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Press and Registration of Periodicals (PRP) Bill 2023

Context:

The Union Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister introduced the Press and Registration of Periodicals (PRP) Bill 2023 in the Rajya Sabha.

  • The Bill seeks to replace the existing Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act 1867, which governs the registration of print and publishing industry in the country.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867
  2. Salient Provisions of the PRB Bill 2023
  3. Significance of the PRP Bill 2023

The Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867:

Aim and Scope:

  • The PRB Act, 1867, serves to regulate the printing press and newspapers in India.
  • It also mandates the preservation of copies of books and newspapers printed in India.
  • The Act provides for the registration of books and newspapers.

Inclusion and Exclusion:

  • The definition of ‘Book’ under the Act includes pamphlets, sheets of music, maps, charts, etc.
  • Notably, electronic media falls outside the purview of this Act, as established in the case of Sanjay Pinto v. A. Kamaraj, 2011.

Salient Provisions of the PRB Bill 2023:

  • Simplified Registration Process: The PRB Bill 2023 aims to streamline the registration process for periodicals, making it more accessible and straightforward for publishers.
  • One-Time Registration for Digital News Platforms: Digital news platforms will be required to undergo a “one-time registration” to operate legally, ensuring better regulation and accountability in the digital media space.
  • Empowerment of Press Registrar General (PRG): The Bill grants authority to the PRG to suspend or cancel registrations, giving them the power to enforce compliance and take necessary actions against non-compliant publishers.
  • Prohibition for Convicted Individuals: Individuals who have been convicted of offences related to terrorist acts, unlawful activities, or activities against the security of the state will be barred from publishing periodicals, ensuring the integrity of the publishing sector.
  • Single Online Intimation: The requirement for publishers and printers to file declarations before the district magistrate (DM) is eliminated, and a single online intimation will be introduced to both the PRG and DM, simplifying the reporting process.
  • Reduced Punishment for Improper Declaration: The PRB Bill reduces the severity of punishment for improper declaration of information by publishers. Jail sentences will be limited to cases where a periodical is published without a registration certificate, and the publisher fails to cease printing despite a six-month directive from the PRG.
  • Appellate Authority: The Bill establishes the Press and Registration Appellate Board, consisting of the chairperson of the Press Council of India (PCI) and two PCI members. This authority will hear appeals related to registration refusals, penalties, and suspension or cancellation of registration imposed by the PRG.

Significance of the PRP Bill 2023:

  • Transparency and Ease of Doing Business: The PRP Bill 2023 aims to simplify the registration process for periodicals, providing a more straightforward and efficient mechanism. This will particularly benefit small and medium publishers, promoting transparency and ease of doing business in the publishing sector.
  • Regulation of Digital News Media: By bringing digital news platforms under its purview, the PRP Bill 2023 addresses the gap in regulation for these platforms. It aims to combat the spread of fake news and misinformation by subjecting digital news apps, websites, and social media accounts to the registration process.
  • Covering Digital News Platforms: Currently, traditional print and electronic media are governed by various laws, while digital news platforms lack a registration process. The PRP Bill, along with the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, makes it mandatory for digital news platforms to register with the government, ensuring a more comprehensive and regulated media landscape.
  • Focus on Core Subject: The PRP Bill has a focused approach, concentrating on periodicals and digital news media, while books have been taken out of its purview. Books are now administered by the Ministry of Education, allowing the PRP Bill to concentrate on its core objective.
  • Decriminalization: Compared to the PRB Act 1867, the PRP Bill significantly reduces criminal provisions. By limiting jail sentences to specific cases of non-compliance, the Bill decriminalizes the publishing process, making it less punitive for publishers. This shift aims to promote a more progressive and conducive environment for the publishing industry.

Source: Indian Express


February 2024
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