ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Censorship in Cinema

Yours Censoriously

Censorium: Cinema and the Open Edge of Mass Publicity, William Mazzarella (Orient Blackswan), 2013; pp 296, Rs 795.

Why does India’s film censor board (henceforth, the censor board/the board) exist? No other modern institution of the state is presumably beset by such extraordinary lack of clarity as to its very purpose. Legally, the Central Board of Film Certification exists because the Cinematograph Act, 1952 (Section 5(2)) translated into the cinema Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution, the provision on “reasonable restrictions” to the doctrine of free speech. Such reasonable restrictions, says Article 19(2), include specific political limitations concerning India’s integrity and its relations with other countries, defamation, maintenance of public order, and the one that has generated the greatest controversy: “decency and morality”.

Many opponents of the board take the debate back to the parent doctrine. They contend that the Constitution’s “reasonable restrictions” clause and its physical manifestation in the censor board are both, on the very face of it, incompatible with the very concept of free speech. But, is the misfit specific to the nature of the actual restrictions? Or, is the problem more foundational, and is the stand that needs to be taken – the stand that the great Hindi and Marathi theatre director Satyadev Dubey took when he faced censor attack for the Marathi play Gidhade (1970) – logically against any speech restriction whatsoever?

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