Film Censorship (amendment) Bill
A way forward to check mediocrity in Bangladeshi film
In Bangladesh film, a bold and strong media to reach the mass people, is often misused by some filmmakers and producers a section of them are exhibiting obscene films in movie houses flouting censor board certification.
This year till October 70 cases were filed against the censor board after it has taken action against their vulgar films. In the last ten months the board finally cancelled censor certificate to 105 Bangla films, 75 Bangla trailors,9 English movies, 13 commercials and one film of a foreign embassy on the charge of vulgarity.
Of those 33 makers and producers of Bangla films obtained stay order from court and exhibited the uncensored films to the public. Besides that, this year the board took action against 27 cinema halls and cancelled their licences also.
Last fiscal year Taka 24,59,000 only was earned from fee by the censor board.
Laws regarding censorship
Bangladesh Film Censor Board is regulated by the Censorship of Films Act, 1963 which was last amended in 1982 and the rules of film censorship, 1977. As per the article 13 of this rules, a film censor code was introduced in 1985. According to this act and regulations censor certificate is now issued to every film, irrespective of language and country, for mass exhibition. And this rule is applicable for commercial and non-commercial movies as well.
Misuse of the present legal system
A segment of film makers are abusing the power of courts to cover up their misdeeds while on the other hand it hampers the interest of those film makers who are struggling to make quality films for entertainment.
It is a common phenomenon that when any film is not certified by the censor board its maker or producer takes the advantage of the lacuna in the judicial system and gets issued one sided interim measure (stay order) against the censorship of the parts of the film and screens the uncensored version of the film in public.
A bill was introduced in the parliament arming the authorities with sweeping powers to overcome the cultural mediocrity by preventing the producers from screening the uncensored films, porno or other indecent movies or cut-pieces.
In the JS session, Information Minister M Shamsul Islam introduced ' The Censorship of Films ( Amendment) Bill -2005 to the standing committee for further scrutiny.
Two new sections (15 and 16) are inserted in the proposed act. These are:
- "Bar to legal proceedings: No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the Government, Board, Chairman, member and any other officer of the board, as the case may be, in respect of anything which is done or intended to be done in good faith under this act.
- No order of injunction, etc. without hearing the Board: Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, no court shall grant an injunction or make any interim order in respect of any order, passed under section 4, 5, or 7 without giving the board the opportunity of being heard.”
- Punishments: As per the proposed bill violators of the law shall be punished with imprisonment of maximum three years or fines upto Tk. 10,000 or with both. Here the violators of the law include, vulgar film, makers including artists, technicians and exhibitors.
- In case of exhibiting the uncensored film the exhibitors will be fined Taka five thousands for each day during which the offence continues.
- The case will be tried at the court of the first class magistrate.
- As per the proposed law the district information officer is empowered with the same status like police or magistrate to seize such films or publicity materials.
Censorship bill is a strong and timely step to check the rising vulgarity in our film industry but at the same time it has some rigid/ tough provisions and our expectation is that the new law should not be misused like in the past. We hope it will work independently and also be careful about judging any film so that there occurs no such embarrassing situation as had been with Clay Bird (Matir Moina). The film was censored by the board but later was nominated for Oscar in the foreign film category and also for Cannes and was acclaimed as such.
The author is working in Law Desk, The Daily Star.