Amidst controversy over Kamal Haasan's "Vishwaroopam", Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari Thursday said film certification is the central government's "exclusive domain" and it was planning a re-look at the existing statutory framework to ensure that states adhere to it.
Film certification falls "within the exclusive domain of the central government in terms of constitutional scheme. And it is imperative that integrity of the constitutional scheme must be upheld. Therefore, a view has been taken to re-examine the statutory framework to ensure optimization of the mandate", Tewari told media persons here
He said that a committee would be set up for a re-look into the Cinematograph Act as "certain issues have come up as a result of certain decisions which have been taken in the past by certain state governments".
Under the constitution, the centre has been vested with powers to certify whether a film was fit for viewing or not, said Tewari. "The central government exercises those powers through the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)."
"When the CBFC comes to a certain conclusion, it is expected that the state governments would implement that decision because this is something which falls under the centre's jurisdiction," he said.
"If the states are to raise concerns... which have an effect on the decision of the CBFC, then I think there is a need to revisit the Cinematographic Act," he added.
Tewari said the committee would see whether there was a need to make the statutory architecture or the regulatory framework of CBFC more robust.
"Once a decision is taken then that decision should be implemented. If at all the state government has a difficulty with it then they should have avenues available under the act to see that this grievance is redressed," he said.
However, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa took a dig at the minister saying he needed to do his "homework" before commenting upon the Cinematograph Act.
"I do not wish to respond to Mr. Manish Tewari. I think he has got a lot of homework to do. I think he has not heard about Tamil Nadu Cinema's Regulation Act of 1955," Jayalalithaa told reporters.
The Rs.95 crore film was banned in Tamil Nadu for allegedly offending the sensibilities of some Muslims. Kamal Hasan has reportedly agreed to delete certain offending scenes.
According to an official source in New Delhi, the terms of reference of the panel to revisit the Cinematograph Act are to be decided as well as the members.
"The CBFC grants certification after considering all aspects.. and if a state government feels the film cant be screened due to some reason they can approach the central government, which has revisional powers," said the official source, adding that Tamil Nadu government could have approached the central government over the film if it was "unhappy" with the CBFC certification.
"If a state government decides that a film cant be screened, then where does the certification stand?.. In that case, a filmmaker will have to deal with 28-30 certification processes as every state government will bring in its own peculiarity to decide on the film," the source added.
Or if the state governments did not feel "comfortable" about approaching the central government, then they could go to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), the official said.
There is concern in the government that the ban by a state government "should not become a practice", which could end up becoming an "endless process". This would prove a "harassment" to creativity of filmmakers, the official stressed.