The new law aims to simplify the registration process and promises to empower publishers and streamline media registration
In a landmark move, Rajya Sabha passed the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023. The new legislature is set to replace the century-old Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, which governed the registration of newspapers and periodicals during the colonial era.
By simplifying the registration process, and eliminating procedural obstacles, the Bill seeks to empower small and medium publishers. Instead of going through complicated paperwork, everything will now happen online without needing to meet anyone in person.
During a discussion on the Bill, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said it will enable ease of doing business and also remove colonial-era penal provisions.
“Earlier, the process, which took around 2–3 years and required the physical presence of the person in front of the District Magistrate and in Delhi for registration & renewal, will now be reduced to just 60 days and the entire process can be completed online. Also, the earlier registration process involves eight steps, now it will be done just in a single step,” he said.
The Bill introduces the Press Registrar General of India, who will be responsible for issuing registration certificates and making decisions about revising, suspending, or cancelling registrations for all periodicals. The central government will appoint a Press Registrar.
What Was The Need For New Bill?
The Press and Registration of Books Act (1867) was introduced during British rule to regulate printing presses and newspapers, preserve copies of books and newspapers printed in India, and register these publications. Its main purpose was to control the press, publishers, and printers by imposing heavy fines and penalties, including imprisonment, for various violations, Thakur said in the statement on objects and reasons of the Bill.
Despite several amendments between 1870 and 1983, the Act remained complicated and burdensome, particularly for small and medium publishers. The process of verifying titles and obtaining registration certificates for periodicals was time-consuming and challenging. So, this outdated law was no longer suitable for the modern media landscape.
Hence, the new Bill was required for:
Simplified Process: The new bill moves the entire process online, eliminating the need for physical presence, and making it faster and easier for publishers to obtain registration.
Removal of Procedural Obstacles: Currently, the Registrar of Newspapers in India (RNI) only accepts applications forwarded by the District Magistrate for Title verification. The new bill aims to make this process faster and easier. It suggests moving the checking of title availability online. This way, the registration of newspapers and periodicals will be much quicker, saving time and making it more convenient for those who want to start their publications.
Ease of Doing Business: The new Bill will relieve the owners of printing presses and publishers from the burden of furnishing declarations before the District Magistrate and filing revised declarations for every change. This is particularly beneficial for small and medium publishers.
Modernization: The new bill is more contemporary and relevant to the current media environment as the 1867 Act was a legacy of the British Raj and did not keep pace with the changing media landscape.
What is New Procedure to Register?
You must get a certificate of registration from the Press Registrar General (PRG) before starting a newspaper or any periodical. To do this, you will need to –
- Apply online with the Press Registrar General and the specified authority in the local area where the periodical will be published. Include the title in the application. The portal for filing online applications will be launched by the end of August.
- Pay a fee and provide the necessary documents and information as prescribed.
- Wait for their approval as the specified authority will review your application and provide a no-objection or comments within 60 days.
- If your application is approved, they will issue a registration certificate with details of periodicity, language, place of publication, owner information, and the title of the periodical.
- After this, you can start publishing the newspaper or periodical.
- Ensure that you publish your periodical continuously. If you fail to publish within twelve months from the issuance of the certificate, it may be cancelled.
What Are The Penalties?
The Press Registrar General can take action against those who violate the registration requirements for newspapers or periodicals. The penalties can be substantial fines or even imprisonment for persistent offenders. For example:
- If someone publishes a newspaper or periodical without a registration certificate, they may be fined up to Rs. 5 lakhs. The Press Registrar General can also order the publisher to stop publishing that periodical.
- If a publisher continues to publish a periodical even after being directed by the Press Registrar General to stop, or if they publish another periodical without getting a registration certificate, they could face punishment in the form of imprisonment for up to six months.
- If a publisher gets the registration by providing false information or stops publishing regularly, the Press Registrar General has the authority to suspend their registration for a period ranging from 30 to 180 days.
However, the publishers have the right to appeal against the decision to not issue a registration certificate, suspend/cancel the registration, or impose a penalty. They can appeal to the Press and Registration Appellate Board within 60 days.
Who Cannot Publish A Newspaper?
The new law has a provision on who cannot publish a newspaper in India. The new bill makes it clear that people engaged in terrorist activities or unlawful actions against the state, as defined in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, will not be granted permission to start a newspaper or periodical. They will not be allowed to start a newspaper or periodical. This restriction also applies to anyone who poses a threat to the security of the state.
Title:Media Regulation: What’s Inside the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill 2023Written By: Mayur Deokar