A government-constituted panel headed by film-maker Shyam Benegal has recommended that the censor board, or the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) should categorize rather than “use scissors” to cut films while suggesting new categories classifying movies.

“We are recommending that CBFC should not be using scissors on any film. We are suggesting that in addition to different classifications that we have, we should have two categories of U/A, one plus 12 years of age and one plus 15 years of age and two categories of adult, one is normal adult and another adult with caution,” Benegal told reporters.

The committee constituted by the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry on 1 January to take a relook at the functioning of the controversy-ridden board, submitted its report to I&B minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday.

b’Shyam Benegal and members of the committee headed by him present their report to Minister Arun Jaitley | PTI’

Apart from Benegal, the panel includes actor Kamal Hassan, film-maker Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra, Piyush Pandey, Goutam Ghose, Bhawana Somaaya and senior officials of the I&B ministry.

The committee, however, suggested that the CBFC can refuse certification if a film contains anything that contravenes the provisions of Section 5B(1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.

As per this section, a film shall not be certified if the competent authority feels that it or a part of it is against the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence.

Another case when the panel has recommended that the CBFC can refuse certification is when the “content in a film crosses the ceiling laid down in the highest category of certification”. As per the recommendations, the film-maker must specify the category of certification being sought and the target audience.

The committee has said the censor board chairman should only play the role of a guiding mechanism for the CBFC, and not be involved in the day-to-day affairs of certification of films.

b’File photo of Shyam Benegal | Source: AFP’

The functions of the board shall be confined to the duties defined in the existing CBFC rules, which include an annual review of CBFC work, submission of annual report to the government, review of public reactions to films, and periodic recommendations for revision of guidelines.

“Given these limited functions, the size of the board should be compact with one member representing each regional office. Therefore, the total composition of the board should not be more than nine members and one chairman,” the panel has recommended.

The censor board, especially during the term of its present chairman Pahlaj Nihalani, has been hit by several controversies. Days before the panel was set up, Jaitley had said he would want the CBFC to be “controversy free”.

While the Benegal panel has given its recommendations on various aspects, it has sought some more time to give recommendations on issues relating to clearances to be obtained from the Animal Welfare Board under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and aspects related to depiction of smoking in films.

The committee shall give their recommendations on these issues by 20 June.

The panel has also suggested online submission of applications as well as simplification of forms and accompanying documentation. Recertification of a film for purposes of telecast on television or for any other purpose should be permitted, it has held.

Out-of-turn certification may be permitted for which the applicant would have to pay five times the fee that would have to be paid if the certification were done in the normal course, it said.

Regarding the regional advisory panel, the committee has laid down the criteria for appointments as per which women should have 50% representation on each panel.