MUMBAI: Criticising the government's decision to do away with the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), filmmakers Vishal Bhardwaj, Hansal Mehta and Guneet Monga on Wednesday said the move felt "arbitrary" and "restrictive".
The FCAT was a statutory body constituted to hear appeals of filmmakers aggrieved by the cuts suggested by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). The Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice, was notified on Sunday.
The ordinance abolishes certain appellate tribunals and transferred their functions to other existing judicial bodies. With the amendment in the Cinematograph Act, the appellate body will now be the high court.
Mehta took to Twitter and questioned the decision, calling the move "arbitrary". "Do the high courts have a lot of time to address film certification grievances? How many film producers will have the means to approach the courts? The FCAT discontinuation feels arbitrary and is definitely restrictive. Why this unfortunate timing? Why take this decision at all?" the 'Scam 1992' filmmaker wrote.
Bhardwaj, who has often spoken out against censorship, said, "Such a sad day for cinema". In recent past, several films, including Monga's 2016 drama "Haraamkhor", filmmaker Alankrita Shrivastava's "Lipstick Under My Burkha" (2017) and Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer 2017 drama "Babumoshai Bandookbaaz", were cleared by FCAT.
While the CBFC had refused to certify "Haraamkhor" and "Lipstick Under My Burkha", the then Pahlaj Nihalani-led board had ordered 48 cuts in "Babumoshai Bandookbaaz". Filmamker Anurag Kashyap had also approached the appellate tribunal against the cuts suggested by the CBFC for his production, "Udta Punjab".
Sharing Bhardwaj's tweet, Monga wrote, "How does something like this happen? Who decides?" "Scam 1992: Harshad Mehta Story" co-director Jai Mehta also criticised abolition of FCAT and wondered how could this "happen overnight". "Did anyone see this coming?" he tweeted.
In February, the government introduced a bill to abolish some tribunals where the public at large is not litigant. The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur. Since the bill could not get the parliamentary nod, an ordinance was issued.
The Government of India began the process of rationalisation of tribunals in 2015. By the Finance Act, 2017, seven tribunals were abolished or merged based on functional similarity and their total number was reduced to 19 from 26.