March 10, 2023

This article  has been written  by Ms.Pamishetti  Supriya, a student studying BBA LLB(Hons.) from ICFAI  Law School ,The  ICFAI University , Hyderabad. The author  is a 5th year Law student .



Cinema  a theatre where films are shown for the public entertainment .In olden days we have black and white  movies , with the advancement of new technology  the film industry has developed and now we can watch the movies  in the big screen with the latest technological advancements.

The Indian film industry  has been divided and sub divided  into various  regional sectors , it runs by various production houses, companies who are responsible for financing , casting , scripting  the  movies. There are versatile laws  and regulations  which are there in existence  in order to have a proper  mechanism  through  which  media  and the entertainment industry flourish  un the country. From beginning of the time  there are laws and regulations that governs the Cinema. 

During the  British  rule in India  many such legal rules and regulations related to  press and media  were established  and even after independence  of our country  those laws were utilised and further modernised and improved. Indian and foreign  filmmakers require various permissions and authorizations  from the Indian government  in order to shoot films in various  parts of  the country based on the requirement of the script .A structured  body like  Film  Facilitation  office has been set up by the ministry  of information  and broadcasting in the national  film development  corporation with the view  to promote and facilitate film shootings in India. It also acts as single window  facilitation  and clearance mechanisms that eases filming in India . 


A cinematograph is an art form that is used to express emotions, ideas, opinions and thoughts by an individual. It is protected under freedom of speech and expression until a reasonable restriction is placed on its enjoyment under the provisions of Article 19(2). The censorship is a process that is explained in the Cinematograph Act, 1955 while providing the complete procedure. There are numerous landmark judgements in this regard which have mostly arisen out of a conflict between the fundamental right to speech and expression and the restrictions imposed in consonance with the restrictions enshrined in the Constitution for the right. It is a very delicate matter as it is the obligation of the state to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens and every action while sanctioning the censorship shall be equivalent to the reasonable restrictions.



      • The copy right  Act of 1957

    This defines various  rights  which exists in the copyright of the  film .it specifically  sets out  the regulations  on infringement  of the copyright  of the cinema  and it is considered  as one of  the most  crucial  laws in  the media  and entertainment  industry .  the rights of the author  of the film has mentioned under this act ,  the time period of the copyright ,  the process of the  assignment  of the licence for the copyright has been described briefly .


        • The cinematography Act of 1952 

       This defines  provisions  for licensing and certifying  the cinematography  of films  and also includes  the regulation of exhibition by means of cinematography . 


          • Regulating authorities 

        The ministry of information and broadcasting MIB  is the structure  which is liable for  administering rules and laws which relate to the information and broadcasting if press and films in the media industry.

        Areas Of Litigation

        The common areas of litigations in the film sector are as follows:


            • Claims of Intellectual Property rights regarding the ownership of rights are quite common in this sector.

            • Trademark infringement which includes producers using the production companies names and logos which are previously owned by other companies.

            • Piracy issues which occurs due to the existence of:


                  1. Huge number of low income group

                  1. High ticket prices

                  1. Easy access of digital gadgets and recording devices

              • Censorship which is governed by the Central Board Of Film Certification has the authority to censor a part or whole film and often certain injunctions are also soughed in order to stop a film to be released due its sensitive contents.

            LEGAL ISSUES :

            The main legal issue that the television industry faces is the Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights. This infringement includes:


                1. Copying concept of shows

                1. Copy of script or storylines

              There also includes other legal issues regarding ‘Infringement of Broadcasting Rights’, such as if a broadcasting company has already acquired rights to a certain show any other broadcasting company cannot air that particular show on their channels without paying any royalty fees to the agreement holder.


              For a film to be certified for public exhibition the central board of film has to cover certain criteria such as the film which is to be released publicly should not,


                  1. Be against the sovereignty and integrity of the nation

                  1. Be against the security of the nation

                  1. Create international problems or misunderstanding among nations

                  1. Be against the public morality, decency and order.

                After fulfilling these criteria the films are certified as per section 5(B) of the Cinematograph Act of 1952.

                Offences and violations to steer clear from by filmmakers while making and exhibiting films in India

                Under the present Indian law context, the following need to be heeded by filmmakers so that they are not on the wrong side of the law:

                Defamation: It is an offence under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code 1860. The contents of this offence include words spoken or written which are of such nature that they can harm the reputation of a person and that such words do not per se have any legal justification or excuse. The words are defamatory in nature, in other words, it would mean that when these words are used they expose another person to certain unhealthy and unappetizing emotions such as ridicule, hatred or obloquy thereby causing him to be avoided by other people in the society which may also have the likelihood of injuring his calling, profession or brand name in his business.

                Obscenity: Morality, Obscenity and Censorship are precisely codified under the Indian penal code 1860 as offences under section 292-294. Basically as per the provisions of these sections collectively speaking the sale, letting to hire, distribution, public exhibition, circulation, import, export and advertisement of obscene are prohibited acts and are punishable with fine and imprisonment. The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986 prohibits the Indecent representation of women by making all acts as offences which portray women in an indecent manner. These acts are punishable with imprisonment and fine and they mainly include the written and pictorial Section 67 of the Information Technology Act 2000 makes the transmission and publication of obscene and corrupt content in electronic form a punishable offence. The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 is the law for prohibiting obscene content in programs being telecasted by channel on the television.

                Hate Speech: This has been classified as an offence under the Indian Penal Code 1860. Section 153-A penalizes acts which promote enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc. and also doing acts which are prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. Section 295 A penalizes deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. Section 505(2) penalizes making statements by any person which creates or promotes enmity, hatred or ill will between different classes of people in the society. Hence to summarize and put it in simpler words hate speech is nothing but a speech made by one or more persons against another person or group of persons which is of such nature that it not only disturbs or hurts the sentiments of the person against whom it is made but it in general creates and causes a sense of hatred against such group of persons thereby causing such person or group of persons to be looked down upon by other members of the society.

                Sedition: Sedition is an offence under section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code 1860. It is quite similar to defamation and hate speech but however the prima facie difference to note here is that sedition refers to incitement of hatred against the Government of India in particular, whereas the other two offences talk about incitement of hatred among the general public and members of the society.

                Anti Competitive Agreement: It is a type of agreement entered into between filmmakers and movie theatres. It is basically an arrangement entered into by virtue of an agreement wherein a filmmaker pre books all the screens of a multiplex theatre or a single screen theatre thereby disabling or reducing the exhibition of other films to such an extent they become commercially unsuccessful despite being good films such type of agreement is prohibited under the Competition Act 2002. A classic case for such a violation would be the case of Ajay Devgn dragging Yash Raj Films to the Competition Appellate Tribunal for challenging a tie in arrangement with single screen theatres thereby restricting his film to multiplexes.

                Broad legal principles governing the Censorship of Films

                The public exhibition of films is governed by the Cinematograph Act 1952 and the Cinematograph Rules 1983. There is a statutory body called the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). The broadcast of films on television including film songs, promos, music videos and music albums is governed by the Program and Advertising Code which is prescribed under the Cable Television Network Rules 1994.

                Bottom of Form


                K.A Abbas vs Union of India

                The issue of censorship of films came up before the Supreme Court in 1969 in the case of K.A Abbas vs Union of India. Over the years the Supreme Court and High Courts of various states have dealt with issues relating to censorship of films in India. The Delhi High Court in March 2011 summarized and explained the broad legal principles governing censorship in the case of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology vs. Chairman, CBFC.  They are as follows:


                    • Obscenity must be judged from standards of reasonable, strong-minded, firm and courageous men. 

                    • If challenged, the burden is on the petitioner (Government) to prove obscenity. 

                    • The film has to be viewed as a whole before adjudging whether a particular scene or visual offends any of the guidelines. 

                    • To determine whether a film endangers public order, the film must have proximate and direct nexus to endangering public order. 

                    • The courts do not ordinarily interfere with the decision of CBFC regarding certification unless found completely unreasonable. 

                  Bobby Art International v. Om Pal Singh Hoon, 1996

                  This case is better known as the Bandit Queen case. The Supreme Court while dealing with this case once again upheld the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) through cinematograph. The court refused the restrictions on the exhibition of the film on grounds of obscenity. The petitioner contended that the exhibition of the film shall be restricted for its nature of depiction of the life story of a bandit, Phoolan Devi in the film and the picturisation of rape scenes were also questioned along with the image of Gujjar community harmed with some particular scenes in the movie. 

                  The Supreme Court observed that a film cannot be restricted simply because the content is obscene, indecent or immoral. The abusive language or nudity in the movie was to further the case regarding the depiction of the reality of the life story of Phoolan Devi. The movie was provided with the ‘A’ certification under Section 5(B) with restricted viewership for adults only.



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