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Reproduce newspapers in electronic form: I&B Ministry

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NEW DELHI: The government intends to bring ‘reproduction of any newspaper in electronic form’ within the ambit of the Press and Registration of Books Act.

In the amendments proposed to the PRB Act, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) has also proposed inclusion of a section which says 'paid news' means publishing any news or analysis in the publication for a price in cash or kind as consideration.

The amendments, which have been placed on the website of the ministry, also says that ‘facsimile edition’ of a publication means an exact replica in full or in part of the original edition of a foreign publication ‘in so far as the contents concerned and may not include title’, subject to the condition that any page is not published in part.

The government also proposes to establish a Press and Registration Appellate Board to be constituted by the central government, by notification in the official gazette, consisting of a chairperson and another member, to be nominated by the Press Council of India, established under section 4 of the Press Council Act 1978 from among its members.

It says any dispute relating to registration of newspapers or publications would be referred to a ‘specified appellate authority’ that may be prescribed by the central government.

Under the amendments, publication means newspapers, magazines, journals or newsletters printed periodically and published in India ‘including its reproduction in electronic form or any syndication, facsimile edition, and Indian editions of periodicals published outside India.’

While noting that the Press Registrar General will consider all applications of new titles ‘as soon as practicable’, the amendment says an application for a title may be rejected if it is ‘same or similar to that of a known foreign publication’, subject to the proviso that ‘the same or similar title shall not be rejected if the Indian entity seeking the title has a tie-up with the owners of the title of such a foreign publication’.

The amendment further says that no publication shall be printed and published in India except with the prior approval of the central government granted if such publication is owned by or has investment from any individual who is not an Indian citizen or foreign unincorporated body of individuals or body corporate incorporated under the law of any country other than India.

Furthermore, the Press Registrar General may reject, after giving the person concerned an opportunity of showing cause against the action proposed to be taken, and holding an inquiry into the matter, if he is satisfied that the publication mentioned in the declaration is found indulging or having indulged in the practice of ‘paid news’, on the basis of adjudication by the Press Council of India or any other quasi-judicial/judicial authority. Till a decision is taken, the Press Registrar General may suspend the publication of such publication.

Furthermore, any person aggrieved by an order of a specified authority refusing to authenticate a declaration under section 10 or cancelling a declaration under section 19 (l) (a) to (d) may appeal within 60 days from the date on which such order is communicated to him to the Press and Registration Appellate Board and may entertain an appeal after the expiry of the said period, if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from appealing on time.

The Appellate Board may, after calling for the records from the specified authority and after making such further inquiries as it thinks fit, confirm, modify or set aside the order appealed against. The decision of the Appellate Board shall be final in respect of provisions given in sub section 19(1) (a) to (d).

Any person aggrieved by an order of the specified authority for suspension of publication under the provision of section 19(1)(e) will still be free to approach a court of law.

In case of change of name or place of press, a fresh declaration will not be necessary if this information is given to the specified authority within five days.

It shall be the duty of the publisher, and owner in the absence of the publisher, of every publication ‘to furnish details of the advertisement revenue of the publication as and when asked for.

Whoever prints or publishes any book or publication otherwise than in conformity with the provision of section 3 will have to explain the reasons for this and to complete the formalities as specified in this section.

In its penal provision, the government has said that any contravention of sub-section (1) will invite a fine not exceeding Rs 5,000 in addition to suspension of the publication for a period of 30 days.

Furthermore, whoever owns any press, other than in conformity with the provision of section 4 will have to explain for such activity and to complete the formalities as specified in that section. For contravention of sub section (1), the person shall be liable to a fine not exceeding Rs 5,000 in addition to sealing of the printing press for a period of 30 days.

The amendment says that ‘In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power' such rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely: the period of suspension of the declaration under sub-section (i) of section 19 , and the manner of filing appeals to the specified appellate authority under sub-section (1) of section 20.

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