FCAT rules that film certification is not to be denied due to references to real life persons

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In an appeal filed before FCAT for the Malayalam film ‘Aabhaasam’, the FCAT while granting ‘U/A’ certificate ruled that references to real life persons in the film was permissible.

The film is supposedly a political satire and revolves around a travel agency named “Democracy Travels” which runs buses by the names Gandhi, Godse, Ambedkar, Jinnah, and Marx. It captures the happenings during a bus trip, and through the reactions of passengers, the movie attempts to satirically comment upon the present socio-political scenario.

The CBFC had directed several cuts to grant an ‘A’ certificate to the film. Aggrieved by the cuts ordered, the producers approached the revising committee which ordered even more cuts. The Producers thereafter approached the FCAT. The FCAT considered the issue whether the references to real life persons in the film was permissible. In that regard, the tribunal placed reliance on the decision of the Delhi High Court in the matter of Manu Kumaran & Anr vs CBFC & Anr with respect to the documentary Battle of Benares. There, the high court had held that it was impermissible to reject the certification to a film on the ground that certain characters and incidents being identifiable with actual persons and individuals. The protection of the Constitution does not extend only to fictional depictions of artistic themes. Artist, filmmakers and play rights are affirmatively entitled to allude to incidents, which have taken place, and to present a version of those incidents, which according to them represents a balanced portrayal of social reality. No democracy can countenance a lid of suppression on events in society. The Tribunal also placed reliance on the matter of FA Picture International vs CBFC and was of the view that there is hardly anything abusive or use of cuss words in the film. There is no obscene or depiction of sexuality which could deprave the young adolescent minds. In these circumstances, the Tribunal deemed it fit to grant ‘UA’ certification to the film with certain cuts.

The tribunal comprising of chairperson retired Chief Justice Manmohan Sarin, Poonam Dhillon, and Shazia Ilmi formed the opinion that the film was a social satire depicting the real-life reactions of the common man on various issues, as they surface during a bus journey. The tribunal found the references to real life persons as ‘innocuous’. Interestingly the Tribunal did not find the use of the references in contravention of the National (Emblems and Names Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.

The tribunal however did not disturb the other directions of CBFC regarding cuts ordered with respect to scenes with cuss words and physical contact and insertion of smoking warning scroll.

The FCAT order can be viewed here in the Livelaw article.

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