Lok Sabha passes Press And Registration Of Periodicals Bill

Bid to simplify the registration process of periodicals, printing press registration   

Lok Sabha passes Press And Registration Of Periodicals Bill

The Lok Sabha on 21 December 2023 passed the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023, repealing the colonial era law of the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 that governs the registration of print and publishing industry in the country. The Rajya Sabha had on 3 August 2023 passed the Bill during the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

The Union Cabinet had earlier approved the PRP Bill – introduced in Rajya Sabha on August 1 – that seeks to simplify the registration process for periodicals and do away with the provision for prosecution and imprisonment of publishers.  

Introducing the Bill in the Lok Sabha, minister for Information & Broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur said, “The Bill reflects yet another step of the Modi Government towards jettisoning the mentality of slavery and bringing new laws for new India”. He said it has been the priority of the government to end criminality, improve ease of doing business and ease of living through new laws and accordingly, efforts have been made to substantially decriminalize the colonial era statute.

The three main goals of the Bill, according to the government, are “ease of doing business; removing unnecessary procedural obstacles for publishers; and unburdening the owners of printing presses and publishers from the onerous task of furnishing declaration before the district magistrate and filing of revised declaration every time there were any changes in its particulars”.

The new Bill does away with the need to file a declaration before the district magistrate and junks the penal provisions of the PRB Act that made the improper declaration of information a punishable offense with a prison term of up to six months.

Those involved in terrorist activities or unlawful activities against the state, however, will not be granted permission to start a paper or periodical.

The registration process will be time-bound, starting with an online application to be filed before the district magistrate and the Registrar of the Newspapers for India.

“If DM replies within 60 days, then RNI would issue a license considering it or will go ahead even without that if no reply comes from within that time frame,” he said.

Key features:

Registration of periodicals: The Bill provides for the registration of periodicals, which include any publication containing public news or comments on public news. Periodicals do not include books or scientific and academic journals.

Press registrar general: It provides for the appointment of the press registrar general of India, who will issue registration certificates for all periodicals. Other functions include – maintaining a register of periodicals; making guidelines for the admissibility of title of periodicals;  verifying circulation figures of prescribed periodicals; and revising, suspending, or canceling registration.

Registration of a printing press: Information regarding printing presses has to be submitted to the press registrar general through an online portal. The old Act required a declaration before the DM.

Suspension and cancellation of registration: The press registrar general can suspend a periodical’s registration for a minimum period of 30 days, which can extend to 180 days. The registration may be suspended due to – registration obtained by furnishing false information; failure to publish periodicals continuously; giving false particulars in annual statements.

The press registrar general may cancel the registration if the publisher does not correct such anomalies. The registration may also be canceled if — a periodical has the same or similar title as any other periodical; the owner/ publisher has been convicted of a terrorist act or unlawful activity, or for acting against the security of the state.

Penalties and appeal: The Bill empowers the press registrar general to impose penalties for – publishing periodicals without registration (up to Rs 5 lakh); failing to furnish annual statement within the specified time (up to Rs 20,000 on first default). If a periodical is published without registration, the press registrar general may direct its publication to be stopped. Not complying with such direction within six months will be punishable with imprisonment of up to six months.

Any person may appeal against the refusal to issue a registration certificate, suspension/ cancellation of registration, or imposition of penalty before the Press and Registration Appellate Board within 60 days.

The Editors Guild of India had, however, expressed concern over what it called “draconian provisions” in Bill and urged the Lok Sabha Speaker to refer it to a Parliamentary Select Committee. In its statement in August, the Guild said the new legislation “widens the powers of the state to have more intrusive and arbitrary checks” of publications.

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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