Rajya Sabha clears bill to ease registration steps for periodicals, newspapers | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Rajya Sabha clears bill to ease registration steps for periodicals, newspapers

By, New Delhi
Aug 04, 2023 04:33 AM IST

Thakur said that those involved in terrorist activities or unlawful activities against the state will not be granted permission to start a paper or periodical.

The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed a bill that seeks to simplify the registration process for periodicals and newspapers, and do away with several penal provisions that led to prosecution and imprisonment of publishers.

Union minister Anurag Thakur speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Thursday, August 3.(PTI)
Union minister Anurag Thakur speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Thursday, August 3.(PTI)

The Press and Registration of Periodicals (PRP) Bill, 2023 that aims to replace the existing Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act, 1867 was passed by a voice vote. The bill, approved by the Union Cabinet last month, will soon be tabled in the Lok Sabha.

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Information and broadcasting (I&B) minister Anurag Thakur said the legislation will lead to ease of doing business for media and publishing companies, simplify the process of registration and decriminalise several “colonial-era” penal provisions.

“Earlier, the registration process involved eight steps, now it will be done in just a single step through an online portal. The online applications will be filed before the district magistrate (DM) and the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI). In case, the DM does not respond within 60 days, the RNI can give permission on its own,” he said.

“It means the process that used to take two to three years will now be completed within two to three months,” he added.

As per the existing provisions, a person who wishes to launch a newspaper or publish a periodical needs to submit an application with the DM, who will forward the same to the RNI to check for title availability. Once the RNI conveys the availability of the title to the DM, the latter administers the oath to the person keen on launching the newspaper or publish the periodical as per provisions of the PRB Act.

Thakur said the portal for filing online applications will be launched this month itself. “You will not need to go anywhere for registration now. The entire process will now be online and easy,” he said.

The bill also empowers the PRG to suspend or cancel the registration in case it has been obtained by furnishing false information or the publisher fails to publish periodicals continuously or provided false particulars in annual statements, Thakur said.

The bill further seeks to do away with the penal provisions of the PRB Act, which made improper declaration of information a punishable offence with a prison term of up to six months.

The bill empowers the PRG to impose penalties of up to 5 lakh for publishing periodicals without registration or failing to furnish annual statements within the specified time. In case the periodical is published without registration, the PRG 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.

Thakur said that those involved in terrorist activities or unlawful activities against the state will not be granted permission to start a paper or periodical.

The legislation provides a provision for an “appellate authority”, comprising a 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.

During the discussion, YSRCP member V Vijayasai Reddy, said there is a need for a more independent press, free from corporate influences, concerted action towards fake news, and a more empowered Press Council.

TDP member Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar said the bill should ensure upholding the spirit of media freedom.

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