UAPA- Tool To Shut Dissent in India

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  The death of Stan Swamy, the Jesuit priest and activist, India’s oldest political prisoner who died in jail, waiting for bail for nine months, at the age of 84 has brought the spotlight back on the Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA), the primarily counter-terror Law in India.  The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) 1967 is the  primary counter-law in India. The terror law has come under sharp scrutiny recently with various courts finding application of the UAPA (arbitrary). About The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)  Passed in 1967, the law aims at effective prevention of Unlawful activities in India. The ACT assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre (deems) an activity as unlawful then it may by way of an official Gazette, declare it so.  It has death penalty and life imprisonment as highest punishments. Under UAPA, both India and foreign nationals can be charged. It will be applicable to the offenders in the same manner, ev

Cinematograph(amendment)bill 2021: Step towards protection of people or Control over them?

 

A group of Filmmakers, academics, researchers, programmer's, technicians, lawyers and Civil Society have raised concerns at the proposed " Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021" which among other things, seeks to confer power on the Central Government to revoke a film Censor Certificate.  


As many as 1430 persons including eminent members of the film community like Vijay Krishna Acharya, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Vetri Maaran, Shabana Axmi and others have written an open letter to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry against the Bill. They have said that the move has the potential to "endanger freedom of expression and democratic dissent".


What the Amendment Bill seeks to do?

 — Key Provisions of the Bill -:

        Revision of the certification- This provision will give the Centre 'revisionary power' and enables it to '' re-examine '' films already cleared by the Central Board of Film Certificate (CBFC).

       Age - based Certification - Currently films are certified into three categories :

1.     'U' - everybody is permitted to watch the film.

2.     'U/A- Parental guidance under age of 12

3.     ' A' - Adult films

    The new draft proposes to divide the categories further age-based groups. U/A7+, U/A13+, and U/A16+

        Provision against Piracy-  At present there is no provision to check piracy. However, this draft will prohibit unauthorised recording. It also penalises piracy with the imprisonment of 3 months extending up to year's with a fine.

       External Certificate - Currently a movie is certified for a time period of 10 years by the CBFC, but with this the certification last till its lifetime.

 The Provisions of the Bill may sound good but there is a catch. The recertification may lead to an additional layer of direct government censorship. This move has come as a surprise as movies already go through multiple checks before the Central Board of films(CBFC).

 

The letter written by  film industry features a list of five suggestions for the government as follows:

 1.The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 must clearly define the role of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) as a body which certities film content for public exhibition and not as a censoring body.

 

2. We recommend that the amendments giving powers to the Central Government to revoke a film certificate must be dropped. We agree with the spirit of the Supreme Court decision which held that this would violate the separation of powers in our democracy

 

3. While we agree that film piracy poses real challenges to filmmakers, the proposed amendments do not address this concern effectively merely by introducing a penal provision. If introduced, sufficient exceptions on fair use, de minimis use and derivative work specific to films must be created. Systemic solutions to genuinely counter piracy must be introduced.

 

4. We recommend that the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) be reinstated, as it enables affordable and accessible remedies to filmmakers.

 

5. The Cinematograph Act must be amended to include a clear definition of public exhibition and bring under its purview only commercial films with substantive capital investment and revenue models tied to theatrical exhibitions.


The one major change proposed in the draft amendment bill is penalising the act of committing piracy of films. There is no dispute over the fact that the piracy of the films is rampant in India, and the bill rightly acknowledges the issue. However, it penalises the commission of piracy with the imprisonment of three month, extending upto 3 years with a fine. Considering the fact that film piracy in India rose by 60% post covid, it is next to impossible for, our already-strained law enforcement agencies to ensure the compliance of this provision.

 


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