Press Bill Passes in LS, Thakur Says Step to Shed Mentality Of Slavery

Syllabus:  GS-II, Polity and Governance;

Subject: Polity and Governance;

Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation;

Issue: Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023;

Context: The Lok Sabha passed the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023 by voice vote, with I&B Minister Anurag Thakur saying it will simplify registration of newspapers compared with a British-era law it replaced.

  • The Bill was passed in Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon Session, on August 3. It replaced the Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act, 1867.


About the PRB Act 1867:

  • The Act aims to –
    • Regulate printing press and newspapers in India,
    • Preserve copies of books and newspapers printed in India, and
    • Provide for registration of books and newspapers.
  • ‘Book’ for the purposes of the Act, includes even a pamphlet and every sheet of music, map, chart etc.
  • Interestingly, electronic media is outside the purview of this Act
    • Established in Sanjay Pinto v. A. Kamaraj, 2011.
  • Under the Act, only the district magistrate (DM) could cancel the declaration of a periodical, while the Press Registrar General (PRG) did not have suo motu powers to cancel or suspend the Certificate of Registration granted by it.
  • It made improper declaration of information a punishable offence with a prison term of up to six months.

Salient Provisions of the PRP Bill 2023:

  • Seeks to simplify the registration process for periodicals.
  • Make it mandatory for digital news platforms to do a “one-time registration” in order to operate.
  • Empowers the PRG to suspend/cancel registration.
  • As per the new Bill, a person who has been convicted by any court for an offence involving terrorist act or unlawful activity or having done anything against the security of the state shall not be permitted to bring out a periodical.
  • The Bill also seeks to do away with two provisions that required publishers and printers to file a declaration before the DM.
    • Only an online intimation has to be filed before PRG and DM.
  • It waters down the provision (of the PRB Act) for prosecution and imprisonment of publishers for improper declaration of information.
  • The punishment of jail up to six months is envisaged only in 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 a direction issued to that effect by PRG.
  • The new Bill also provides for an appellate authority. The Appellate Board (Press and Registration Appellate Board) will comprise chairperson, Press Council of India (PCI), and two members of PCI to hear an appeal against –
    • Refusal of grant of registration,
    • Imposition of any penalty or suspension/cancellation of registration by PRG.

Significance of the PRP Bill 2023:

  • It aims to bring transparency and ease of doing business by providing for a simple process that will help small and medium publishers.
  • It brings digital news media under its purview, which is expected to weed out apps, websites and social media accounts spreading fake news.
    • At present, while traditional print and electronic media are governed by various laws, digital news platforms are not covered by any registration process.
    • To fix this, the government introduced the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, which made it mandatory for digital news platforms to register themselves with the government.
  • Books, which were part of the PRB Act, 1867, have been taken out of the purview of PRP Bill, as books as a subject are administered by the Ministry of Education.
  • The statute has been substantially decriminalised as against the PRB Act 1867.
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