Saturday, 25 February 2017

Regulations and Legislations of freedom of Press

Historical Evolution of Laws

Media Laws

In the next few years there was an emergence of other newspapers which were inspired by Hickey. In 1780 there were publications like the India Gazette, followed by Calcutta Gazette, Bengal journal, oriental magazine of Calcutta Amusement and Chronicle. Censorship was first introduced in Madras in 1795 when Madras Gazette was required to submit all general orders of the government for scrutiny by the military secretary before publication. The most significant aspect of this period, i.e. 18th century, was that there were no Press laws as such but the government took summary action against the offending newspapers. The pattern of the government was to deport incorrigible editors, deny postal facilities to the unrepentant and to require those who persisted in causing displeasure to the government to submit either a part or the whole newspaper for censorship. This amply shows that the Press did not have unfettered freedom or even reasonable freedom as form of expression. Besides this there were various regulations and legislations to restraint and curb the freedom of the Press.

Press regulation of 1799: Governor General Wellesley issued a regulation requiring newspapers, to print the names of the printers, publishers and editors of newspapers and to submit all materials published in the paper for pre- censorship by the secretary to the Government of India. Any breach was punishable with deportation from India.
James Silk Bukingham and Raja Ram Mohun Roy played an important role in establishing the freedom of the press in India. Buckingham was an indomitable fighter for the freedom of the press.

Ordinance of 1823: Jhon Adam did not like that the newspapers would sit in judgment of the government or that they should bring public measures or conduct of public officers before what it called “public opinion”. He therefore issued an ordinance introducing the licencing of the Press under which all matter printed in the Press, except commercial matter, required a pre licence from the Governor General. This regulation made under the ordinance empowered magistrates to dispose of both unlicensed printing presses and those which continued to function after notice of recall.

Act of 1857: Licencing was reintroduced by Lord Cannings Act of 1857. An important feature of the law was that it did not make any distinction between European and Indian publications. It imposed a prohibition that “no newspaper shall contain any observation or statement impugning the designs or motives of the British government either in England or in India or in any way tending to bring the said government into hatred or contempt, to excite dissatisfaction or act unlawful to its orders or to weaken its lawful authority it the authority of its civil military servants or observations or statements having a tendency to create alarm or suspicion among the native population of any intended interference by the government with their religious opinions and observations having tendency to weaken  the friendship towards the British government of native princes”.

Indian Penal Code 1860: The year 1860 was a landmark in as much as it saw the passing of the Indian Penal code, which made the offences of defamation and obscenity punishable and those provisions were applicable to the Press too. Section 124A which made sedition punishable was included in the code in 1870. Section 153A, 154B and 295A which dealt with the offences promoting enmity between different classes, making of imputations or assertion prejudicial to national integration and outraging religious feelings was subsequently added to the code.

Vernacular Press Act 1878: The rapid growth of the Indian Language Press like the Amrita Bazar Patrika made the government rather uneasy. The passing of the Vernacular Press Act by Lord Lytton which was specifically directed against newspapers published in Indian languages. It empowered the government, to issue warrants and to enter the premises of any Press, even courts.

Criminal Procedure Code 1898: Though the Criminal Procedures Code 18988 was a general law laying down the procedures in criminal matters, it came to include matters of interest to the Press like Section 108 particularly after the insertion of section 99A-99G in 1922, which conferred certain procedural powers upon the government to search for forfeit publications which offended against the provisions of section 124A, 153A, or 295 A of the IPC.

Act of 1908: The Government of India, being faced with seditious activities passed the Newspapers(incitement to offences) Act which empowered the magistrates to seize a Press on being satisfied that a newspaper therein contained incitement to murder or any other form of violence.

Act of 1910: The Act of 1908 was followed by a more comprehensive Act of 1910, Indian Press act, directed against offences involving violence as well as sedition. It empowered the government to require a deposit of security by the keeper of any Press which contained matter inciting sedition, murder or any other offence under the Explosive Substance Act, and also provide forfeit of such deposit in specified contingencies.

Official Secrets Acts, 1923: In order to have a greater impact and control on the Press, the Official Secrets Act was enacted in 1923 to maintain the security of the state against leakage of secret information, sabotage and the like.

Press Ordinance Act, 1930: The framing of Swaraj Constitution in 1927 and the recommendations of the Motilal Nehru Committee in 1928 which contained a number of fundamental rights including the right of free expression, the passing of resolution for complete Independence for India in 1929, the launching of Civil Disobedience Movement by Mahatma Gandhi in 1930 and the activities of the nationalist Press scared the British Government which issued inter alia, the Press Ordinance Act, 1930 reproducing the stringent provisions of the repealed Act of 1910.