Central Board of Film Certification

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), also known 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 screened in cinemas, as well as films shown only on television, may be in publicly exhibited in India only after they are certified by the Board. The Central Board of Film Certification is regularly associated with scandals, blamed for thought policing and being right-wing dominated.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

Central Board of Film Certification
Formation15 January 1951 (1951-01-15)
PurposeFilm Certification
HeadquartersBombay, Maharashtra,
Region served
LeaderPrasoon Joshi
Parent organisation
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting


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 Myanmar). Regional censors were independent. After Independence the autonomy of regional censors was abolished and they were brought under the Bombay Board of Film Censors. With the implementation of Cinematograph Act, 1927, the Board was unified and reconstituted, as the Central Board of Film Censors in 1952. Cinematograph (Certification) Rules were revised in 1983 and since then the Central Board of Film Censors has been known as the Central Board of Film Certification.[7]


The Central Board of Film Certification shall ensure a film is: 1) judged in its entirety from the point of view of its overall impact; 2) 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 affect the morality of the audience; 3) not provocative, vulgar, offensive or violates any of the "guidelines for certification."

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)18+ONLY. Two more categories were added in June 1983 – "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).[8] Instead of awarding a film with one of these four certifications, the Board may also refuse to certify it.

  • 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. They may also show very mild erotic 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 is not strong in nature and can be watched by a child under parental guidance. These films may contain moderate to strong violence, moderate erotic scenes (very little traces of nudity and moderate sexual detail), frightening scenes or muted abusive and foul language.

  • A (Restricted to adults)

Films with the A certification are available for public exhibition, but with restriction to adults. These films can contain brutally strong violence, depiction of sex acts (but full frontal and rear nudity is usually not allowed), strong abusive language (but words which insult or degrade women are not allowed), and even some controversial and adult themes considered unsuitable for young viewers. Such films are often re-certified for TV and video viewing, which doesn't happen in the 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 the field (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.

Instead of granting one of the categories, 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 may not be glorified or justified
  2. the modus operandi of criminals, other visuals or words likely to incite the commission of any offence may not be depicted;
  3. material that includes the following is rejected - a) involvement of children in violent acts either as victims or as perpetrators or as forced witnesses to violence, or showing children as being subjected to any form of child abuse. b) showing abuse or ridicule against physically and/or mentally handicapped persons; and c) unnecessary depictions of cruelty towards animals and their abuse.
  4. pointless or avoidable scenes of violence, cruelty, and horror, scenes of violence primarily intended to provide entertainment. Such scenes should not be shown given they can cause viewers' desensitization to violence and dehumanization;
  5. scenes which have the effect of justifying or glorifying alcohol consumption are not to be shown;
  6. scenes tending to encourage, justify or glamorize drug addiction are not to be shown;
  7. scenes tending to encourage, justify or glamorize consumption or smoking of tobacco are not to be shown;
  8. human sensibilities must not be offended by vulgarity, obscenity or depravity;
  9. double-ententes which manifestly cater to the baser instincts are not allowed;
  10. scenes depicting degrading or denigrating women in any manner are not to be presented;
  11. scenes involving sexual violence against women like an attempt to rape, rape, or any form of molestation, or scenes of similar nature should be avoided, and in case any such incidence is germane to the theme, it shall be reduced to the minimum and no details shall be revealed;
  12. scenes showing sexual perversions shall be avoided but when such matters are germane to the theme they shall be reduced to the minimum and no details shall be revealed;
  13. visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other social groups are not to be presented;
  14. visuals or words which promote sectarian, obscurantist, anti-scientific and anti-national attitudes shall not be used;
  15. the sovereignty and integrity of India shall not be called in question;
  16. the security of the State must not be jeopardized or put in danger;
  17. friendly relations with foreign States should not be affected;
  18. public order must not be endangered;
  19. visuals or words involving defamation of an individual or a body of individuals, or contempt of court, are not to be presented. EXPLANATION: Scenes that tend to cause scorn, disgrace or disregard to the rule of law or undermine the dignity of court will be treated as ''Contempt of Court'' : and
  20. national symbols and emblems are not to be shown except in accordance with the provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 (12 of 1950)


Since 2004, censorship has been enforced rigorously. Incidents were reported in which the exhibitors' staff - a booking clerk who sold the ticket, the usher who allowed minors have a seat, a theatre manager and the partners to the theatre complex - were arrested for non-compliance with certification rules.[9]

Composition and leadership

The Board consists of 25 non-ranking members and a chairperson (all of whom are appointed by the Central Government). Prasoon Joshi currently presides over the board, being appointed the 28th Chairperson of the Board on 11 August 2017, after the ouster of Pahlaj Nihalani,[10] who was appointed Leela Samson's successor after the latter vacated the chair[11] as a consequence of CBFC's refusal to issue certification to the film MSG: Messenger of God was overturned by an appellate tribunal. Earlier, Leela Samson had succeeded Sharmila Tagore.[12] Nihalani was the 27th chairperson since the Board's establishment. His appointment was highly controversial given his propensity for censoring films instead of issuing them with a rating certificate.

The Board operates from its headquarters in Mumbai. It has nine regional offices, located respectively in:

The regional offices are assisted in the examination of films by Advisory Panels. Members of the panels are nominated by the Central Government for 2 year periods, drawing from people of diverse backgrounds.

Chairpersons of the CBFC

1C S Aggarwal15 January 195114 June 1954
2B D Mirchandani15 June 19549 June 1955
3M D Bhatt10 June 195521 November 1959
4D L Kothari22 November 195924 March 1960
5B D Mirchandani25 March 19601 November 1960
6D L Kothari2 November 196022 April 1965
7B P Bhatt23 April 196522 April 1968
8R P Nayak31 April 196815 November 1969
9M V Desai12 December 196919 October 1970
10Brig. R. Streenivasan20 October 197015 November 1971
11Virendra Vyas11 February 197230 June 1976
12K L Khandpur1 July 197631 January 1981
13Hrishikesh Mukherjee1 February 198110 August 1982
14Aparna Mohile11 August 198214 March 1983
15Sharad Upasani15 March 19839 May 1983
16Surresh Mathur10 May 19837 July 1983
17Vikram Singh8 July 198319 February 1989
18Moreshwar Vanmali20 February 198925 April 1990
19B P Singhal25 April 19901 April 1991
20Shakti Samanta1 April 199125 June 1998
21Asha Parekh25 June 199825 September 2001
22Vijay Anand[13]26 September 200119 July 2002
23Arvind Trivedi20 July 200216 October 2003
24Anupam Kher[14]16 October 200313 October 2004
25Sharmila Tagore[15]13 October 200431 March 2011
26Leela Samson1 April 201116 January 2015
27Pahlaj Nihalani19 January 201511 August 2017
28Prasoon Joshi12 August 2017Incumbent


CBFC has been associated with various scandals. Movie producers reportedly bribe the CBFC to get 'U' certificate entitling them to a 30% exemption in entertainment tax, notwithstanding the violent scenes and coarse script.[16]

In 2002, the film War and Peace which depicted scenes of nuclear testing and the September 11, 2001 attacks, created by Anand Patwardhan, was ruled to undergo 21 cuts before the approval to release the picture could given.[17] Patwardhan objected, saying "The cuts that they asked for are so ridiculous that they won't hold up in court" and "But if these cuts do make it, it will be the end of freedom of expression in the Indian media." The court ruled the cuts requirement unconstitutional and the film was shown uncut.[18] In the same year, Indian filmmaker and former chief of the country's film censor board, Vijay Anand, stirred a controversy by proposing to legalize the exhibition of X-rated films in selected cinemas across the country, saying "Porn is shown everywhere in India clandestinely ... and the best way to fight this onslaught of blue movies is to show them openly in theatres with legally authorized licenses".[19] He resigned within a year after taking charge of the censor board after facing widespread criticism of his moves.[20]

In 2003, CBFC banned the film Gulabi Aaina (The Pink Mirror), a film on Indian transsexuals produced and directed by Sridhar Rangayan. The Censor Board cited that the film was "vulgar and offensive". The director appealed twice against its decision but to no avail. The film still remains banned in India, but was screened at numerous film festivals worldwide and has won prizes. Critics have applauded it for its "sensitive and touching portrayal of marginalised community".[21][22]

In 2004, the documentary Final Solution, which looks at inter-communal riots between Hindus and Muslims, was banned.[23] The film follows the 2002 clashes in the western state of Gujarat, which left more than 1,000 people dead. The Censor Board justified the ban, saying the film was "highly provocative and may trigger off unrest and communal violence".[24] The ban was lifted in October 2004 after a sustained campaign.[25]

In 2006, seven states (Nagaland, Punjab, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh) banned the release and exhibition of the Hollywood movie The Da Vinci Code (including the book), even though the CBFC approved the film for adult viewing throughout India.[26] The respective high courts subsequently lifted the ban and the movie was shown in the two states (which?).[27]

The CBFC demanded five cuts from the 2011 American film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because of some scenes containing rape and nudity. The producers and the director David Fincher eventually decided not to release the film in India.[28]

In 2013, Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroopam was banned from screening for two weeks in Tamil Nadu.

A CEO of CBFC was arrested in August 2014 for accepting bribes for speedy clearance.[29]

In 2015, the CBFC demanded four cuts (three visual and one audio) from the art-house Malayalam feature film Chaayam Poosiya Veedu (The Painted House) directed by brothers Santosh Babusenan and Satish Babusenan, because of scenes involving nudity of the lead actress. The directors refused to make any changes whatsoever, therefore a certificate for their film was denied.[30][31]

Chairperson of CBFC Leela Samson resigned, alleging political interference after the CBFC's refusal to grant certification to the film MSG: Messenger of God was overturned by an appellate tribunal. She was later replaced by Pahlaj Nihalani. The resignation of the former chair and the installation of the latter resulted in further resignations with more than half the board members' quitting, amid rising concerns as to Pahlaj Nihalani's proximity to the ruling party of the day.[32]

CBFC was panned on social media for ordering the screen time of two kissing scenes in the movie Spectre be cut down by half for release in India. [33]

In 2016, the film Udta Punjab, produced, amongst others, by Anurag Kashyap and Ekta Kapoor, ran into trouble with the CBFC resulting in a very public re-examination of the ethics of film censorship in India. The film, which depicted a structural drug problem in the state of Punjab, makes free use of vulgar language laden with expletives and showed explicit scenes of illegal substance abuse. The CBFC, on 9 June 2016, issued a list of 94 cuts and 13 pointers, including the order to remove city names located in Punjab. On 13 June, the film was approved for release by the Bombay High Court  with one cut and disclaimers. The court ruled that, contrary to the claims of the CBFC, the film was not out to "malign" the state of Punjab, and that it "wants to save people".[34]  Afterwards, the film came to face further controversy when its copy was leaked online on a torrent site. The print quality of the leaked copy along with the presence of a supposed watermark consisting of the word "censor" at the top of the screen, raised suspicions that the CBFC itself might have had leaked the copy to spite the filmmakers. The leaked material included the scene that had been cut in accordance with the High Court order. While the CBFC claimed innocence,[35] the lingering suspicion saw the film released in a tense atmosphere, with the filmmakers and numerous freedom of expression advocates taking to social media and appealing to the broad public to go and see the film in theatres, as a form of conscious protest against excessive art censorship in India. Kashyap himself asked fans to wait with downloading it for free until the official release date, stating that he didn't have a problem with illegal downloads,[36] an unusual thing for a film producer to say. The film eventually the and grossed over $13 million finishing as a commercial success.[37] In August 2017, soon after his removal from the position of CBFC's Chief, Nihalani revealed in an interview that he had received instructions from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to block the release.[38]

In 2017, the film Lipstick Under My Burkha directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced by Prakash Jha, was another one to have run into trouble with the CBFC which refused to certify the film for distribution, stating that "The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contagious [sic] sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society."[39] Internationally, the film had been screened at over 35 film festivals worldwide and notably it earned eleven international awards prior to its official release in India, having become an eligible entry for the Golden Globe Award Ceremony.[40] The filmmakers appealed against this decision to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), which overruled the censor board's ruling, thereby granting the film theatrical release rights.[41] FCAT requested the filmmakers to make some cuts, mostly related to the sex scenes, at their own discretion. The film was released with an "A" or adults certificate, equivalent to an NC-17 rating in the United States, including some voluntary edits. Shrivastava told Agence-France Presse: "Of course I would have loved no cuts, but the FCAT has been very fair and clear. I feel that we will be able to release the film without hampering the narrative or diluting its essence."[42]

In August 2017, Pahlaj Nahalani was terminated as the Chairperson of the CBFC. In an interview days after his removal, he revealed that in at least two instances the Government of India had issued direct instructions to the Board on the matter of blocking or delaying the release of particular films.[38]


  1. "Are you ostriches, Bombay HC asks CBFC". tribuneindia.com. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  2. "Censor Board Banned 793 Films In 16 Years Including Parzania, Mohalla Assi: RTI Query Reveals". NDTV.com. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  3. "With A Right Wing Dominated Censor Board, It's Free Speech Vs. The Thought Police". Youth Ki Awaaz. 22 January 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  4. Safi, Michael (12 July 2017). "Censors order bleeping of 'cow' in film on Indian economist Amartya Sen". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  5. "2017: The year Indian Censor Board became the face of moral policing, politics and patriarchy". Hindustan Times. 31 December 2018. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  6. "Demanding cuts to creative films draconian and archaic; restrict Censor Board to certification: Film fraternity over Udta Punjab row". The Economic Times. 8 June 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  7. "Background". CBFC Website. Central Board of Film Certification. Archived from the original on 26 August 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  8. https://www.news18.com/news/india/ua-s-x-r-demystified-how-films-are-rated-376237.html
  9. "Minors caught watching "7-GRainbow Colony"". sify.com.
  10. "Pahlaj Nihalani sacked as CBFC chief, to be succeeded by Prasoon Joshi". The Times of India. 11 August 2017. Retrieved 11 October 2017.
  11. Ashreena, Tanya (16 January 2015). "Censor board chief Leela Samson quits over Dera Sacha Sauda leader's Bollywood dreams". Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  12. Dhwan, Himanshi (29 March 2011). "Danseuse Leela Samson is new Censor Board chief". Times of India. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  13. IndiaTimes Movies staff reporter (22 July 2002). "Vijay Anand Quits Censor Board". Times of India. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  14. rediff. com Entertainment Bureau Staff reporter (8 October 2003). "Anupam Kher is new chief of censors". Rediff Movies. rediff. com. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  15. Indo-Asian News Service (16 October 2004). "Sharmila Tagore replaces Kher". IndiaGlitz. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  16. "Tamil Nadu film producers grease palms to get 'U' certificates". The Times of India. 20 August 2014.
  17. "BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Film | India cuts 'anti-war' film". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  18. "Censorship and Indian Cinema: The Case of Anand Patwardhan's War and Peace - Bright Lights Film Journal". Bright Lights Film Journal. 1 November 2002. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  19. "BBC NEWS | Business | India's film censor wants to legalise porn". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  20. "BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Film | India's chief film censor quits". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  21. "BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Film | UK premiere for Indian drag film". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  22. "YIDFF: Publications: DocBox: #22". yidff.jp. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  23. "BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Film | India bans religious riot movie". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  24. "Towards A Counter Movement!". 28 May 2006. Archived from the original on 28 May 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  25. "RAKESH SHARMA - Final Solution". rakeshfilm.com. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  26. "BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Da Vinci code faces further ban". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  27. "BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | India censors clear Da Vinci Code". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  28. Child, Ben (30 January 2012). "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo cancelled in India". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  29. "Censor board CEO held for accepting bribes to clear films quickly". The Times of India. 19 August 2014.
  30. "Directors out against CBFC directives". The Hindu. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  31. "The Times Group". epaperbeta.timesofindia.com. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  32. "India's censorship board in disarray amid claims of political interference". The Guardian. 21 January 2015.
  33. Child, Ben (19 November 2015). "Bond and gagged: Spectre's kissing scenes censored by Indian film certification board". the Guardian.
  34. "Udta Punjab not made to malign state: Bombay HC". The Indian Express. 10 June 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  35. "'Udta Punjab' leak: CBFC claims innocence as all fingers point at them | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". dna. 16 June 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  36. "Udta Punjab leaked: Kashyap asks downloaders to wait till Saturday". The Indian Express. 16 June 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  37. "Udta Punjab (2016) - Box office / business". IMDb. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  38. "'Sacked As I Didn't Clear Indu Sarkar Without Cuts': Pahlaj Nihalani". NDTV. 19 August 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
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  40. "The Cultural Cow That Refuses To Certify A Golden Globe Eligible Film". WMF. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  41. ""The middle finger is NOT for the CBFC but for the patriarchal society" : Ekta Kapoor". zoomtv.com. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  42. correspondent, Michael Safi South Asia (26 April 2017). "Indian film board clears Lipstick Under My Burkha for release". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
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