HC criticizes CBFC for rejecting the U-label in a children's movie

MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court criticized Friday (CBFC) for refusing to issue a certificate for a children's movie, saying it had no intellectual or moral authority to decide which people to see and hear. It is like saying: 'You are all of low intelligence, and only we in this world know what is good for you'. That brings us to an authoritarian stage, said a bank of judges Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Gautam Patel. He heard a request from the Children's Film Society, a nodal agency under the information and transmission ministry, to direct the CBFC tribunal to hear his appeal.

In January, the CBFC ordered the society to silence a word and remove a scene from Chidiakhana, or receive a U/A certificate that is required children below 12 to see it under the guidance of parents. On June 24, after the company agreed to carry out the modification/elimination, HC looked for the CBFC response on whether it will issue a U certificate.

The CBFC defender said that the board now felt that the subject, the presentation and the narrative of the film required a U/A certificate. He produced the email from the regional official, who said that the theme of the film was based on violence, which included scenes of murder, attempted murder/suicide, school bullying of a school child, mother slapping a child and a community that faces discrimination.

Observing that CBFC was now after children ’s films, the judges said freedom of speech and expression was not something it could suppress. “You are not a censor board. You are a certification board. You can’t decide what I can or cannot see or listen. Nobody has given you intellectual and moral authority to decide that,’’ said Justice Patel. The bench took note that offence was taken to a child slapped by the mother. “What escapes your attention is most surprising, what catches it, we are now shocked. You want to control everybody,’’ said Justice Dharmadhikari. Justice Patel added, “Reality of the street is that the word (objected to) is used.’’ The bench asked if someone wanted to show a film on abuse or ragging, if CBFC can pretend it did not exist. “What are you? Ostriches? Putting your head in the sand,’’ said Justice Patel. The judges said it was better to use films to explain to children issues like racism, discrimination and drug addiction. Referring to the 2016 censorship row over , based on drug addition, the judges said CBFC had not learn a lesson. “You are forming an opinion that the entire population is infantile and imbecile, and you are the only one with an iota of intelligence,’’ said Justice Patel.

The judges said CBFC must take back its communication “or we’ll redefine your role”. Its regional officer was directed to file an affidavit elaborating “the cause for his communication and outlining policies of respondents in relation to children ’s films”.