History of Press Laws in India
- . End of Censorship:
- During 1818 the Censorship of the press was abolished, which led to emergence of new journals like Calcutta Journal from J.S. Buckingham.
- The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Governor of Madras, and the Lord Bishop of Calcutta could not escape the sharp criticism from the bold and fearless journalist Buckingham.
Munro Reforms & the Press
- Sir Thomas Munro did the study to the conditions of the press in India.
- In his report he expressed fears and apprehensions against the press owned by the people of Indian origin and found no threat from the European Journalists.
- He saw a growing power in the press, which could even overthrow the British Power and spread nationalist thoughts.
- After the recommendations of Munro, the GOI introduces the licensing systme.
- No newspaper or book can be published without the license being obtained for that purpose.
- The Government was empowered to stop the circulation of any newspaper or book by publication of mere notice in the gazette.
- RajaRam Mohan Roy and Dwarkanath Tagore protested the new regulations that were placed before the supreme court in March 1823 came into force on 15 th April 1823.
Sir Metcalfe’s Contribution
- These regulations were force till 1835, when Sir Charles Metcalfe, with assistance from Lord Macaulay, who was the law member of the government.
- Act XV of 1857 was enacted to regulate the establishment of printing press and restrain in certain cases the circulation of printed books and papers. These restriction were withdrawn after the Mutiny.
The Vernacular Press
- It came into existance after 1 st freedom struggle in 1857.
- Bengali, Amrit Bazar Patrika and the Akbhare-e-am at Lahore were started as news weeklies.
- A new act of XXV of 1867 has replaced Act of 1835.
- The Press and Books Registration Act of 1867 is still in force with some amendments in 1893 and 1940.
The Vernacular Press Act
- It was just brought within 2 hours after a sanction obtained from the secretary of state for India through telegram.
- Lord Lytton engineered this draconian law.
- Very soon the act gained a name as “The Gagging Act”.
The Newspapers (Incitement of Offences) Act,1908
- If any newspaper is found inciting the offences, crimes of murder and any act of violence, this act can put an end to the existing of that newspaper.
- District Magistrate was empowered to confiscate the printing press where a newspaper containing an incitement to violence is printed.
- The police was also empowered to attach the printing press and issue warrants.
- The matter can be taken in appeal within 13 days.
- The Yugantar, the Sandhya & the Bandemataram newspaper stopped their publication.
The Indian Press Act 1910
- This act empowered the magistrate to require a deposit of not less than Rs.500 and not more than Rs.2000 from the keepers of news printing presses and publishers of newspapers.
- The local government could even demand a security deposit of Rs.500 min to Rs.5000 max.
- It was a huge money which would be generally beyond anybody’s affordability.
- It was imposed due to seditious publication and enlarged to include writing against the Indian Princes, judges, executive officers and public servants.
- Almost 350 printing press were penalized and securities of 40,000 pounds were demanded from newspapers.
- Because of security deposits, more than 130 newspapers had not started.
- This act was heavily used against the newspapers Punjabee & Hinduvasi etc.
- In that act sec.IV was very oppressive, as that not allow any scope for independent criticism of any government action.
- 2 nd arbitrary feature was that the provincial government was given power to decide what was an offending publication and what was an objectionable matter, and it was not ordinary courts that decide such matters.
- Deposit was not less than Rs.1000 to Rs.10,000.
- Even the customs officers and officers of post offices were given powers to detain any packet or parcel or consignment suspected to certain objectionable matter and deliver the same to the provincial gov.
- The act was vigorously enforced during World War-1
The Government of India Act,1919
- This act was came into force during nationalist movement.
- Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru was appointed as the 1 st Indian Law Member.
- He headed the committee to study the working of the Indian Act 1910.
- The news of the struggle, arrest of the leaders found more space in these newspapers.
The Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act,1931
- It was another draconian law aimed at curbing the journalistic writes and containing the expression of thoughts.
- It also curbing the writing which incites murder or other crimes or violence.
- Deposit of Rs.1000 to Rs.10,000 security in advance to afresh start of newspaper.
- The government used as a weapon to impose restrictions on the press, for example: the publication of the speeches & messages of leaders arrested, the statement issued from the leaders from jail, ‘exaggerated’ reports of political events, notices & adv. of meetings, processions & other activities tending to promote civil disobedience movement or any other matter in furtherance of the same.
- Example- The printers & publishers of Bombay Chronicle Rs.3000; Anand Bazar Patrika –Rs.1000; The Liberty of Calcutta –Rs.6000 and The Free Journal –Rs.6,000.
Foreign Relations Act,1932.
- It was again the weapon to muzzle the press.
- The government was empowered to penalize the publications calculated to interfere with the maintenance of good relations between his majesty’s government & friendly foreign countries.
Review of the Press Law in Independent India
- The government of India has constituted a press law enquiry committee under the chairmanship of Shri Ganganath Jha.
- The job of committee was to collect all existing laws and make recommendations to modify and make them suitable to the changed circumstances.
- And the recommendations were as follows:
- 1.There is a need to add one explanation to s.153A of IPC (Promoting enmity between classes) to the effect that it does not amount to an offence under that section to advocate a change in the social or economic order provided such advocacy does not involve violence.
- 2. Repeal of the Indian States (Protection) Act 1934.
- 3. Repeal of the Foreign Regulations Act 1932.
- 4. The Press advisory committee should constitute.
- 5. There is a need to repeal of Indian Press (Emergency Power) Act 1932 but it was also suggested that certain provisions of that Act which didn’t find the place in the ordinary law of the country should be incorporated at suitable places.
- 6. Regarding Sedition, s.124A of IPC should be amended so as to apply to the acts or words, which either incite disorders or are intended or tend to incite disorder.
- 7. Under s.144 of Criminal Procedure Code should not be applied to the press and separate provisions should be made, if necessary, for dealing with the press in urgent cases of apprehended danger.
- 8. A new provisions should be made in the law to empower the courts to order the closing down of a press for a special period in case of repeat violations of law.