Lok Sabha passes Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill
Ushers in a new era of press freedom and ease of doing business
By PIB Delhi
In a historic decision, the Lok Sabha today passed the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023, repealing the colonial era law of the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867. The Bill has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha in the Monsoon Session.
The new statute – The Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023 makes the process of allotment of title and registration of periodicals simple and simultaneous, through an online system without the requirement of any physical interface. This would enable the Press Registrar General to fast-track the process, thereby ensuring that publishers, especially small and medium publishers, face little difficulty in starting a publication. Most importantly, the publishers would no longer be required to file a declaration with the District Magistrates or the local authorities and get such declarations authenticated. Furthermore, printing presses would also not be required to furnish any such declaration; instead, only an intimation would be sufficient. The entire process presently involved 8 steps and consumed considerable time.
Introducing the Bill in the Lok Sabha, Minister for Information & Broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur said “the Bill reflects yet another step of the Modi Government towards jettisoning mentality of slavery and bringing new laws for new India”. The Minister further added that it has been the priority of the Government to end criminality, improve ease of doing business and ease of living through new laws, and accordingly, efforts have been made to substantially decriminalize the colonial era statute. For certain violations, financial penalties have been proposed instead of conviction as earlier. Further, a credible appellate mechanism, headed by the Chairperson, of the Press Council of India has been provided for. Stressing upon the ease of doing business aspect, Shri Thakur said the title registration process, which sometimes took 2-3 years, would now be done in 60 days.
The Act of 1867 was a legacy of the British Raj which intended to exercise complete control over the press and the printers and publishers of newspapers and books along with heavy fines and penalties including imprisonment for various violations. It was felt that in today’s age of free press and the Government’s commitment to uphold media freedom, the archaic law was totally out of sync with the current media landscape. Ends
SALIENT FEATURES OF PRESS AND REGISTRATION OF PERIODICALS BILL 2023
I. Grant of title allotment and Certificate of Registration Periodicals
- The Bill provides for a simple online mechanism to apply for title verification and grant of certificate of registration by the Press Registrar General to a periodical as a simultaneous process.
- There is no requirement to furnish any declaration before the local authority or its authentication by the local authority.
- A person who has been convicted by any court for an offence involving a terrorist act or unlawful activity, or having done anything against the security of the State shall not be permitted to bring out a periodical.
- A facsimile edition of a foreign periodical can be printed in India with prior approval of the Central Government and its registration with the Press Registrar General.
II. Printing Presses
- A printer of a periodical to furnish an online intimation to the Press Registrar General and the local authority.
- No requirement by the Printer to file any declaration before the local authority or obtain authentication from the authority.
III. Role of District magistrate/local authority
- The Bill envisages a minimalistic role of the District Magistrate/local authority with regard to the granting of Certificate of Registration and title allotment.
- On receipt of an application, the District Magistrate is expected to provide its comments/NOC to the Press Registrar General within 60 days; thereafter the Press Registrar General can proceed to take a decision for grant of registration even where the comments/NOC are not received from the DM/local authority after 60 days.
- No requirement for a publisher to file any declaration before the District Magistrate.
Difference between the Press and Registration of Books Act 1867 and the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill 2023
- Books that were part of the PRB Act 1867 have been taken away from the purview of the PRP Bill 2023, as books as subjects are administered by the Ministry of HRD.
- Printing presses do not have to file any declaration before the District Magistrate; only an online intimation has to be filed before the Press Registrar General and the District Magistrate.
- No declaration has to be filed by the publisher of the periodical before the District authority; the application for title allotment and grant of Certificate of Registration would be made simultaneously to the Press Registrar General and the district authority and the decision would be taken by the Press Registrar General.
- Statute has been substantially decriminalized as against the PRB Act 1867 which had severe penalties leading to conviction and imprisonment up to 6 months for various violations of the Act.
- In the 2023 Bill, punishment of jail up to six months is envisaged only in the extreme cases where a periodical is published without a Certificate of Registration and the publisher fails to cease the printing of such publication even after six months of direction has been issued to that effect by the Press Registrar General.
- In the 1867 Act, only the DM could cancel the declaration of a periodical, the Press Registrar General did not have suo motu powers to cancel or suspend the Certificate of Registration granted by it. The PRP Bill 2023 empowers the Press Registrar General to suspend/cancel the Certificate of Registration.
A detailed explainer can be read here