By Tanisha Poddar
"Censorship is when a work of art expressing an idea which does not fall under current convention is seized, cut up, withdrawn, impounded, ignored, maligned, or otherwise made inaccessible to its audience."
In general, censorship in India, which involves the suppression of speech or other public communication, raises issues of freedom of speech, which is protected by the Indian constitution.
The Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of expression but places certain restrictions on content, with a view towards maintaining communal and religious harmony, given the history of communal tension in the nation. According to the Information Technology Rules 2011, objectionable content includes anything that “threatens the unity, integrity, defense, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states or public order".
The suppression or control of ideas, public communication and information circulated within a society is termed as censorship. The freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution of India can be suppressed if it is considered objectionable, harmful, or necessary to maintain communal harmony. Governments across the globe have used religious arguments as well as other powerful techniques and arguments to support for their censorship efforts. Offensive communication in the eyes of the government varies from country to country, religion to religion, even sect to sect. Many governments provide for certain limited protection against censorship. It is always necessary to balance conflicting rights in order to determine what can and cannot be censored.
A classic example of censorship in India is the Central Board of Film Certification or Censor Board, which comes under the purview of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
In 1970, a Supreme Court judge in K. A. Abbas v. The Union of India & Anr, recognized the universal treatment of motion pictures different from that of other forms of art and expression. He further insisted that it has a deep impact on adolescent children more than that on mature women and men. The need of censorship thus arises from the prolonged effect that a motion picture has on an individual that doesn't occur in a painting, book or play.
The Board regularly orders, directors to remove anything it deems offensive or subjects considered to be politically subversive. The censorship of films is governed by the Cinematograph Act, 1952. It assigns certification as Universal, Adults, and Parental Guidance to films in India before public exhibition.
Around the world the utmost concern of censors is the depiction of violence and sex. The censor board’s job is to control the “corruption of the mind’ and to stop pornographic films. But on the other hand it is ironical that anyone with internet access can see endless amounts of pornography. Today a child with access to internet can see all kinds of pornography by typing three letters “sex”, while the censor board has long discussions on the permissible duration of a kissing scene in a movie. I am not saying that we should legalize pornography, but in today’s age the censor board has to understand that this generation exercises their right to freedom of speech and expression.
Watching or possessing pornographic materials is apparently legal, however distribution of such materials is strictly banned. The Central Board of Film Certification allows release of certain films with sexual content (labelled A-rated), which are to be shown only in restricted spaces and to be viewed only by people of age 18 and above. India's public television broadcaster, Doordarshan, has aired these films at late-night timeslots. Films, television shows and music video are prone to scene cuts or even bans, however if any literature is banned, it is not usually for pornographic reasons. Pornographic magazines are technically illegal, but many Indian publications are available through many news vendors, who often stock them at the bottom of a stack of non-pornographic magazines, and make them available on request. Mailing pornographic magazines to India from a country where they are legal is also illegal in India. In practice, the magazines are almost always confiscated by Customs and entered as evidence of law-breaking, which then undergoes detailed scrutiny.
The Indian Press currently enjoys extensive freedom. The Freedom of Speech, mandated by the constitution guarantees and safeguards the freedom of press.
In order to really understand why this issue is driving such a wedge between groups of society, you have to understand who has the most to gain and lose from censorship in modern media.
By censoring things that may offend or anger entire groups of people, like other countries or religious groups, the amount of conflict that the country is under can be greatly reduced. Censoring helps to promote peace.
Sensitive military and government information can be removed from view. This is good because potential terrorists and people that wish to do harm to the country will not have access to information that would give them the intelligence that they need to do it.
Plagiarism and pirating of content is a serious issue in the world today, largely due to the internet. By censoring certain things, you can effectively prevent plagiarism from happening and other people profiting off of work or content that is not theirs.
There is a wealth pornographic and violent material that can be accessed with ease, even by young children. This exposure is dangerous for kids because it desensitizes them and makes them curious about things that they should not even know about. It can also deeply confuse and psychologically damage the mind of a young child.
Companies that make extreme claims for their product, in order to entice people to buy them, can be stopped with censorship. This is a big problem in marketing and business today because people buy things under false pretenses. It also helps to protect the legal health of businesses.
When political, environment, world, or economic disasters occur, the government can help to stop the spread of rumors and lies. This is also true for political propaganda that is often spread through the use of the internet. People begin to panic and believe everything that they see, by controlling the information that is out, they can help to prevent riots and other problems from happening.
To look on other side, the politicians and government officials who would surely be in charge of censorship measures could grossly misuse them to promote things that would be negative for the country. If information can be manipulated, you never know what is truly accurate or happening in the world.
One of the biggest arguments surrounding censorship is that the people are entitled to free speech and the ability to express their views and concerns. Censorship would halt this, and would restrict people from putting out different viewpoints and opinions on world topics.
Everyone thinks differently, and has a different way of living their life. Censorship would only promote the ones that are deemed “morally correct” and while avoiding to offend some people, would greatly offend others.
Many things have been advanced by the use of collaboration and funding. If censorship was to truly happen, than ideas that would possibly save energy and resources on earth could be stopped before they have a chance to begin.
Many people think that the government would completely control the censorship of information in the country, but fail to realize that companies have a place in government. Many government decisions are swayed with money and other incentives. The same would happen with the information allowed to be shared. Big companies would censor their competitions.
So, overall censorship has gone too far in that it affects everything from standardized tests, to novels in class, and even war. However, if there were no rules at all then teachers/people would be able to get away with whatever they wanted and that would certainly result in unproductive minds. But to conclude Censorship will always be a good decision that would result in instability.