Explained | New Press and Registration of Periodicals Act

From now on, the registration of periodicals shall be governed by the provisions of the PRP Act and the Press and Registration of Periodicals Rules. Photo: AFP

The government of India has notified the Press & Registration of Periodicals Act (PRP Act), 2023 and its Rules in its gazette, and consequently the Act has come into force from March 1.

Registration of newspapers and periodicals is now a click away as the new law has replaced the colonial-era Press and Registration of Books Act dating back to 1867.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur launched the Press Sewa Portal (presssewa.prgi.gov.in), the online portal of the Press Registrar General, for receiving various applications as mandated by the new Act.

From now on, the registration of periodicals shall be governed by the provisions of the PRP Act and the Press and Registration of Periodicals Rules.

The origin of Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867

• During the British rule in India, writing of books and other informatory material took a concrete shape and with the advent of printing press, various books on almost all the subjects and periodicals touching every aspect of life started appearing. 

• Thrust on education gave an impetus to this with the result that a lot of printed material became available. Those in the field of writing, publishing and printing came up with an idea to organise a system for keeping a record of the publications. The then East India Company was urged to keep a record of the publications. 

• An attempt was made by the authorities to make a collection of the books and other publications emanating from the various printing presses throughout India.

• The Board of Directors of East India company issued an instruction that copies of all important and interesting work published in India should be dispatched to England to be deposited in the library of India House. Such an instruction had a slow impact. 

• A system of voluntary registrations of publications was evolved, but it failed. It was found necessary to establish a system of compulsory sale to the  government of three copies of each work.

• To achieve this purpose, a Bill was introduced for the regulation of printing presses and newspapers for the preservation of copies of books and periodicals containing news printed in the whole of India and for the registration of such books and periodicals containing news.

• The Bill was passed by the Legislature and it came on the statute book as the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867.

• The Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023 replaced the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, which governed the registration of print and publishing industry in the country.

What was the need for a new law?

• The PRB Act, 1867 was not in sync with the changing media landscape and the changing mode of governance with emphasis on faster and efficient service delivery through technology, and ease of access to citizens.

• The Act was a legacy of the British Raj and was enacted with the intent to exercise complete control over the press, printers and publishers of books and newspapers by imposing heavy fines and penalties, including imprisonment for various violations.

• Though the Act was amended many times between 1870 and 1983, it remained procedurally cumbersome and complex making it extremely burdensome and time consuming, especially for small and medium publishers, in matters of verification of title and obtaining of certificate of registration for publishing a periodical.

• The Act necessitated the involvement of multiple offices in the state and central government resulting in delays and impediments at multiple levels.

• The penalties which included imprisonment even for minor non-compliances were not matching with the ethos of the independent India and its constitutional values.

Highlights of the new Act:

• According to the notification, the office of the Press Registrar General of India (PRGI) shall carry out the functions of the erstwhile Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI).

• The new Act provides for an online system for facilitating the registration of newspapers and other periodicals in the country.

• The new system replaces the existing manual, cumbersome processes involving multiple steps and approvals at various stages which were causing unnecessary hardships to the publishers.

• The new PRP Act removes books and journals from the purview of registration necessitated by the old PRB Act.

• The new Act defines a periodical as “any publication including a newspaper which is published and printed at regular intervals containing public news or comments on public news but does not include a book or a journal of scientific, technical, and academic nature”.

• Therefore, a “book, or a journal including a book or journal of scientific, technical and academic nature” does not require registration with PRGI.

• All applications for registration of periodicals shall be made in online mode through the Press Sewa Portal only.

• Accordingly, publishers intending to bring out periodicals need to register their titles before publishing them.

• As the registration process will be online and guided through the software, the chances for discrepancies in the application will be drastically reduced resulting in faster processing of applications.

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