The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), commonly known as the Censor Board is often in the news for wrong reasons from appointments to certification of films. In a latest audit report of Censor Board’s Mumbai office, the Director General of Audit (Mumbai) slammed the functioning of the Censor Board and raised many important issues.
What is Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) or the Censor Board?
Films are publicly exhibited in India only after their certification by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) or more commonly known as the Censor Board. The members of the panel are appointed by the Central Government by drawing people from different walks of life. At present, films are certified under 4 categories: U, UA, A & S.
|U||Films considered suitable for unrestricted public exhibition|
|UA||Films which contain portions considered unsuitable for children below the age of twelve, but otherwise suitable for unrestricted public exhibition|
|A||Films considered suitable for exhibition restricted to adults only|
|S||Films restricted for exhibition to specialized audience such as doctors etc.|
The CBFC has nine regional offices, one each at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Cuttack & Guwahati.
Audit Report of CBFC Mumbai Office
The Director General of Audit (Mumbai) conducted an audit of the Censor Board’s Mumbai office for the period from 1st October 2013 to 31st March 2015. The report became public through a reply sent to RTI activist Vihar Durve from Pune. This new audit report raises some important issues about the basic functioning of CBFC. From financial irregularities to irregularities in certification of films, the audit report is a tell all on what is wrong with the Censor Board. Below are some of the important issues raised in this report.
Incomplete Data Entry of Historical records despite spending a huge sum for digitization
The audit report mentioned that the data entry and digitization of historical records is incomplete despite spending a huge sum of about 190.18 lakh rupees. These records have to be preserved by the board as per the public records act and also to answer queries under the RTI act. The board holds more than 4 lakh counterfoils of censor certificates and more than 60 lakh pages of feature film files. It also has about 37000 pages of Censor Certificate Issue Register and other records totaling to about 75000 pages.
It is worth noting that the Central Information Commission (CIC) had directed the board to put information relating to certification, minutes of meeting etc. on its website by 1st June, through an order in March 2015. This order is yet to be complied with.
The Audit felt the need for Digitization of the records at the earliest as it found that CBFC lacked control in terms of physical management of Data. The audit report made an observation that the records were maintained in ‘pathetic’ infrastructural facilities. There is no Fire-warning system installed in CBFC’s premises and no training has been imparted to the concerned staff responsible for record keeping.
By the end of Mar 2012, data of nearly 1,10,000 films had yet to be digitized which is 45% of the films. In other words, 55% of the work was completed in 2.25 years while the original plan was to complete this entire work in 3 years. Though computerization, up gradation of application software, website of CBFC were all part of the 12th Five year plan, there has been no concrete plan to take this forward. The Audit report found the whole process of digitization in jeopardy despite spending 1.9 crore rupees.
Disparity in issuance of certificates & Non-observance of time limit for certification process
Rule 41 of the Cinematograph rules prescribe the following time limits for the certification process:
|Scrutiny of Application||7 days|
|Formation of Examination Committee (EC)||15 days|
|Forwarding the EC report to Chairman||10 days|
|Communication of the order to the applicant||3 days|
|Surrender of cuts by the producer||14 days|
|Examination of cuts||14 days|
|Issue of Certificate||5 days|
|Total Time Limit||68 days|
The total time limit prescribed for the certification process, from the date of receipt of the application to the date of the issue of the certificate is 68 days (with cuts) and 40 days (without cuts). The audit report found that certificates were issued to films in violation of these guidelines.
The Audit team conducted a test check of 55 of 99 cases of the films for which CBFC issued certificates within 7 days. From the detailed analysis of the trends in issue of certification of films, it was observed that the board scrutinized the application on the date of receipt of application and referred the films for examination by the Examination Committee (EC) within 2-7 days from the date of receipt of application. EC examined the films within the same period and cleared the films for certification without any cuts. Board issued the certificates on the same day or on the subsequent day of clearance by EC.
The certificates for the films like “Mhais (Marathi), “Taptapadi ( Marathi)” and “498A The Wedding Gift”, “Tendlya Nighala Oscarla (Marathi)”, “Lucky De Unlucky Story (Punjabi)”, “Mazha Mee ( Marathi)”, “Ashiqui Not allowed(Punjabi)”, “Ek Villain ( Hindi)”,” Bhopal A Prayer For Rain (Hindi)”, “Khairlanji Chya Mathyawar (Marathi) were issued by the CBFC Board within 2 to 3 days of the receipt of the application and they were cleared without any cuts.
The report mentioned that the examination of the film in a short time of 2-7 days even though time limit of 68 days prescribed in the Cinematograph (Certification) Rule, is indicative of the non-following of the due procedure and therefore the chances of bias or favoritism cannot be ruled out by ignoring others in the queue.
Audit conducted a test check of 30 out of 79 cases in which CBFC took more than 100 days for issue of certificates. In the case of a film ‘Mafia (Bhojpuri)’ CBFC took 351 days to issue film certification after the film was examined by EC instead of required time of 8 days. In case of the film Zilla Chhapra (Bhojpuri)” it was observed that CBFC Board took 342 days from the date of examining the film by EC with cut as against the required time of 68 days.
It was also noted that CBFC gives higher priority under the category of Theatrical films compared to the Video Films category which is a violation of Section 4 of the Cinematography Act and Rule 41 of the Cinematography rule.
The audit report concluded that due diligence has not been followed in observance of time limits as prescribed. It was clearly visible that in some cases a minimum period of 2-3 days was taken whereas in some other cases, films were dragged on inordinately (for more than a year) and these were approved without cuts. Ideally, there should have been a system of ‘First come first serve’, barring very few cases where scrutiny of further committees is inevitable. The report also concluded that the rules for time limit seem to be highly compromised giving enough scope for favoritism.
Multiple Certificates to Imported Films
Audit scrutiny revealed that CBFC issued certificates to the applicants for Video Films imported into India without obtaining the certified copy of the imported license and without custom clearance permit.
In a test check of 12 cases, it was noticed that CBFC issued more than one certificate for a single film even though the category, language, title and name of the producer of the film was the same.
In case of two films “Death Race” & “When Trumpets Fade” the certification was issued from the Chennai office initially. Even after issuance of certificates by Chennai office, the application for the same title, language and category was received in the Mumbai Office and without ascertaining the checks, the certificate for the same film was again issued by the Mumbai office. This indicates the weak inter control mechanism in the office of CBFC for tracing the records of film certifications.
Also, the audit found instances where the CBFC has been revalidating its earlier issued censor-certificates without any verification of the original rights of the film or surrendering of the original censor certificate.
Fabrication of false documents & Favoritism
Vijaya Chawak, Secretary to Chairperson was found to have issued certificates to two movies, which were earlier, rejected or refused by the Examining and Review Committees. As per the official records, two movies naming ‘Gabriel (English)’& ‘Three Can Play That game (English)’ were examined by J.S.Mahamuni and S.G.Mane. However, CBFC issued certificate was showing that V.K.Chawak examined the movie. These movies were neither re-applied nor assigned to Chawak.
The Ministry of I&B advised CBFC to prepare charge sheet against Chawak since the charges were grave, including fabrication of false documents and favoritism. However, no action has been taken as of April 2015. In fact Chawak is still involved in the examination work of the films which is violation of the Central Vigilance Commission’s guidelines.
No Digital Projection systems/ Digital Theaters in any offices of the CBFC
During the years 2011-12 to 2014-15, a total of 3699 certificates were issued in the category of digital films in all the nine regional offices including Mumbai. The Regional Offices of CBFC is presently screening the films by going out to the producer chosen location, as there are no Digital Theaters/ Projection Systems available in any of the CBFC offices.
CBFC thereby is also not able to levy the screening charges from the producers, which led to the loss of revenue to the extent of Rs.31.07 lakh. These charges are calculated at an average of 120 minutes of film for Rs.840 per film. CBFC responded that the ministry has written to all the State Governments to provide space in Government Buildings but it has not received any response so far in this matter.
Conversion of “A” category Films into “UA” & “U” without supporting any law
During the test check of records, it was observed that CBFC converted 172 “A” category certified films into “UA” category and 166 films of “UA” category to “U” category during 2012-15 without any supporting law or provision in the Act to do so.
The Audit report pointed out that the CBFC has issued guidelines without any authority or legal backing and the practice of conversion of film from one category to another without supporting law is a very serious and highly objectionable matter.
Lackadaisical approach of CBFC and Ministry of I & B
In February 2012, Ministry of I&B on the advice of Planning Commission accepted the proposal for ‘Up gradation, Modernization and Expansion of CBFC and Certification Process.’ The objectives for this initiative were to:
- Software Development and servers for online processing of film application and certification, website up gradation.
- Acquire digital Projection system and digital Theaters for the Headquarters and Regional offices.
- Requirement of additional space for Regional offices of CBFC & Headquarter.
Ministry of I&B approved the said scheme in June 2013, 16 months from the date of acceptance of the proposal.
CBFC then took 18 months for holding a meeting to discuss the modalities for the RFP (Request for Proposal). Decision was taken in the meeting to rope in a specialist in the field of computer software to study the requirements and finalize the RFP.
CBFC did not initiate any action for appointing the specialist as decided in the meeting. But, made procurements worth Rs.114.16 lakh required for Up gradation of Application software without appointing the specialist in the field.
Audit report slammed that the lackadaisical approach of CBFC and Ministry of I&B that led to not starting the Up gradation as of April 2015 despite incurring an expenditure of Rs.114.16 lakh on procurement.
Non-Revision of Fees & Cess
The audit report raised the issue of non-revision of certification fee since 2007 and Cess since 2001. The audit report felt that a periodic revision of fee is necessary to meet the expenditure of the office. Hence the non-revision of fee for 7 years and cess for more than 12 years was not desirable. This issue was also raised in the previous audit report and the board responded that it would be attended to on priority.
It is to be noted that the CBFC was not able to recover the arrears in cess (2003-2005) worth Rs.7.5 Lakh based on its reply to the department in Nov 2011. Also, they had a loss of revenue of Rs 91.80 lakh due to delay in recovery of cess on imported films dubbed into Indian languages b/w 2005-2009.
Scrutiny of records revealed that the CBFC collected Rs.2,80,90,000 towards CWWC (Cine Workers Welfare Cess) as against the total cess of Rs.3,45,80,00 during the financial year of 2013-14, which resulted into short collection of cess by Rs.64,90,000. The CWWC is to be collected as per the Cine workers welfare Cess act of 1981.
Other Financial Irregularities
Audit scrutiny of the records revealed that the CBFC collected revenue of Rs. 2,71,90,050 under CWWC (Cine Workers Welfare Cess) for the period from April 2014 to March 2015 but only deposited Rs. 2,58,70,050 to the Ministry of Labour. This resulted in short remittance of CWWC by an amount of Rs.13,20,000.
The report also found serious lapses such as Non-deduction of TDS that caused a loss of Rs.9.12 Lakh to the exchequer.
The Audit report also mentioned that Travel Allowance (TA) bills were reimbursed without proper accompanying documentation. TA bills of the former & current Chairperson of CBFC were cleared without submission of the boarding pass. Similar issue was noted in the case of other reimbursements including that the CEO.
Non-reconstituting the Advisory Panel hampering the work of Regional Offices
Audit revealed that, the Advisory Panel members of the Regional Offices of CBFC were last reconstituted by the Ministry of I & B in January 2012. After removal of some members who served for more than two consecutive terms, the panel as of July 2014 consists of 274 members. No certification work was done at Kolkata, Bangalore, Cuttack and Guwahati as sufficient panel members were not available for constituting the examination Committees and Revising Committees for conducting the screenings. Hardly 40-50 % members are active and available for examination of films. The remaining were either not interested or perpetually not available. Thus, due to insufficient panel members, the regional offices of CBFC did not constitute any committee for examining films, which hampers the certification works at the Regional offices.
PS: The Audit report also observed that the CBFC did not take the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan seriously and waste material like old files etc were just dumped in the balcony premises.
Featured Image Source: By Central Board of film certification, India (Film Certificate) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons