The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) (often referred to as the Censor Board) is a statutory censorship and classification body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. It is tasked with "regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952". Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they are certified by the Board, including films shown on television. CBFC India is considered to be one of the most powerful film censor boards in the world due to its strict ways of functioning.
Though the first film in India (Raja Harishchandra) was produced in 1913 by Dadasaheb Phalke, the Indian Cinematograph Act was passed and came into effect only in 1920. Censor Boards (as they were called then) were placed under police chiefs in cities of Madras (now Chennai), Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata), Lahore (now in Pakistan) and Rangoon (now Yangon in Burma). Regional censors were independent. After Independence autonomy of regional censors was abolished and they were brought under the Bombay Board of Film Censors. With implementation of Cinematograph Act, 1952, the board was unified and reconstituted, as the Central Board of Film Censors. Cinematograph (Certification) Rules were revised in 1983 and since then the Central Board of Film Censors became known as the Central Board of Film Certification.
Films are certified under 4 categories. Initially, there were only two categories of certificates – "U" (unrestricted public exhibition) and "A" (restricted to adult audiences). Two more categories were added in June 1983 – "U/A" (unrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of twelve) and "S" (restricted to specialized audiences such as doctors or scientists). In addition to these certifications the board may also refuse to certify.U (Unrestricted Public Exhibition)
Films with the U certification are fit for unrestricted public exhibition, and are family friendly. These films can contain universal themes like education, family, drama, romance, sci-fi, action etc. Now, these films can also contain some mild violence, but it should not be prolonged. It may also contain very mild sexual scenes (without any traces of nudity or sexual detail).U/A (Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years)
Films with the U/A certification can contain moderate adult themes, that are not strong in nature and can be watched by a child under parental guidance. These films can contain some strong violence, moderate sex (without any traces of nudity or sexual detail), frightening scenes and muted abusive and filthy language.A (Restricted to adults)
Films with the A certification are available for public exhibition, but with restriction to adults. These films can contain heavily strong violence, strong sex (but full frontal and rear nudity is not allowed usually), strong abusive language (but words which insults or degrades women are not allowed), and even some controversial and adult themes considered unsuitable for young viewers. Such films are often recertified for TV and video viewing, which doesn't happen in case of U and U/A certified movies.S (Restricted to any special class of persons)
Films with S certification should not be viewed by the public. Only people associated with it (Engineers, Doctors, Scientists, etc.), have permission to watch those films.
Additionally, V/U, V/UA, V/A are used for video releases with U, U/A and A carrying the same meaning as above.Refusal to certify.
In addition to the certifications above there is also the possibility of the board refusing to certify the film at all.
The Board consist of 25 other non-official members and a Chairperson (all of whom are appointed by Central Government). Pahlaj Nihalani presently presides the Board after Leela Samson who resigned after the CBFC's rejection of a certificate for the film MSG: Messenger of God was overturned by an appellate tribunal. Earlier, Leela Samson had succeeded Sharmila Tagore, who was the longest continuous running Chairperson in the history. Nihalani is now the 27th Chairperson after the Board's establishment. His appointment is highly controversial given his propensity for censoring films instead of merely certifying them.
The Board functions with its headquarters at Mumbai. It has nine Regional offices each at:
The Regional Offices are assisted in the examination of films by Advisory Panels. The members of the panels are nominated by Central Government by drawing people from different walks of life for a period of two years.
CBFC has been associated with various scandals. Movie producers reportedly bribe the CBFC to get 'U' certificate to avail 30% exemption in entertainment tax despite violent scenes and coarse dialogues. A CEO of CBFC was arrested in August 2014 for accepting bribes for speedy clearance. Chairperson of CBFC Leela Samson resigned alleging political interference after the CBFC's rejection of a certificate for the film MSG: Messenger of God was overturned by an appellate tribunal. She was later replaced by Pahlaj Nihalani. His appointment caused more than half the board members to resign alleging Pahlaj Nihalani is close to the present ruling party. CBFC was panned by social media for reducing two kissing scenes in the movie Spectre, CBFC became the subject of controversy again when it demanded visual cuts and muting of words, totalling to 90 cuts in a 2016 movie Udta Punjab. However, on 13 June 2016, Bombay High Court allowed the release of the film with one cut and directed the CBFC to issue an 'A' certificate to this film.