Censorship Laws in India-Boon or Bane

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Censorship Laws in India

Written by: Ms Shalini Gupta


The word censorship has been derived from the Latin word ‘censure’ which means to declare formally or to describe officially.[1] Censorship means suppressing or changing the speech or writing by the Government or any other authority which is obscene, immoral or indecent. It also involves suppression of communication which is harmful to the society or community. In broad terms, censorship occurs when individuals, groups or government officials decide to certain information, images or ideas are so objectionable that no one should have access to it. For suppressing things, there should be a clear distinction between what is bad and what is good for the audience.

Communication should always be controlled. It should not cross the limit. There are various things that people do not like as they think they are obscene or immoral. If the communication, speech, book, play or film is permitted free then the authorities will find themselves threatened to an extent that they cannot tolerate. There are various reasons for censoring which includes the picture of nudity, sexuality, any kind of violence, offensive language or things that are not appropriate for children. Therefore, a limit has been imposed on freedom of speech and expression.


Article 198(1)(a) of the Constitution of India states that every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of speech and expression has a well-recognised connotation which means the liberty to express one’s views, opinions and beliefs freely by word of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. It does not mean that one should express his opinion whatever he likes. One has to take care of the values of others’ opinions also.  

Pre-censorship on publication of any news or views, unless justified under clause (2), violates freedom of speech and expression as Article 19 (2) imposes a reasonable restriction upon the freedom of speech and expression in the interests of public order, the security of State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.[2]

Dramatic performance is also considered a form of speech and expression. The constitutionality of films as a media of expression and its prior censorship came up in K.A. Abbas v. Union of India.[3] In this case, Abbas didn’t get the ‘U’ certificate for his film Tale of Four Cities, he questioned the validity of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 along with the rules made under it. Supreme Court observed that censorship of films including pre-censorship was constitutionally valid in India as it was a reasonable restriction within the ambit of Article 19(2).

Freedom of expression is one of those liberties which has been guaranteed by the Constitution of India against the State. Therefore, it is the obligatory duty of the State to protect the freedom of speech and expression from violation.


Section 95 of the Criminal Procedure Code empowers the State government to seize and prohibit publications that violate sections 124A, 153A, 153B, 292, 293 and 295A of the Indian Penal Code. In-State of Uttar Pradesh vs. Lalai Singh Yadav[4], Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer held that it is the right of the State authorities to ban or forfeiture publications that could create disturbances in law and order.

As per section 6 of the Cable Television Networks rules, 1994, the Government has imposed certain restrictions regarding the programs which cannot be telecasted on television. This includes offends against good taste or decency, contains criticism of friendly countries, attack on religious communities etc.[5]

In India, when the movie is going to release, it has to be directed by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to eliminate anything which is not good for society under the Cinematograph Act, 1952.[6] These Boards categorise the movie as to which category can watch the movie.

These categories are universal, adults and parental guidance to films when any movie is being released in India. So that no negative effect should be there to the small children as the portrayal of violence and sexual activities can easily affect the minds of the children and as a result, if these small children watch these types of movies, it will lead to their criminal mind.

Internet censorship in India is mainly governed by the IT Acts.[7] The IT (Amendment) Act 2008 grants the government wider discretion to exercise censorship. According to Section 3(2) of the Information Technology (Intermediaries guidelines) Rules, 2011, there must be a guideline for not publishing information on the internet which is harmful, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or encouraging money laundering or gambling etc or harms public at a large.

If any such information has been published on the internet, then it has to be made inaccessible to the public within thirty-six hours. After the amendment in the Information and Technology sector, the authority got the right to block any site or material from the Internet which is a threat to national security.[8]


In a society, one’s freedom is limited so that people cannot misuse their rights. These restrictions are imposed to promote the social welfare of society. The sensor has its own importance as it strikes the balance between social and individual interests. There are various debates that happened in past where the perception of censorship was considered as ‘bad’ that suppresses the ‘good’ freedom of speech.

But in reality, defending free speech means people are defending the right to speak violence. In my opinion, censorship laws in India is a bane for our country. India has restricted the freedom of speech and expression because these days people are motivated by all these views. The views, images, ideas and movies had a great impact on children these days. They want to follow every action they are watching. Therefore, it is very important for growing children to grow in a positive environment and only the people of India can make a positive environment for them.


[1] Jonathon Green Nicholas J. Karolides, censorship, https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&lr=&id=bunHURgi7FcC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=censorship&ots=bwmg1d61Y4&sig=2z-ywv6aa7KimYGdftkF5J0d0FA&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false.

[2] Sakal Papers (P) Ltd. V. Union of India, AIR 1962 SC 305, 313.

[3] (1970) 2 SCC 780; AIR 1971 SC 481.

[4] (1976) 1977 AIR 202,

[5] The Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, § 6, http://www.lawsindia.com/Advocate%20Library/C033.HTM.

[6] Priyanka Ghai, Dr. Arnind P. Bhanu, Censorship in India vis-à-vis Freedom of Speech, JCREVIEW (Jun 9, 2020), http://www.jcreview.com/fulltext/197-1593082708.pdf.

[7] Yogesh Vishnoi, cyber censorship in India and China, UDGAMVIGYATI (Oct, 2015), http://udgamvigyati.org/admin/images/Cyber%20Censorship%20in%20India%20and%20China-%20Yogesh%20Vishnoi%20and%20Siddhant%20Mishra,%20KIIT,%20Bhubaneshwar.pdf.

[8] Ibid.

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