Cinematograph Act

Timelines: All, India Categories: 1950s, Country, Decade, Government, India, Law
Date: 1952


On 21 March 1952 The Cinematograph Act 1952 replaced former legislation on film censorship, specifically the Cinematograph Act 1918. It sought to distinguish provisions for certifying films for exhibition from provisions concerning the licensing and regulation of cinemas, the latter being left as a matter for state governments. The Act invalidated existing regional boards and allowed the Central Union Government to constitute a central Board of Film Censors, consisting of a chairman and up to nine board members appointed by it. It also provided for the appointment of regional officers and the constitution of advisory panels in major regional film centres. The categories of “U” and “A” were outlined in Part II (s3-9), “Certification of Films for Public Exhibition”:
“(1) If the Board, after examination, considers that a film is suitable for unrestricted public exhibition or that, although not suitable for such exhibition it is suitable for public exhibition restricted to adults, it shall grant to the person applying for a certificate in respect of the film a ‘U’ certificate in the former case and an ‘A’ certificate in the latter case.”

A record of certificates granted and those refused is published in the Gazette of India. The reasons that a film might not be granted a certificate were wide-ranging:
“5B. (1) A film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of 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.”
The Act also outlines the Central Government’s powers to suspend or revoke certificates that have been granted (s5E). Barnouw and Krishnaswamy (1980) note that at the time of Indian independence, films shown on diplomatic premises were exempt from censorship. A second exemption was added in 1952, which allowed producers to screen footage of an unfinished film, provided government officials could be admitted. Two new ratings categories – “UA” for unrestricted exhibition but with parental guidance recommended for children under 12, and “S” for exhibition to specialist audiences – were added to the Cinematograph Act 1952 in 1983. – Liam Grealy

Further reading:
– Bhowmik, S. (2009). Cinema and censorship: The politics of control in India. New Delhi: Orient Black Swan.
– Ganti, T. (2009). The limits of decency and the decency of limits: Censorship and the Bombay film industry Censorship in South Asia. In W. Mazzarella and R.
Kaur (Eds) Cultural regulation from sedition to seduction (pp. 87-122). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
– Mehta, M. (2011). Censorship and sexuality in Bombay cinema. Austin: University of Texas Press.

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