Filmmakers on Wednesday criticised the government’s decision to dissolve the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal with immediate effect. The statutory body was constituted to hear appeals of filmmakers who were not satisfied with the cuts suggested by the Central Board of Film Certification.

The Ministry of Law and Justice issued an ordinance on Sunday to abolish the tribunal, according to PTI. With the amendment in the Cinematograph Act, producers will now have to approach the High Court with their grievances.

Filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, who has often spoken out against censorship, called it a “sad day for cinema”.

Director Hansal Mehta also questioned the government’s decision. “Do the high courts have a lot of time to address film certification grievances,” he asked. “How many film producers will have the means to approach the courts? The FCAT discontinuation feels arbitrary and is definitely restrictive. Why this unfortunate timing? Why take this decision at all?”

Producer Guneet Monga asked: “How does something like this happen? Who decides?”

Several films, including Monga’s 2017 coming of age drama Haraamkhor, were cleared by the film tribunal. Others include filmmaker Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha and Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Babumoshai Bandookbaaz.

Former Central Board of Film Certification chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani had ordered 48 cuts in Babumoshai Bandookbaaz. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap had also approached the appellate tribunal against the cuts suggested by the CBFC for Udta Punjab.

In February, the government had introduced a Bill to abolish some of the tribunals where the public at large is not involved in litigation. “With a view to streamline tribunals, the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Bill, 2021, is proposed to be enacted to abolish certain tribunals and authorities and to provide a mechanism for filing appeal directly to the commercial court or the High Court, as the case may be,” the reason of the bill stated.

But since the bill could not get approval from the Parliament, an ordinance was issued.