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FCAT abolished, filmmakers criticise government's decision

Filmmakers will now have to approach the high court for remedy.

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NEW DELHI: It was on April 7 that the government decided to abolish the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) with immediate effect. The statutory body was formed in 1983 to hear appeals from filmmakers against the rulings by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). FCAT has played a crucial role in releasing several films which were initially banned from screening by the CBFC. 

The Centre’s decision to do away with the FCAT has been met with widespread condemnation from filmmakers in the country, with industry stakeholders opining that such a move from the government could lead to creative restrictions, and may even delay film releases. 

With the FCAT now dismantled, producers and directors unhappy with the censor board's verdict will have to approach the high court for remedy. 

Soon after the abolition of FCAT, several prominent personalities including National Award-winning filmmakers Hansal Mehta and Vishal Bharadwaj, and actor Richa Chadha took to social media to pan the move. 

"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?" tweeted Hansal Mehta. 

Omkara director Vishal Bhardwaj censured the government's move to shut down the FCAT, calling it a “sad day for cinema.” 

CBFC former chairperson and actor Sharmila Tagore also came out in support of filmmakers and made it clear that the decision to abolish FCAT could not only consume the time of the judiciary but also delay the release of films. 

"I don’t know what the rationale is, what was the reason for doing this. I don’t want to comment on it at all. But FCAT was a body that was presided over by a judge and they had very eminent members. I felt since there was a legal body already present, why can’t that body look into these PILs and then later, the courts are always there. The problem with the court is everything takes a little longer. Producers can’t risk it. For them, even a week’s loss is huge," Tagore told Indian Express. 

Several filmmakers had previously made use of FCAT to release their films on time. In 2017, Alankrita Shrivastava had approached FCAT after CBFC refused to certify Lipstick Under My Burkha. After watching the movie, FCAT asked to give an 'A' certificate to the movie with a few edits. In 2016, it was the intervention of FCAT that helped Anurag Kashyap to release his film Udta Punjab. 

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