exist,” Justice Patel said.
The CBFC submitted before the court that it has laid down certain conditions and if those are fulfilled then the film will be given ‘U/A’ certificate.
Irked with this, the court asked how can the board say that it will give ‘U/A’ certificate irrespective of whether the scene and abusive word is deleted.
“We actually wonder if the CBFC officials have children of their own. You (CBFC) are a certification board and not a censor board. You will not decide what one wants to watch and see,” Justice Patel said.
“Nobody has given you (CBFC) the intellectual morality and authority to decide what one wants to watch and see,” he added.
Further, the Bench said that the world was changing and so was the art of storytelling.
“Looks like we may have to redefine your (CBFC) role entirely. You (CBFC) are forming an opinion that the whole population is infantile and imbecile and you are the only one with an iota of intelligence to decide for everyone,” Justice Patel said.
The court observed when a children’s film shows or speaks about issues like racism, discrimination, child labour and drug abuse, then it is better to use the films to explain these issues to children.
“How else does one show and explain these issues to a child? Is it not better to show such films to the child and explain that this is what happens and this is wrong,” Justice Patel said.
The Bench asked the CBFC’s Regional Officer to file an affidavit elaborating and outlining the board’s policy while certifying children’s films.
It has posted the petition for further hearing on August 5, 2019.