Film Making Laws in India


Under the Constitution of India, a film has an assurance of protection under 19 (1) (a) and therefore a citizen has an option to exhibit films. However it can’t be “absolutely” freely broadcasted in public because of its intrinsic capacity to barge in and incite emotions. In this way, it is required to be regulated or censored by the state.

Article 19(2) sets down exemptions to the freedom of speech and expression. These are exhaustive in nature and thus should be carefully analyzed and henceforth censorship is permitted mainly under grounds indicated under Article 19 (2) of the Constitution with emphasis on values and standards of society.

The courts have in a great deal of precedents which have categorically  upheld the freedom to artistic expression stating that ‘freedom of speech and expression admits of extremely narrow restraints in case of clear and imminent danger, therefore censorship should be based on precise statement of what may not be subject matter of filmmaking.

 Censorship of Films

Unlike the US film industry or numerous other propelled film ventures, the Indian film industry goes under the domain of a legal system administering public exhibition and broadcasting of movies, normally known as censorship. A great deal of cases happen in India in relation to certification of movies for public exhibition and commission of statutory offences due to presentation of a cinematographic film.

Censorship is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as the ‘prohibition or concealment of any piece of the news, books, films, and so forth that are considered politically inadmissible, revolting, or a danger to security.’ Films are viewed as an excellent medium of communication with the overall population.

The Cinematograph Act, 1952 (the Act), ensures that films fulfill the objectives prescribed by law. In the Act is a provision for the establishment of a Central Board of Film Certification (the Board). This is the regulatory body in India that issues a certificate to the makers of films for public exhibition. Once the Board has examined a film, the Board can:

  • Sanction the film for unrestricted exhibition;
  • Sanction the film for public exhibition limited to adults;
  • Direct such modifications and excisions in the film before sanctioning the film to any of the above;
  • Refuse to sanction the film for exhibition completely.

One of the first instances where the issue of censorship of film was raised is K.A. Abbas v. Union of India[1], where the Supreme Court of India considered the indispensable inquiry identified with pre-restriction of cinematography according to the freedom of speech and expression that is ensured under the Constitution of India. It was held by Hidayatullah, C.J, that censorship of films which incorporates pre-censorship was constitutionally lawful..Though he added that unjustified restriction on freedom of speech and expression by the Board should not be exercised.

In the case of S. Rangarajan v. Jagjivan Ram[2], Supreme Court faced a similar inquiry, and was of the view that ‘if the exhibition of the film couldn’t be validly restricted by Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India, risk of procession and demonstration was not a valid ground to suppress the same. The Supreme Court added that it was the State’s duty to protect the freedom of expression.

The Supreme Court of India in giving its judgment on account of Bobby Art International v. Om Pal Singh Hoon[3] was of the supposition that a film must be judged completely. The court added that where the subject of the film is to censure viciousness and corruption, scenes of swear words to propel the message, which was the primary aim of the film, is allowable.

Types of Certifications

In order to determine whether a film is fit for presentation in India, all cinematographic films require certification by the CBFC, in view of the censorship grade   set out under the Cinematograph Act. The CBFC, upon examination of the application for film certification, may sanction the film under any of the following categories or may not endorse the film by any means. Refusal to endorse implies that the film can’t be public.

There are essentially four kinds of certifications given by the Central Board of Film Certification

1)      Universal (U)

This type of certification is the Unrestricted Public Exhibition, and the same holds no limitations for the age groups that may watch the same.  They could be family, instructive or social oriented themes. This classification has fantasy, brutality and minimal foul language. At the point when a film is being certified ‘U’ by the Board, it must guarantee that the film is appropriate for a family to watch it together including the kids.

2)     Parental Guidance (U/A)

This kind of certification suggests that the film is suitable for all age groups. However it is suggested that it is in the interest of the children below the age of 12 years to be accompanied by their parents.The reason being that the theme of the movie may not be one of the most appropriate for children to watch under the guidance of their parents.

3)     Adults Only (A)

As the certification suggests, this sort of film is restricted to adults only. People over the age of 18 are grown-ups, for the importance of this certification. The subject may contain upsetting, brutal, drug abuse and other related scenes which are not appropriate for children who may be influenced negatively. Movies that meet the essentials of the previously mentioned rules however are not reasonable for presentation to kids or those underneath the age of 18 will be certified  A.

4)     Restricted to Special Class of Persons (S)

This is the last type of certification under the board, and the same explains that the movies which are certified as S are intended for a unique class of people . For instance , doctors. In the event that the Board is of the opinion with respect to content, nature and the subject of the film is to be limited to individuals from a class.

Legal Principles Governing Censorship

The issue of censorship of cinematographic films initially came up before the Supreme Court in 1969. Over the years, the Supreme Court and different High Courts have dealt with a few cases related to the censorship of cinematographic films. In March of 2011, the Delhi High Court summed up and portrayed expansive lawful standards administering censorship. They have been recreated underneath.

  • Obscenity must be decided from measures of reasonable, strong minded, firm and courageous men
  • If challenged, the burden is on the petitioner (Government) to prove obscenity.
  • The film must be seen all in all before decreeing whether a specific scene or visual outrages any of the guidelines.
  • To decide if a film jeopardizes public order, the film must have a proximate and direct nexus to endangering open order.The courts don’t normally meddle with the choice of CBFC in regards to certification unless found completely unreasonable.

Grounds on Which Certification can be Refused

            Section 5 B of the Cinematograph Act lays down standards for direction in certifying films. These standards are negative in nature, implying that an certificate for exhibition will be granted only if the cinematograph film doesn’t disregard any of the standards stated therein.

           Often, certification is reviewed or refused or on the other hand allowed pending extraction of certain scenes dependent on non-infringement of these standards by the film. These standards are in the event that the film or any piece of it is against the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India.

           The security of the State, inviting relations with remote states, public order, decency or ethical quality, or involves defamation or on the other contempt of court or is probably going to impel the commission of any offense. The inverse of such a prerequisite is that once a cinematographic film is provided with a certificate for public exhibition it is regarded to have fulfilled all the necessities expressed previously.

            Such an inference is forceful since a closer scrutiny of the above principles would disclose that they are verbatim reproductions of exception to the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression.

           Thus, a film certified for public exhibition is also deemed to not offend the aforesaid exceptions in any way, meaning any litigation before a constitutional court on the ground of reasonable restriction on freedom of speech and expression is automatically undermined.

Role of Film Facilitation Office

Indian and foreign film producers require different sorts of consents and approvals from the Indian Government so as to shoot films in different pieces of the nation depending on the prerequisite of the content. An organized body like the Film Facilitation Office (FFO) has been set up by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in the National Film Development Corporation so as to advance and encourage film shootings in India. It goes about as single window assistance and a clearance mechanism that facilitates filming in India.

The various kinds of permissions that are generally required are as follows :

Location related permissions: based on the area of the shooting permission from different authorities, for instance, municipal authorities, police, approved bodies are required for shooting in national parks, archeological sites, public places, landmarks, and so forth. Shooting films in sensitive regions of any state requires explicit approval.

The permission of the Ministry of Home Affairs is required for shooting in Jammu and Kashmir or certain north eastern parts of India. The thought behind such approval is to guarantee that the concerned area where shooting is sought to be done isn’t shown in a negative light along these lines hurting sentiments of the individuals. These permissions can be processed by the Film Facilitation Office as a part of the application given by the film makers.

Filming with Governmental Authorities: If the film requires shooting with a Government Department or using their assets, for example, vehicles, uniform and so forth then special permit would also be required from the respective Government Departments.

Filming Animals/Birds: If the content of the film requires recording with animals or filming of animals then the movie producer would require consent from Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI). The AWBI may have bans/limitations to do shooting with or shooting particular kinds of animals or birds.

Immigration and importing: Foreign movie producers need to ensure that they have appropriate visas for the entirety of their workforce that will shoot in India and applicable traditions obligations would need to be paid for the import of any sort of hardware that producers may require for shooting their movies in India. The Film Facilitation Office would be of incredible help for this procedure as well.


To sum up and conclude film creations from being an unorganized  and unregulated sector  has grown massively in the last couple of years after being regulated by various government authorities thereby holding onto its real potential While filming in a foreign country may seem more expensive, however filming in India is way more simpler and more attractive for foreign producers with the introduction of Film Facilitation Office, laws and regulations governing every aspect of filmmaking.

In India, the premise on which a film is edited or restricted has been clearly on conventional standards. That being stated, what is edited today may not be blue-penciled tomorrow. The financial elements of a nation are ceaselessly developing. Consequently, all guidelines must attempt to adjust to the equivalent. The Constitution of India ensures the right to freedom of speech and expression with justifiable limitations certain expressions like contempt of court, morality and decency, the security of the State, public order, incitement  to an offense and defamation.


  1. Film Making Laws in India at
  2. The Cinematograph Act of India at
  3. Modern Day Law for the Modern Indian Cinema at
  4. Films and  Censorship
  5. Film-Act & Rules at
  6. Film Laws in India at
  7. K.A. Abbas v. UOI, A.I.R. 1971 S.C. 481
  8. S. Rangarajan Etc v. P. Jagjivan Ram, 1989  SCC (2) 574
  9. Bobby Art International v Om Pal Singh Hoon (1996) 4 SCC



Q1)  Which legislation governs the censorship of films?

Q2)   Which are instances where the issue of censorship was raised?

Q3)  What are the instances where certification can be refused?

Q4)  What is the reason behind approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs for film shooting in Jammu and Kashmir?

Q5) Which of the guidelines of film certification makes the restrictions on film certification conventional?

[1] K.A. Abbas v. UOI, A.I.R. 1971 S.C. 481

[2] S. Rangarajan Etc v. P. Jagjivan Ram, 1989  SCC (2) 574

[3] Bobby Art International v Om Pal Singh Hoon (1996) 4 SCC

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