Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023

Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023

News: The Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023 was passed by the Parliament. It replaces the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, which governed the registration of print and publishing industry in the country since 1867.

What was the need for a new Law?
• The Press & Registration of Books Act, 1867 is a colonial era Act enacted with an aim to regulate the Printing Presses and newspapers with severe penalties including imprisonment for non-compliances of its provisions. The processes under the Act were cumbersome and complex causing unnecessary hardships to publishers for running a newspaper.
• The Act necessitated the involvement of multiple offices in the State and the Central Government resulting in delays and impediments at multiple levels.
• Owing to the processes explained above, there is high pendency of applications for registration from publishers across India. The manual processing and verification of multiple physical documents at DM Office and at RNI have added to the processing time.
• The penalties which included imprisonment even for minor non-compliances was not matching with the ethos of the independent India and its constitutional values.
• 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.

How does the PRP Bill, 2023 benefit the publishers/citizens?
• Simplified Procedures: The applications for Title Verification and Registration have been combined to form a single step. As per the new Bill, the publisher and printer need not file separate applications.
• Use of technology: The use of technology along with provisions for online applications and automated processing shall enhance the speed of registration process significantly. Further, coordinating with 700 plus districts (DMs) in India has become easier with the provision for online applications and processing.
• Transparency and time-bound processing: The publisher shall be able to stay updated on the status of the applications.
• Decriminalization: The new Bill substantially decriminalizes all violations under the old one. Earlier, minor violations of the Act were penalized with imprisonment up to six months.
• The new Bill provides the much-needed clarity: The new Bill adds clarity on various procedures/cases such as facsimile editions of a foreign publication, Circulation Verification of newspapers, Ownership Transfer, and others. The new Bill has taken away the provisions of registration of books and related clauses from the purview of the PRB Act, 1867.

Key differences between the PRB Act, 1867 and the PRP Bill, 2023:
• Registration of periodicals: The 1867 Act provides for the registration of newspapers, periodicals, and books. It also provides for the cataloguing of books. The 2023 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.
• Registration of a printing press: The 1867 Act requires a printing press to be declared before the DM. The PRP Bill, 2023 allows for information regarding printing presses to be submitted through an online portal.
• Appellate authority: The new Bill also provides for an appellate authority. The Appellate Board (Press and Registration Appellate Board) will comprise the 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. Such appeals may be filed before the Press and Registration Appellate Board within 60 days.

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