During the 1800s, the British government sought to control newspapers and writings in India. They feared that if people could write and print whatever they wanted, their hold over power could weaken.
Therefore, they enacted various acts to regulate the printing press and registration procedure in India, which gradually took the form of an act known as the Press and Registration of Books Act 1867. The Act is a law regulating the printing and publishing of books in India.
Table of Contents
Overview of the Press and Registration of Books Act
During colonial times, people wanted to free India from foreign rule and used newspapers to stir the spirit of nationalism in its people and make them aware of atrocities perpetrated by Britishers. The press and publishing industry regulations helped the government curb this resistance.
Since India’s independence, certain modifications have been made to the laws concerning printing and publishing. However, these alterations have primarily pertained to particular situations, and a comprehensive review of the entire law is yet to be conducted to determine its alignment with contemporary times.
History of the Press and Registration of Books Act
|Lord Wellesley imposed the Censorship of Press Act 1799 to suppress the press during the French invasion of India. This triggered the gradual development of the Press and Registration of Books Act. However, Lord Hasting retracted the Act in 1818.|
|During the time, John Adams was the Active Governor General who enacted the Licensing Regulations (Ordinance), 1823. This included a provision that no one can start or continue to use or be a part of the press that is not registered.|
|Governor General Metcalfe abolished the ordinance and replaced it with the Press Act of 1835. This act regulated the use of a printer, and for the first time, it required the publishers to provide a precise account of the use of premises for printing and publication.|
|For the first time, the Press Act of 1835 declared ‘cease to function’ to resolve any future wrongdoing. Between 1835 and 1857, several Indian Vernacular presses were established on a large scale. The Licensing Act of 1857 included newspapers, printed matters and all books under the purview of law, but subsequently, the freedom of the press worsened.|
Reasons for Passing the Press and Registration of Books Act
The Act was enacted in 1867 during British India. According to this Act, the printer of the book must provide a complimentary copy of the book to the relevant state government and one or more copies to the Central Government. The primary motive for enacting this Act was maintaining a record of the books circulated in India. Each state government was obligated to compile a comprehensive catalogue of books, including essential bibliographic details. This catalogue encompassing all listed books had to be published at the end of every quarter, facilitating libraries to acquire complimentary copies of books and sustaining an uninterrupted record of all printed material in the nation.
Objectives of the Press and Registration of Books Act
The Press and Registration of Books was implemented with the sole aim of detailing the nature of the publications in British India. The Act aided in controlling the press and preventing incidents such as the Sepoy Mutiny and the Revolt of 1857.
The Act is not prohibitory, that is, it neither prohibits the functioning of the printing presses nor establishes any governmental control over the freedom of presses. However, the Act was a regulatory law that enabled the government to regulate printing presses and newspapers by a registration system and preserve copies of books and other matters printed in India.
As provided by the Preamble, the Act regulates printing presses and newspapers. Furthermore, the Act involves preserving and registering copies of newspapers and books printed in India.
The other common objectives of the Press and Registration of the Books Act are as follows:
- Protecting the information related to the printing establishments and their publications.
- Regulating the printing press and newspapers.
- Maintaining and registering copies of every book and newspaper printed in India.
- Preventing the publication of anonymous literature
Provisions of the Press and Registration of the Books Act
Rules Regarding Printing of Books and Newspapers
The Press and Registration of Books Act entails specific provisions regarding printing books and newspapers that every press in India must adhere to. The mentioned rules are as follows:
- Section 3 of the Act states how a book or paper will be printed in India. Per the statute, every book and paper should be printed legibly, highlighting the printer’s name and the printing place. If such a book or paper is published, then the name of the publisher and the place of publishing shall be mentioned.
- Section 4 states that no person shall keep any printing press in its possession without prior approval in India.
Section 5 details the rules regarding the publication of newspapers. All newspapers must be published in the manner provided in this section. The newspaper must have the name of the owner and editor of the newspaper along with the date of publication.
The newspaper’s printer or publisher must be present (either in person or through an authorised agent) before the Presidency, District, or Sub-divisional Magistrate within the local limits of the jurisdiction where the newspaper is printed. Therefore, before publishing a newspaper or book, such a publisher/printer or an authorised agent shall declare that they are the actual printer/publisher of the book.
Section 6 states the authentication of the declaration by the concerned judicial magistrate. The declaration shall be authenticated by the signature or seal of the concerned magistrate having jurisdiction.
There shall be two original copies of the declaration—one shall be deposited to the Magistrate’s Record and the other to the records of the High Court of competent Judicature.
- Inspection of the original declaration: The officer in charge of the original declaration may allow for the inspection after the payment of the required fee (one rupee) and permit applying for a copy of such declaration. (According to section- 6)
- Section 7 provides that the copy of the declaration kept at the office bearing the court’s seal shall be prima facie evidence for proving the editor’s or publisher’s title.
Penalties Under the Press and Registration of the Books Act
Part IV of the Press and Registration of Books Act includes the penalty for an offence under the Act. The followings are the offences and their penalties as mentioned under the Act:
|Any person who prints or publishes any book in contravention of the provisions of Section 3||12|
The accused shall be convicted by a Magistrate with simple imprisonment for a maximum term 6 months or a maximum fine of Rs 2000 or both.
|Any person keeps any press in his/her possession without authority and in contravention of Section 4||13|
|Any person, regardless of whether in its declaration or in any other statement, gives any false statement before any competent Magistrate||14|
|Any person prints, edits, or publishes, or cause to be printed, published, or edited, any newspaper knowing that it is in contravention with some provisions.||15|
|Any person who has ceased to be a printer or publisher of any newspaper fails/neglects to make a declaration in compliance with Section 8.||15A.|
The accused be convicted before a Magistrate and be punishable by a maximum fine of Rs 200
|If any printer of any book neglects to deliver copies of the same to the Government in accordance with Section 9.||16|
The accused be convicted before a Magistrate and punishable by a fine not exceeding Rs 50.
|Negligence on the part of a printer of any newspaper published in India to deliver copies of the same per Section 11A to the Government.||16A|
|Failure on the part of the printer of any newspaper published in India to deliver its documents to the Press Registrar per Section 11B||16B|
|If any person engages in connection with the collection of information under this Act, but he/she wilfully discloses any information or the contents of any confidential information.||19L|
The accused shall be convicted by a Magistrate with simple Imprisonment for a maximum term of 6 months or a fine, which may extend to Rs 1000 or both.
Registration of Books
Section 18 of the Press and Registration of Books Act provides the registration of the memoranda of the books. A book is to be kept at every such office and by an officer appointed by the State Government; such a book is to be known as the Catalogue of Books printed in India.
Such memoranda of the book shall contain the following details:
- The name of the book and the contents of the title page
- The name of the author, editor, or translator of the book
- The language used in the book
- The subject and size of the book
- The name or firm of the printing press and the name or firm of the publisher
- The place of printing and publication
- Date of issuance of the book or newspaper from the media or the publication
- The first, second, or other number of the edition
- The number of sheets, leaves, or pages
- The number of copies of which the edition consists
- The price at which the book is sold to the public
- Whether the book is printed, cyclostyled, or lithographed
- The name and address of the proprietor of the copyright.
Such memoranda of books shall be published in the official gazette of India as per Section 19 of the Act.
Registration of Newspapers
According to Sections 19A and 19B of the Act, the Central Government has the authority to appoint the Registrar of Newspapers in India to function all the powers conferred under the Act.
A Register of Newspaper is to be harboured by the Press Registrar and should consist of details which include the following
- Title of the newspaper,
- Place of printing,
- Language in which the newspaper is published,
- Number of days of publication in a year,
- Name of the editor,
- Printer and the publisher,
- The average number of copies printed,
- The retail selling price of each document,
- Periodicity of publication of the newspaper,
- Name and address of the owner of the newspaper and any other details, if required
Power of State and Central Government in Making Rules
Section 20 of the Press and Registration of Books Act empowers the State government to make necessary rules.
Section 20A empowers the Central Government to make rules, which include the following:
- Prescribing the particulars of a declaration
- Providing the form and manner in which the name of the editor, printer, and publisher is to be printed on the book or the newspaper
- Prescribing a way in which a register of newspapers is to be maintained,
- Prescribing the fees for furnishing copies of the extracts from the register,
- Prescribing a form in which the Press Registrar will prepare an annual report, etc.
The Press and Registration of Books Act is a pivotal move in regulating the printing industry and safeguarding freedom of expression. The Act ensures maintaining authenticity and credibility by maintaining social harmony. To maintain discrepancy and prevent the dissemination of false content, the Act requires the publishers to keep a record of their activity. Thus, an adequate track of ethical standards is ensured so that the public may have accurate and reliable content.
Thus, the Press and Registration of Books Act 1867 is a stringent law that provides specific regulatory standards for various printing presses and newspaper publishers, thereby averting any abuse of the right of freedom of the press.
What is the Press and Registration of Books Act 1867 about?
The Press and Registration of Books Act deals with printing and publishing books and newspapers in India.
What was the objective behind the enactment of the Press and Registration of Books Act?
The objective of enacting this Act was the regulation of printing presses and newspapers, preserving the copies of every book and newspaper printed in India and registering them.
For whom is the Press and Registration of Books Act made?
The Press and Registration of Books Act was introduced for printers, publishers, editors, and people wanting to start newspaper publishing and book printing.
Was the 1960 amendment successful, and what more problems did it create?
The 1960 amendment was ineffective; instead, it created administrative problems and gave immense power to the Press Registrar, leading to abuse of power.
What are the powers of the Press Registrar under this Act?
The Press Registrar holds unlimited powers such as the registration of newspapers with title clearance and checking whether the same name has been registered.