The article 'Demystifying India's CBFC and Cinematograph Act: A Comprehensive Overview' delves into the intricate workings of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and the Cinematograph Act in India, shedding light on the regulatory framework that governs film censorship in the country.

The article 'Demystifying India's CBFC and Cinematograph Act: A Comprehensive Overview' delves into the intricate workings of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and the Cinematograph Act in India, shedding light on the regulatory framework that governs film censorship in the country.

With a vast and diverse cultural landscape, India's film industry has long grappled with the challenges of balancing creative expression and societal sensitivities. The CBFC, established under the Cinematograph Act, plays a pivotal role in evaluating and certifying films for public exhibition.

The article also describes precisely the Cinematograph Amendment Bill, 2023.


As the portrayal of an idea or opinion that is inconsistent with social morals and norms has the potential to incite violence as well as the breeding of wrong ideals, the main goal of censorship is to restore and control what kind of morals and values are portrayed among the general public. Through censorship, the government manages a number of media portals.

This specific goal of censorship is carried out by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). The CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) is a regulatory body in India responsible for certifying films for public exhibition. It operates under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act of 1952.

The Cinematograph Act, 1952 is the primary legislation that governs the certification and exhibition of films in India. It outlines the powers and functions of the CBFC and establishes the legal framework for film censorship in the country.

Important Aspects of the Cinematograph Act

In Context of Cinematograph Act, 1952

Certification: The Act establishes the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), commonly known as the Censor Board, which is responsible for certifying films for public exhibition. The CBFC further arranges categories depending on the content and suitability for the particular age.

Censorship: CBFC has been authorized to check that the film should not in any manner disturb public morality, decency, and national security.

Exhibition: The Act prescribes the exhibition of films in theatres after obtaining a license from the local authorities to exhibit films

Film Inspection: Officers are authorized and they are allowed to enter any place where films are being produced, stored, or exhibited for inspection purposes.

Offences and Penalties: Fines and imprisonment have been provided for non-compliance with the Act's provisions.

In Context of Cinematograph Amendment Bill, 2023

Aim of Bill:

  • Classification based upon age and basically: U/A group into the U/A 7+, U/A 13+, and U/A 16+ categories need to be applied by CBFC
  • To harmonize the law with executive orders and various Supreme Court judgements, in order to achieve consistency.
  • Harsher punishments for Film Piracy.
  • CBFC is to be assigned the power to re-examine films that have already been cleared for exhibition.
  • To provide consistency across platforms in the classification of films and material.
  • Recertifying the edited movie for television transmission.

Film Censorship and Legislative Development in India

India has adopted the practice of having the CBFC known as the Censor Board censor films to eliminate any content that is considered undesirable. The goal is to adapt the film to the intended audience

In addition to the Cinematograph Act, other laws in India also impact film censorship. The Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act contain provisions related to obscenity, defamation, hate speech, and other offences that can influence the content and exhibition of films. Filmmakers need to navigate these legal frameworks while balancing artistic expression and societal sensitivities.

Purpose of Film Certification

Its goal is to ensure that feature films, short films, trailers, documentaries, and theatre-based advertising are appropriate for public viewing through screening and rating. The CBFC previewed roughly 13,500 things annually at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Each movie is assigned to one of four categories by the board: U for unrestricted general screening, A for adults only, UA for movies requiring parental supervision for kids under 12, and S for exhibition to a specific audience (like doctors). Before being played or transmitted in India, all films foreign and domestic, as well as versions released in other formats must have CBFC certification.


The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India established the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) as a censorship and classification authority. As stated in the Cinematograph Act of 1952, the board has been given the power to regulate how films are shown in public.

Before a film is screened, the CBFC must confirm that it has demonstrated conformity with the following requirements:

1. The Film media continues to be accountable to and attentive to society's norms and standards.

2. Creative freedom and artistic expression are not overly constrained.

3. Certification adapts to societal shifts.

4. The Film offers wholesome and clean amusement.

5. Movie upholds high aesthetic standards.

Only after the Cinematograph Act of 1952's aforementioned requirements have been met and thus the board's power to certify the film and assign grades as it finds suitable.

The Cinematograph(Certification) Rules of 1983 outline the process that must be adhered to strictly by a producer in order to have his film or video certified. They also make it abundantly clear what steps must be taken, what fees must be paid, and what other materials must be provided by the producer.

The Shyam Bengal Committee was established on January 1 of 2016 to establish guidelines for film certification that would take into account best practices from around the world and to advise various procedures that would aid the CBFC in the certification process.

Case law:

• K.A. Abbas vs Union of India, 1971 AIR 481

In this case, the producer’s documentary, "A Tale of Four Cities," was rejected by the Film Board because it featured footage from Bombay's Red-Light District. If the petitioner wanted his documentary to be certified and receive a screening certificate, the board requested that he modify a few scenes. The petitioner filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court after being dissatisfied with the film board's ruling, arguing that the board should be held accountable for violating his right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.

In this judgment, Indian Supreme Court ruled that the pre-censorship, or prior restraint, the practice of filtering films in India was constitutionally justified. On the grounds of public morality, decency, and in the interests of society as a whole, the court upheld cinema censorship. The court ruled that Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution allowed for the installation of reasonable restrictions on the film before approving its showing.

• Rangaranjan v. P Jagjivan Ram, 1989 SCR (2) 204

In another important case in 1989, the Supreme Court used its authority to protect the right to free speech. Mr Ranjaranjan, the petitioner in Rangaranjan v. P Jagjivan Ram, was a film producer who brought the lawsuit after producing "Ore Oru Gramathile," a film that criticised the caste-based quota policy at educational institutions located in the Tamil Nadu state. The idea behind the film was to portray a situation that would cause unrest and other law and order difficulties in the Tamil Nadu state.

In this instance, the Supreme Court overturned a Madras High Court decision that had declared the movie's U certificate unconstitutional. The state's contention that the movie should not be given a U certificate because it was capable of upsetting the public and inciting hostility among them was rejected by the Supreme Court when the matter came up for review as an appeal. In its ruling, the supreme court stated that as the right to free speech is one of the rights that the Constitution guarantees against the government, it is the duty of the state to uphold and defend it. Additionally, it stated that the state had no right to claim that it was unable to address the problem of the hostile audience.

• Anand Patwardhan v. Central Board of Picture Certification, 2003 (5) BomCR 58

This is a situation where the Board harassed a filmmaker. In this case, the Censor Board watched a movie and instructed the director to make two edits and one addition before the picture could receive a "U" rating. The petition was filed in response to the Censor Board's directives, and it was noted that the edits mandated were an abuse of authority by the Censor Board to harass the director, which was in violation of their own Article 19(1)a freedom to speech and expression through cinematography.

The Court Said,

"Freedom of expression which is legitimate and constitutionally protected, cannot be held to ransom by an intolerant group of people. The fundamental freedom under Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted only for the purposes mentioned in Article 19(2) and the restriction must be justified on the anvil of necessity and not the quicksand of convenience or expediency."

• Odyssey Communications Pvt. Ltd. v. Lokvidayan Sangathana & Others, 1988 AIR 1642

A TV serial was legally forbidden from being shown by the High Court in Odyssey Communications Pvt. Ltd. v. Lokvidayan Sangathana & Others on the grounds that it could cause the general people to develop blind beliefs and become superstitious. The Supreme Court ruled in the case that the ban's implementation infringed on the right to free speech protected by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The apex court ruled that there wasn't enough proof to show that the programme violated the interests of the community.


A cinematograph is a work of art that allows a person to convey their feelings, thoughts, and opinions. Until a reasonable restriction is imposed on its enjoyment in accordance with the terms of Article 19(2) of our Indian Constitution, it is protected under the freedom of speech and expression. The Cinematograph Act of 1952 provides a comprehensive explanation of the censorship process. There have been a number of important rulings in this area, most of which were the result of a disagreement between the Constitution's protections for the right to free speech and the limitations placed on that freedom. It is a highly complex issue since the state has a duty to defend the fundamental rights of its citizens and because any action taken to legitimise censorship must be equated to reasonable limitations.


[1] Laws governing censorship of movies in India, Available Here

[2] Sumit Mathew, Censorship of Films, Available Here

[3] Introduction to CBFC and the Cinematograph Act, 1952, Available Here

[4] Laws Made for the Censorship of Movies in India, Available Here

Contributions from: Dikshita More And Apurva Neel

Important Links

Updated On
Dikshita More

Dikshita More

Vivekanand College of Law, Chembur

Next Story