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Press and Registration of Periodicals (PRP) Bill 2023

  • Context (PIB): Lok Sabha passed the Press and Registration of Periodicals (PRP) Bill, 2023.
  • The Bill replaces the Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act 1867.

Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867

  • Regulation of the printing press, mandatory preservation of copies and registration of books & newspapers was included in the Act.
  • Electronic media is outside the purview of this Act (reiterated in Sanjay Pinto v. A. Kamaraj, 2011).
  • Only the District Magistrate had Suo-motu power to cancel or suspend the periodical registration.
  • Offences attracted prison terms of up to six months, a fine, or both.

Provisions of the PRP Bill 2023

  • The Bill simplifies the registration process for periodicals.
  • One-time registration is mandated for digital news platforms.
  • The Bill empowers the Press Registrar General (PRG) to suspend/cancel registration.
  • Convicts of terrorist acts, unlawful activity, or acts against the state’s security will not be allowed to operate periodicals.
  • Foreign periodicals can be printed in India with prior approval of the Central Government.
  • The requirement to file a declaration before the District Magistrate is replaced with Online intimation.
  • Decriminalisation: A six-month prison term is specified only for the continued operation of non-registered periodicals after direction by PRG.
  • Any refusal of grant of registration and penalty or cancellation can be appealed against.
  • The Press and Registration Appellate Board will comprise the Chairperson-Press Council of India (PCI) and two members of the PCI.
  • The Press Council of India (PCI) is a statutory body under the Press Council Act 1978.

Significance of the PRP Bill 2023

  • Transparency and ease of doing business by simplification of process.
  • Bill covers digital media, addressing the issue of fake news.
  • Books are excluded from the PRP Bill’s purview, administered by the Ministry of Education.

Criticism of PRP Bill 2023

  • Expansion of power beyond PRG, including law enforcement agencies, can restrict press freedom.
  • The power to enter the premises of Press organisations to PRG is considered intrusive.
  • Concerns are being raised against the power to frame rules for the Central government.
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