Censorship in India – Wikipedia

IndiaCensorship in India

Censorship in India mainly targets religious issues. The Constitution of India 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.[1]

The report Freedom in the World 2006 by Freedom House gave India a political rights rating of 2, and a civil liberties rating of 3, earning it the designation of free.[2]

Obscenity law

Any activity that involves public show of pornography is illegal and attracts several penal provisions. However, Central Board of Film Certification allows release of certain films with sexually explicit content (labeled A-rated), which are to be shown only in restricted spaces and to be viewed only by people of age 18 and above.[3] Even India’s public television broadcaster, Doordarshan has aired adult films.[4] Films, television shows and music videos 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 softcore 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. In practice, the police usually ignores this as long as the display itself does not contain nudity. Most non-Indian publications (including Playboy) are usually harder to find, whether softcore or hardcore. 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.

National security

The Official Secrets Act 1923 is used for the protection of official information, mainly related to national security.[5]


In 1975 Indira Gandhi government imposed censorship of press in The Emergency. It was removed at the end of the Emergency rule.[1]


The Central Board of Film Certification, the regulatory film body of India, regularly orders directors to remove anything it deems offensive, including sex, nudity, violence or subjects considered politically subversive.[6]

In 2002, the film War and Peace, depicting scenes of nuclear testing and the 11 September atrocities, created by Anand Patwardhan, was asked to make 21 cuts before it was allowed to have the certificate for release.[7][8] 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 decreed the cuts unconstitutional and the film was shown uncut.

In 2002, the Indian filmmaker and former chief of the country’s film censor board, Vijay Anand, kicked up a controversy with a proposal to legalise 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 authorised licences”.[6] He resigned within a year after taking charge of the censor board after facing widespread criticism of his moves.[9]

In 2003, the Indian Censor Board 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 filmmaker appealed twice again unsuccessfully. The film still remains banned in India, but has screened at numerous festivals all over the world and won awards. The critics have appluaded it for its ‘sensitive and touching portrayal of marginalized community’. BBC, YIDFF, Queer India

In 2004, the documentary Final Solution, which looks at religious rioting between Hindus and Muslims, was banned.[10][11] The film follows 2002 clashes in the western state of Gujarat, which left more than 1,000 people dead. The censor board justified the ban, saying it was “highly provocative and may trigger off unrest and communal violence”. The ban was lifted in Oct.’04 after a sustained campaign.[12]

In 2006, seven states (Nagaland, Punjab, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh) have banned the release or exhibition of the Hollywood movie The Da Vinci Code (and also the book),[13] although India’s Central Board of Film Certification cleared the film for adult viewing throughout India.[14] However, the respective high courts lifted the ban and the movie was shown in the two states.


Heavy Metal band Slayer’s 2006 album Christ Illusion was banned in India after Catholic churches in the country took offense to the artwork of the album and a few song titles and launched a protest against it. The album was taken off shelves and the remaining catalog was burnt by EMI Music India.


In 1999 Maharashtra government banned the Marathi play “Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy” or ‘I am Nathuram Godse Speaking”[15]

In 2004, Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” was banned in Chennai. The play however, has played successfully in many, many other parts of the country since 2003. A Hindi version of the play has been performing since 2007.

M.J. AkbarBooks

1989, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses was banned in India, as it was in many countries, for its purported attacks on Islam.[16] India was the second country in the world (after Singapore) to ban the book.

1990, Understanding Islam through Hadis by Ram Swarup was banned[citation needed]. In 1990 the Hindi translation of the book was banned, and in March 1991 the English original became banned as well.

A book on Shivaji by Queens University professor Jayant Lele was also banned.[citation needed] as this book raised a question about Shivaji’s father.

Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India by American scholar James Laine.

Laine’s translation of the Sivabharata, entitled The Epic of Shivaji, was also banned. The ban followed an attack by Sambhaji Brigade activists on the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune. The subsequent governments have not revoked the ban.

In Punjab the Bhavsagar Granth was banned by the state government,[17] following clashes between mainstream Sikhs and the apostate Sikh sect that produced it. It was said[who?] that the granth had copied a number of portions from the Guru Granth Sahib. In one of the photographs it showed Baba Bhaniara, wearing a shining coat and headdress in a style similar to that made familiar through the popular posters of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikhs. In another Baba Bhaniara is shown riding a horse in the manner of Guru Gobind Singh[citation needed].

The Polyester Prince – (ISBN 1-86448-468-3) a biography of the Indian businessman Dhirubhai Ambani was banned.


Main article: Internet Censorship in India

In 2004, a Yahoo! Groups discussion group was blocked because of fears the group, the Kynhun forum, had links with banned separatists.[18][19] The ban resulted in the entire Yahoo! Groups being banned due to the internet service providers’ inability to implement a sub-group ban, and hence a huge range of harmless material were made inaccessible. The government used new information technology laws to force Indian internet service providers to block the forum after Yahoo! refused to comply. The ban sparked outrage and led to many people calling for the ban to be lifted. Concerns have been voiced that despite the inherent power of ruling bodies, the actions of the Indian government are actually illegal: “But the route they have taken is completely illegal and will be struck down if challenged in court”, says Indian cyberlaw expert, Pawan Duggal.[18]

In 2001, the Bombay High Court appointed a Committee to oversee issues relating to cyber pornography and Cybercrime. Report of the Committee Appointed by the Bombay High Court. The Court invited the petitioners Jayesh Thakkar and Sunil Thacker as special invitees to provide their inputs and recommendations on cyber laws. The Committee upon identifying key issues made recommendations such as licensing of Cyber cafe, introducing identity cards for Cyber cafe visitors, ensure that Cyber Cafe that have cubicles or partitions be required to ensure that minors are not allowed to use machines in cubicles or behind partitions, mandatory maintaining of IP logs by cyber cafe, and so on. The Committee made several other recommendations such as connectivity and authentication at Internet service provider level which provided that Internet service providers were responsible for time clock coordination and record keeping. The report addressed the issue of protecting minor children from accessing adult sites and made a recommendation that Internet Service Providers must protective parental software with every Internet connection. The committee placed a special emphasis on lack of technical knowledge in the police and recommended special training of cyber cops. The report of the committee was well accepted by the Courts and is being put in to practice by the Police and Cyber cafes jointly.

India has blocked Internet access to several blogs and web sites in July 2006 because of the 11 July 2006 Mumbai train bombings.[20] As with the Yahoo! Groups case, the government had wished for a few blogs to be banned for spreading “hateful or inflammatory” material, but the internet service providers were either unable to ban a few blogs selectively or found it easier to block all the blogs directly. After outrage, blog service was restored within a few days.


  1. ^The Constitution of India” 658.79 KiBPDF, India Code. Retrieved 3 June 2006.
  2. ^Freedom in the World 2006: Selected Data from Freedom House’s Annual Global Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties“PDF (122 KiB), Freedom House, 2006. Retrieved 29 May 2006.
  3. ^“Family entertainment? B-town flicks now open to adults only”Times of India. 2009-12-31. Retrieved 2010-05-21.
  4. ^ Sinhā,Niroja (1989) Women and violence Vikas Publishing House. ISBN0706942736Assuming that late night programme telecast would be restricted to adults, Doordarshan started showing adult films in recent past on TV
  5. ^The Official Secrets Act, 1923“, IndiaLawInfo.com. Retrieved 4 June 2006
  6. abIndia’s film censor wants to legalise porn“, BBC News, 27 June 2002. Retrieved 29 May 2006.
  7. ^India cuts ‘anti-war’ film“, BBC News, 19 August 2002. Retrieved 29 May 2006.
  8. ^Censorship and Indian Cinema“, Bright Lights Film Journal, November 2002. Retrieved 29 May 2006.
  9. ^BIndia’s chief film censor quits“, BBC News, 22 July 2004. Retrieved 29 May 2006.
  10. ^India bans religious riot movie“, BBC News, 6 August 2004. Retrieved 29 May 2006.
  11. ^Censor Board Bans ‘Final Solution’“, Countercurrents.org, 6 August 2004. Retrieved 29 May 2006.
  12. ^Rakesh Sharma-Final Solution“. Retrieved 16 June 2007.
  13. ^India extends Da Vinci Code ban“, BBC News, 3 June 2006. Retrieved 3 June 2006.
  14. ^India censors clear Da Vinci Code“, BBC News, 18 May 2006. Retrieved 29 May 2006.
  15. ^“Gandhi play banned”BBC News. 18 July 1998. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  16. ^Rushdie ‘hurt’ by India ban “, BBC News, 10 October 1998. Retrieved 29 May 2006.
  17. ^“Caste and Religion in Punjab Economic and Political Weekly”. 2007-05-26. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  18. abOutrage over India Yahoo ban“, BBC News, 29 September 2003. Retrieved 29 May 2006.
  19. ^Indian Net Ban Overshoots Its Aim“, Wired News, 30 September 2003. Retrieved 29 May 2006.
  20. ^“India blocks blogging Web sites”CNN. 2006-07-19.[dead link]

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