HC notice to Centre, CBFC on anti-smoking warning in films

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HC-noticeThe Bombay High Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the Union government and the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) on a petition by filmmaker Anurag Kashyap challenging the notification that made an anti-smoking disclaimer mandatory during smoking scenes in a movie.

A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice MS Sanklecha issued notice to the ministries of Health and Family Welfare and Information and Broadcasting besides the censor board and asked them to file their affidavits.

The matter has been posted for March 5. Kashyap had approached the high court in December 2013 after the censor board restrained him from releasing his movie “Ugly” after he refused to comply with the rule that requires for ‘Smoking is injurious to health’ warning to pop up every time a character smokes in a movie.

Kashyap said he did not wish to have the anti-smoking message displayed during the film as it is a gross violation of his creative expression and fundamental rights. The filmmaker, who has films like “Dev D”, “Gulal”, “Black Friday” to name a few to his credit, had informed this to the censor board last September when he submitted his movie “Ugly” for certification.

The censor board refused to certify the movie and in its reply said Kashyap cannot release his movie owing to non-compliance of the rule. Under Rule 4(7) and 8 of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, the Union government had written a letter to the censor board asking them to make it mandatory for filmmakers to show the disclaimer during smoking scenes.

Kashyap in his petition has sought for the rule to be set aside and quashed as illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional. Senior counsel Virag Tulzapurkar, appearing for the filmmaker, argued the movie was not advertising smoking. “The rule is only for advertisements. Let the government ban smoking altogether,” he said.