Central Board of Film Certification

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Central Board of Film Certification
CBFC logo.png
Formation 1952
Type Government Organisation
Purpose Film Certification
Headquarters Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Region served
Pahlaj Nihalani
Anurag Srivastava, IRS
Parent organisation
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
69 million (US$1.1 million) (2011)
Website cbfcindia.gov.in

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.[1]

Certificates and censorship

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[citation needed] – "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.

Guidelines for certification :

    1. anti social activities such as violence are not glorified or justified
    2. the modus operandi of criminals, other visuals or words likely to incite the commission of any offence are not depicted;
    3. scenes -
      1. showing involvement of children in violence as victims or perpetrators or as forced witnesses to violence, or showing children as being subjected to any form of child abuse.
      2. showing abuse or ridicule of physically and mentally handicapped persons; and
      3. showing cruelty to, or abuse of animals, are not presented needlessly
    4. pointless or avoidable scenes of violence, cruelty and horror, scenes of violence primarily intended to provide entertainment and such scenes as may have the effect of de-sensitising or de-humanising people are not shown;
    5. scenes which have the effect of justifying or glorifying drinking are not shown;
    6. scenes tending to encourage, justify or glamorise drug addiction are not shown;
    7. scenes tending to encourage, justify or glamorise consumption of tobacco or smoking are not shown;
    8. human sensibilities are not offended by vulgarity, obscenity or depravity;
    9. such dual meaning words as obviously cater to baser instincts are not allowed;
    10. scenes degrading or denigrating women in any manner are not presented;
    11. scenes involving sexual violence against women like attempt to rape, rape or any form of molestation or scenes of a similar nature are avoided, and if any such incidence is germane to the theme, they shall be reduced to the minimum and no details are shown
    12. scenes showing sexual perversions shall be avoided and if such matters are germane to the theme they shall be reduced to the minimum and no details are shown
    13. visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other groups are not presented
    14. visuals or words which promote communal, obscurantist, anti-scientific and anti-national attitude are not presented
    15. the sovereignty and integrity of India is not called in question;
    16. the security of the State is not jeopardized or endangered
    17. friendly relations with foreign States are not strained;
    18. public order is not endangered
    19. visuals or words involving defamation of an individual or a body of individuals, or contempt of court are not presented. EXPLANATION: Scenes that tend to create scorn, disgrace or disregard of rules or undermine the dignity of court will come under the term ''Contempt of Court'' : and
    20. national symbols and emblems are not shown except in accordance with the provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 (12 of 1950) 
  1. The Board of Film Certification shall also ensure that the film
    1. Is judged in its entirety from the point of view of its overall impact; and
    2. Is examined in the light of the period depicted in the films and the contemporary standards of the country and the people to which the film relates provided that the film does not deprave the morality of the audience
    3. The Board shall scrutinize the titles of the films carefully and ensure that they are not provocative, vulgar, offensive or violative of any of the above-mentioned guidelines.

Composition and leadership

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[2] 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,[1][3] 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.

Chairpersons of the CBFC

No. Name From To
1 C S Aggarwal 15 January 1951 14 June 1954
2 B D Mirchandani 15 June 1954 9 June 1955
3 M D Bhatt 10 June 1955 21 November 1959
4 D L Kothari 22 November 1959 24 March 1960
5 B D Mirchandani 25 March 1960 1 November 1960
6 D L Kothari 2 November 1960 22 April 1965
7 B P Bhatt 23 April 1965 22 April 1968
8 R P Nayak 31 April 1968 15 November 1969
9 M V Desai 12 December 1969 19 October 1970
10 R Srinivasan 20 October 1970 15 November 1971
11 Virendra Vyas 11 February 1972 30 June 1976
12 K L Khandpur 1 July 1976 31 January 1981
13 Hrishikesh Mukherjee 1 February 1981 10 August 1982
14 Aparna Mohile 11 August 1982 14 March 1983
15 Sharad Upasani 15 March 1983 9 May 1983
16 Surresh Mathur 10 May 1983 7 July 1983
17 Vikram Singh 8 July 1983 19 February 1989
18 Moreshwar Vanmali 20 February 1989 25 April 1990
19 B P Singhal 25 April 1990 1 April 1991
20 Shakti Samanta 1 April 1991 25 June 1998
21 Asha Parekh 25 June 1998 25 September 2001
22 Vijay Anand[4] 26 September 2001 19 July 2002
23 Arvind Trivedi 20 July 2002 16 October 2003
24 Anupam Kher[5] 16 October 2003 13 October 2004
25 Sharmila Tagore[6] 13 October 2004 31 March 2011
26 Leela Samson 1 April 2011 16 January 2015
27 Pahlaj Nihalani 19 January 2015 Till Date


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.[7] A CEO of CBFC was arrested in August 2014 for accepting bribes for speedy clearance.[8] 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.[9] CBFC was panned by social media for reducing two kissing scenes in the movie Spectre,[10] 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.[11]


  1. ^ a b "Background". CBFC Website. Central Board of Film Certification. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  2. ^ Ashreena, Tanya (16 Jan 2015). "Censor board chief Leela Samson quits over Dera Sacha Sauda leader's Bollywood dreams". Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  3. ^ Dhwan, Himanshi (29 March 2011). "Danseuse Leela Samson is new Censor Board chief". Times of India. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  4. ^ IndiaTimes Movies staff reporter (22 July 2002). "Vijay Anand Quits Censor Board". Times of India. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  5. ^ rediff. com Entertainment Bureau Staff reporter (8 October 2003). "Anupam Kher is new chief of censors". Rediff Movies. rediff. com. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  6. ^ Indo-Asian News Service (16 October 2004). "Sharmila Tagore replaces Kher". IndiaGlitz. Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "Tamil Nadu film producers grease palms to get ‘U’ certificates". The Times of India. 20 August 2014. 
  8. ^ "Censor board CEO held for accepting bribes to clear films quickly". The Times of India. 19 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "India's censorship board in disarray amid claims of political interference". The Guardian. 21 Jan 2015. 
  10. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/nov/19/spectre-kissing-censored-in-india
  11. ^ "Punjab and Haryana HC clears the way for Udta Punjab’s release". Hindustan Times. 16 June 2016. 

External links

  • Official website
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