Monday, April 19, 2010

Official Secrets Act (OSA), 1923

An "Invalid" Act?

Passed in April 1923 by the Legislative Council, the Act was never notified in the Gazette of India. To become law, every Act must be notified in the Gazette of India. The National Archives of India, ministries of Home and Law say they are not in possession of any such notification. None exists in the 1923 Gazette of India either. Legal luminaries say that if an Act is not notified, it is an "invalid" law. The OSA was amended twice, in 1951 and 1967, and made more stringent. But only the amendments were notified in the 'Extraordinary Gazette of India'.

Forget its validity. Let’s talk about the Act:

    * OSA was designed to protect the British executive in India from accountability. British strategy in India was to deal with matters internally allowing only senior officials to explain government policy. However once the OSA was enacted in Britain in 1889, it was duplicated in India. The Act was enacted to prevent the disclosure of any information rather than deal with either spying or state security. In 1967 amendments were brought post Indo-Pakistan War but in place of liberating the law it actually increased penalties and facilitated prosecution.

    * OSA is a major impediment in the way of freedom of the press. This has been misused time and again by the state machinery to shut the mouth of the press. This law was enacted by the colonial regime to protect the executive from public scrutiny and transparency.

    * OSA defines a number of offences which are a threat to the National Security. Its aim is to prevent any threat to (i) National Security (ii) Leakage of Secret Information; (iii) Sabotage of the System; etc.

OSA roughly has two parts:

1. Spying: The punishment for spying on the country’s defence system is a prison term of up to 14 years.

2. Unauthorized communication: of any Secret Official Code / Passwords / Sketch / Plan

(Blueprint) / Model / Article / Note / Document / Information.

Supporters of Freedom of the Press consider this act as the most deadly of all laws affecting the Press in India. According to this Act, a person passing Official Secrets clandestinely to the enemies of the State is punishable for 3 to 14 years.

During Mrs. Gandhi’s infamous emergency (1975-1977), this Act caused a grave threat to the Freedom of the Press like the black law of censorship.

The basic features however remained the same:

Section 3:

§         Prohibits approaching, inspecting, passing over or entering in the vicinity of a prohibited place. Under the Act, it is also an offence to obtain, collect, record, publish or communicate to any other person these items or any "other document or information which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be, directly, or indirectly, useful to an enemy or which is likely to affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State or friendly relations with Foreign States."

§         The basic premise of the Section is that even if the case against the accused is not proven, "his conduct or his known character as proved" could create a presumption that his action was prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state. As in British courts, "enemy" has been interpreted to include "potential enemy".

Penalty for spying: 14 years of imprisonment.

Section 5:

§         This section happens to be the catch-all provision of the OSA. It relates to the willful communication, uses, retention or failure to take reasonable care of all information which has been entrusted in confidence to him by any person holding office, or which he has obtained or which he has had access to owing to his position. The voluntary reception, possession or control of any such information is also an offence.

§         If there is knowledge or reasonable cause to believe that such information is communicated in contravention of  Section 5(2) of the Act shall be punishable for a term which may extend to 3 years, with or without fine.

What is 'Official Secret'?

It includes any kind of information; any official code, password, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or information. The only qualification is that it should be "secret". The word "secret" or "official secrets" actually remain undefined in the Act.

The only clarity being that the Act applies only to official secrets and not to secrets of a private nature. Hence, the Act extends to ministry or department of the government, but not to an incorporated body like a university, government company or public corporation.

 Since, there is no definition of "secret" in the Act the Government has the discretion to classify anything and everything as a "secret" as per the Official Secrets Act. The typical practice of the government is to treat any information as secret, merely because it may embarrass the government or the party in power.

The OSA 1923 was enacted with the purpose of protecting the safety and integrity of the State, but unfortunately the wide discretionary powers conferred upon the administrative authorities with a view to facilitating the task of protection of National Security were being exercised indiscriminately. There is no doubt that a statute of the nature of OSA is an indispensable requirement of a sovereign State but at the same time without necessary precaution, it is a grave threat to Freedom of the Press and transparency in governance.

The OSA and Article 19(1) (A):

Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution guarantees the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression to every citizen. The Freedom of Speech and Expression does include the right to acquire and disseminate information. The OSA 1923, it is claimed, violates all these rights by virtue of the restrictions it puts on the Freedom of Information. The vague provisions of the OSA 1923 also facilitate attempts on the part of the Government to threaten Media Personnel.

While discussing the conflict between these two Acts, it would be remarkable to quote the Judicial verdict in the famous State of UP v Raj Narain:

…" In a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the Public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way, by their public functionaries. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing. The right to know, which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute, is a factor, which should make one wary, when secrecy is claimed for transactions, which can, at any rate have no repercussions on public security.”…

Commission and Committee Reports On The Constitutionality Of The OSA:

Several Commissions and Committees have reviewed the OSA; the Press Laws Inquiry Committee (1948), the Press Commission (1954), the Law Commission (1971) and also by a Study Group appointed by the Central Government in 1977.

The First Press Commission though endorsed the Pro- Secrecy stance of the Press Laws Inquiry Committee did also make one other important observation:

"We agree with the contention that merely because a circular is marked secret or confidential, it should not attract the provisions of the Act, if the publication thereof is in the interest of the Public and no question of National Emergency and interest of the State as such arises."

The Second Press Commission and the Press Council of India had recommended that Section 5 be scrapped. The commission suggested its replacement by provisions modeled on those of the British Freedom of Information Bill, 1978. The Council asked for the repeal of the OSA and to enact a new legislation, which may be called Freedom of Information Act.

In the era of RTI this British Raj draconian Act is against the very spirit of transparency in governance in a modern democratic state like that of ours. Verappa Moily led 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission recommended this act to be repealed or scrapped. The Moily Commission has suggested that safeguards for State Security should be incorporated into the National Security Act (NSA) instead of the OSA.

Let us hope that with the RTI Act 2005, we have left the colonial legacy of OSA far behind to march in the era of freedom.


Though the law of Sedition was added in 1870, to Indian Penal Code (IPC) as Section 124A the word “Sedition” does not occur in Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code or in the Defense of India Rule. It is only found as a marginal note to Section 124-A, and is not an operative part of the section but merely provides the name by which the crime defined in the section will be known. It prohibits incitement or attempt to incite disaffection against the govt. by spoken, written words or signs.

In the following years, more clauses were added to the IPC:

•    In 1898, Clauses on action against promoting enmity between classes;
•    In 1907 action against outrageous religious feelings, and the same action against assertions related to national integration was added.
•    In 1908, Newspapers Act was passed empowering magistrates to cease a press wherein a newspaper containing matters which incited murder or any other act of violence or offences under the Explosives Substance Act.
•    In 1910 the Indian Press Act came into existence. This comprehensive law was aimed at offences like violence and seditions. Under this Act, the govt. had the right to demand security deposit from the press or forfeit the publication.
•    In 1913, this Act was made more repressive but later on it was repealed.
•    In 1923, came another piece of stringent law, the Official Secrets Act. This prohibited the publication of classified official information.

The Law of Sedition relates to the uttering of the seditious words, the publication of seditious libels, and conspiracies to do an act for the furtherance of a seditious intention. It is the right of every citizen to discuss public affairs fully and freely but such discussions must not be directed to the incitement of unlawful acts or calculated to excite disaffection.

In Tara Singh v. State of Punjab, section 124-A was struck down by the SC as unconstitutional being contrary to freedom of speech and Expression guaranteed under Art 19(1) (a). The constitutional 1st (Amendment) Act, 1951 added in Art 19 (2) two words, “in the interest of public order”.

In the case of Kedarnath v. State of Bihar the SC held that any law which is enacted in the interest of public order may be saved from the voice of constitutional invalidity. The court had further observed that the right guaranteed under Art 19(1) (a) is subject to such reasonable restriction as would come within the purview of clause (2) to Art 19 which comprises (a) security of the State, (b) friendly relations with foreign states, (c) public order, (d) decency or morality, etc.
It further held that the continued existence of the government established by law is an essential condition of the stability of the state. Hence, any act within the meaning of section 124-A, which has the effect of subverting the Government by bringing that Government into contempt or hatred, or creating disaffection against it, would be within the penal statute because the feeling of disloyalty to the Government established by law or enmity to it imports the idea of tendency to public disorder by the use of actual violence or incitement to violence.

In a charge under section 124-A of the penal code, the prosecution must prove that the intention of the writer or the speaker is to bring into hatred or contempt or excite or attempt to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law.

In Kedar Nath’s case, CJ Bhuvneshwar P. Sinha, observed, “Comments, however strongly worded expressing, disapprobation of actions of Govt., without exciting those feelings which generate the inclination to cause public disorder by acts of violence, would not be penal.”

In order to sustain a conviction under section 124-A, it must be proved (a) that the accused spoke the words in question, (b) that he thereby brought or attempted to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection, and (c) that such disaffection was towards the Govt. established by law in India.

Some cases in the immediate past:

There are several cases where the state, by bringing laws in different names has tried to impose its authority. To name: the case of Binayaka Sen in Chattisgarh, of Prashant  Rahi in Uttarakhand are just a few which have hit the headlines. These people have been charged with sedition and waging war against the state when they stood up for the rights of a disadvantaged community in Naxal hit areas.

    Macherla Mohan Rao, a man from Chirala in Andhra Pradesh, had spearheaded the movement for rights of handloom workers for decades. A special invitee to the Planning Commission, he had attended several meetings to address the problems of the handloom weavers. Mohan Rao was picked up and charged under section 8(1) of the Andhra Pradesh Public Safety Act for allegedly spreading the message of Maoism among the youth.

    Prashant Rahi, a journalist from Uttarkhand, was implicated under various sections including section 124A of the IPC and sections 10 and 20 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act  (UAPA).

    Govindan Kutty, 68-year-old editor of a monthly journal People's March in Kerala, was arrested on charges related to an article he wrote in 2002 justifying an attack, allegedly by Maoists on then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu. He has also been charged under the IPC S. 124A apart from other sections including the UAPA.

    Praful Jha, 60-yearold former bureau chief of Dainik Bhaskar , was arrested on January 22, 2008 for his alleged links to a cache of arms seized by the police in Raipur. Though not implicated under 124A he has been charged under various other sections with similar intention.

Govindan Kutty, Praful Jha, Pittala Srisailam, Lachit Bordoloi….all of them journalists and human rights activists were arrested on charges of supporting or sympathizing with the Naxals. The arrests indicate a disturbing pattern especially because in most of the cases there is no charge of violence or any actual crime committed.

The arrests are symbolic of government’s growing intolerance of people who hold political beliefs that go against the new economic polices pursued by the government.

        There might be an RTI Act, an article 19 (1) guaranteeing freedom of expression and many more laws and judgments but what will happen without the intention to abide in letter and spirit.

Broadcast Code in India

With the recent banning of FTV till 21st March by I&B Ministry, the regulation debate seems to have returned once again after it hit headlines in the post Mumbai attack scenario. It had showed “indecent” stuff during the day which can be shown only after 11 p.m. at night. It is another matter that the same I&B ministry has a Film Censor board that clears profanities and bikini scenes for films in the name of creative freedom.

Television in India has come to the forefront in the last 10 years. From two channels prior to 1991, there are now around 500 channels with multiple operators and niche channels. This explosion has posed challenges for ethics, accountability and transparency across the industry.
                                              Since 1997, there has been the Prasar Bharati Act, promising autonomy, and the Cable Regulation Act, almost equally liberal. The rules of programming are there in the programme code of the Cable Act of 1995 for all to follow. Since the ministry cannot monitor the content of each of them, the sector has remained virtually without any regulation.

But the media seems to have little respect for this autonomy and has involved in all sorts of frivolous activity.
Rule 7 (11), Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 states: “No programme shall carry advertisements exceeding 12 minutes per hour.” An analysis of prime time of six news channels showed that the violation of this law is more the norm than the exception . Five of the six news channels of this study had an average of around 30% and on some channels, 60% of prime time slots went to ads!
There was this fake sting operation against Delhi school teacher Uma Khurana- a totally fabricated television story that sparked off riots in the Capital. This was a blatant violation of all canons of journalistic ethics.

Given the background of how our advertisement dependent media has degenerated and is still struggling for revenue, the question is, “Should we bring broadcasting industry under a more stringent regulatory regime?”

Before moving further let us take a look at the Broadcasting:

Although, the Broadcast Code was chiefly set up to govern the All India Radio, they have ideally been practiced by all Broadcasting and Television Organization; viz: -

     To ensure the objective presentation of news and fair and unbiased comment
     To promote the advancement of education and culture
     To raise and maintain high standards of decency and decorum in all programmes
     To provide programmes for the young which, by variety and content, will inculcate the principles of good citizenship
     To promote communal harmony, religious tolerance and international understanding
     To treat controversial public issues in an impartial and dispassionate manner
     To respect human rights and dignity 

Broadcast codes also do not permit:

a. Criticism of friendly countries
b. Attack on religions or communities
c. Anything obscene or defamatory
d. Incitement to violence or anything against maintenance of law and order
e. Anything amounting to contempt of court
f. Aspersion against the integrity of the President, Governors and the Judiciary
g. Attack on a political party by name
h. Hostile criticism of any state or the centre
i. Anything showing disrespect to the Constitution or advocating change in the Constitution by violence, but advocating changes in a constitutional way should not be debarred.
j. Appeal for funds except for the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, at a time of External Emergency or if the Country is faced with a natural calamity such as floods, earthquake or cyclone
k. Direct publicity for or on behalf of an individual or organisation which is likely to benefit only that individual or organisation
l. Trade names in broadcasts which amount to advertising directly (except in commercial services

The greatest difficulty about setting standards in black and white is that we cannot have a standard code for all times. Our standards of morality are evolving. Ten years back, there were protests following some intimate scenes between two women in Water, the Deepa Mehta film; today, there we have movies like Dostana, showing more or less the same content, with hardly any dissent. Society is constantly evolving its moral code. At the same time there cannot be a diktat from the government on what constitutes appropriate content.

The government did propose a regulatory measure in the form of Broadcasting Service Regulation Bill in 2007 but it was vehemently opposed. Like it or not, any proposed content regulation in India is usually viewed as censorship as is the case with the existing Indian censorship system of movies.
The News Broadcasters’ Association submitted a proposal to the Centre marking an important step towards establishing internal or self-regulatory checks on their operations. Apart from a Code of Ethics, the proposal includes the setting up of a Disputes Redressal Authority to entertain and decide on complaints with respect to the content of any broadcast.

Within India’s complex, dynamic and evolving media environment, one alternative form of regulation can be a concept called co-regulation . It is essentially a cooperative form of regulation to achieve public objectives, some elements of self-regulation as well as of traditional command and control regulation. The possible prime benefits of co-regulation can be the expertise and flexibility offered by a more specialized industry-based organization and also a detached regulatory organization that is accountable.

While there can no perfect system, it’s time the key stakeholders- private broadcasters, government, civil society and viewers get together to evolve a system that will help meet the larger goals.

Coverage of Parliament by a journalist

Our Constitution confers absolute immunity from proceedings in any court of law on all persons connected with the publication of the proceedings of either House of Parliament, if such a publication is made by or under the authority of the House. Article 105 (2) that deals with Parliamentary Privileges says, “No person shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of the publication by order under the authority of a house of Parliament, of any report, paper, votes or proceedings.”

The immunity also applies to the publication in newspapers or broadcasts by wireless telegraphy of substantially true reports of any proceedings of either House of Parliament, provided such reports are for the public good and is not actuated by malice. There are a few provisions that should be kept in mind by a journalist while covering Parliament:

    The immunity is given within the overall limitation that Parliament has the power to control and, if necessary, to prohibit the publication of its debates or proceedings and to punish for the violation of its orders. Generally, there are no restrictions imposed on reporting of the proceedings of the Houses. But, if the proceedings of the Houses or for that matter, of its Committees are reported mala fide or if there is any gross misrepresentation or suppression of the speeches of particular members, it becomes a breach of privilege and contempt of the House warranting punishment.
    Similarly, the Press cannot publish the proceedings or evidence given before or any document presented to a Parliamentary Committee before these have been laid on the Table of the House. Nor is the Press expected to disclose the proceedings or decisions of a secret sitting of the House till the ban or secrecy has been lifted.
    It has also to ensure that portions of debates expunged from the proceedings of the House by the Presiding Officer are not published.

In Pandit M.S.M Sharma v. Shri Krishna Sinha (1959), proceedings for the breach of privilege had been started against an editor of a newspaper for publishing those parts of the speech of a member delivered in Bihar legislative assembly which the speaker had ordered to be expunged from the proceedings of the Assembly. The editor in a writ petition under A. 32 contended that the House of Commons had no privilege to prohibit either the publication of the publicly seen and heard proceedings that took place in the House or of that part of the proceedings which had been directed to be expunged. The Supreme Court by a majority of four to one rejected the contention of the petitioner. The court observed that the House of Commons had at the commencement of our Constitution the power or privilege of prohibiting the publication of even a true and faithful report of the debates or proceedings that took place within the House. A fortiori the House had at the relevant time the power or privilege of prohibiting the publication of an inaccurate version of such debates or proceedings.

Article 361-A: Inserted by the 44th Amendment with effect from June 20, 1979 it provides that no person shall be liable to any proceedings civil or criminal for reporting the proceedings of either House of Parliament or a State Legislature unless the reporting is proved to have been made with malice.
Note: This provision does not apply to the reporting of proceedings of secret sittings of the Houses.

By law and convention, what applies to the Press applies to the other media as well. So the above provisions apply for print and electronic media equally.
Among the mass media, the Press plays an important role in parliamentary life. The Press has two main aspects, as a part of what is known as information industry and as a factor in the formulation of opinion. Most of the raw material for parliamentary questions, motions and debates comes from the Press and this is an important instrument on which a Member of Parliament relies. Simultaneously the Press keeps the people informed of what is happening in Parliament.
Every right carries with it a responsibility. Likewise, every freedom carries with it an obligation. It is primarily for a journalist, the main protagonist of the fourth pillar of democracy to determine what are his/her corresponding responsibilities and obligations while reporting for the highest institution of democracy.

What are the Parliamentary Privileges? Write briefly on the articles of the Constitution dealing with Parliamentary Privileges.

To enable Parliament to discharge functions properly the Constitution confers on each house and each member of the Houses certain, immunities and powers. These peculiar rights are called Parliamentary privileges.

Article105 deals with the powers, privileges, etc., of the Houses of Parliament and of the members and committees thereof:
1. Subject to the provisions of this Constitution and the rules and standing orders regulating the procedure of Parliament, there shall be freedom of speech in Parliament.
2. No Member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceeding in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof, and no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any report, paper, votes or proceedings.
3. In other respects, the powers, privileges and immunities of each House of Parliament, and the members and the committee of each House, shall be such as may from time to time be defined by Parliament by law, and until so defined, shall be those of that House and of its members and committees immediately before the coming into force of Section 15 of the Constitution (44th Amendment) Act, 1978.
4. The provision of clauses (1), (2), and (3) shall apply in relation to persons who by virtue of this Constitution have the right to speak in, and otherwise to take part in the proceedings of, a House of Parliament or any committee thereof as they apply in relation to the members of Parliament.

Note: Article 194, an exact reproduction of Article 105, deals with the State Legislatures and their members and committees.

The freedom is thus is very much absolute but still not absolute and is subject to the following condition:

    Freedom of speech in Parliament would not permit a member to discuss the conduct of any judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court.
    Freedom of speech is subject to the discipline of the rules of Parliament as mentioned in Part V including Articles 107 and 121, the good sense of the members and the control of proceedings by the speaker.
    The freedom of speech guaranteed under clause (1) is different from that which a citizen enjoys as a fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (a).
                   The freedom of speech as a fundamental right is subject to reasonable restrictions under clause (2) of Article 19. The term Freedom of speech as used in this article means that no Member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings, civil and criminal, in any court for the statements made in debates in the Parliament or any committee thereof.
    Again this does not apply to what a Member of Parliament says outside. For example, if a member publishes his speech outside Parliament, he will be held liable if the speech is defamatory. So, the freedom of speech under Article 105 (1) and (2) would be available to a Member of Parliament when he attends the session of Parliament

A divided Court, in P.V.Narsimha Rao v. State has held that the privilege of immunity from courts proceedings in Article 105 (2) extends even to bribes taken by the Members of Parliament for the purpose of voting in a particular manner in Parliament. The court was however unanimous that the members of Parliament who gave bribes, or who took bribes but did not participate in the voting could not claim immunity from court proceeding's under Article 105 (2). A review petition is pending in the court regarding this judgment.

Right of Publication of proceedings:

Article 105 (2): No person shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of the publication by order under the authority of a house of Parliament, of any report, paper, votes or proceedings.
Again common law accords the defence of qualified privilege to fair and accurate unofficial reports of parliamentary proceedings, published in a newspaper or elsewhere. The Parliamentary Proceedings (Protection of Publication) Act, 1956 enacts that no person shall be liable to any proceedings, civil or criminal, in a court in respect of the publication of a substantially true report of the proceedings in either House of the Parliament, unless it is proved that the publication is made with malice.

Other privileges:

Clause (3) of Article 105, as amended declares that the privileges shall be such as determined by Parliament from time to time and until that it shall be such as on 20th June 1979 i.e., on the date of commencement of Section 15 of the 44th Amendment. Before the amendment the privileges of each House and its members were such as those of the House of Commons in England at the time of commencement of the Constitution.

There is freedom from arrest limited to civil causes and doesn’t apply to arrest on criminal charges or to detention under the Preventive Detention Act or if arrest is made under s.151 Criminal Procedure Code. It has been held in K. Anandan Kumar v. Chief Secretary, Government of Madras, that matters of Parliament do not enjoy any special status as compared to an ordinary citizen in respect of valid orders of detention.

The chair enjoys the power of ordering the withdrawal of strangers from any part of the House and when the House sits in a secret session no stranger is permitted to be present in the chamber, lobby or galleries

If any question arises as to the disqualification of a member of any house of parliament, Article 103 states that the question shall be referred to the President whose decision shall be final. The President is however required to act according to the opinion of Election Commission.

Right to regulate internal proceedings: Article 122 provides that the validity of any proceedings shall not be called in question on the ground of any alleged irregularity of procedure, and no officer or member of Parliament in whom powers are vested by or under the Constitution for regulating the procedure or the conduct of business or for maintaining order in Parliament shall be subject to the jurisdiction of any court in respect of the exercise by him of those powers.

A House of Parliament or Legislature can proceed quasi judicially in cases of contempt of its authority or take up motions concerning its privileges and immunities for smooth conduct of its legislative functions but it cannot try anyone or any case directly as a court of justice can. If any question of jurisdiction arises as to a certain matter, it has to be decided by a court of law.
A house of Parliament or State Legislature cannot decide election disputes for which special authorities have been constituted under the Representation of People Act, 1951 enacted in compliance with Article 329.
In Pandit M.S.M Sharma v. Shri Krishna Sinha case the Court held that in case of conflict between fundamental rights under Article 19 (1) (a) and a privilege under Article 194 (3) the latter would prevail. It was explained not to mean that in all cases the privileges shall override the fundamental rights.
There is provision for a committee of privileges. Any matter of breach of privilege or contempt is referred to this committee. The committee has power to summon members or strangers before it. The committee's recommendations are reported to the House which discusses them and gives its own decision.

Article 194 talks about the powers, privileges, etc., of the Houses of Legislature and of the members and committees thereof.
Clause (1): There shall be freedom of speech in the legislature of every State subject to the provisions of Articles 208 and 211. A member cannot accordingly raise discussions as to the conduct of a Supreme Court or a High Court judge. The freedom of speech has been conferred on the legislators are not the general provisions of the Constitution but only such of them as relate to the regulation of the procedure of the Legislature.
Clause (2): The freedom of speech under clause (1) is intended to be absolute and unfettered. Similar freedom is guaranteed in respect of the votes in the Legislature or committees.
If a legislator violates freedom of speech as per A. 211 or any fundamental rights guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution in the Legislative Assembly, he would not be liable for any action in any court; he would not be answerable for that in any court. He may be answerable to the House for such a speech and the Supreme Court may take appropriate action against him in respect of it.

Clause (3): Empowers the State Legislature to make laws prescribing its powers, privileges and immunities. Such law, subject to Article 13 and clause (2) of that article would render it void if it contravenes or abridges any of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Part III.

The right of State Legislatures to punish for contempt can be discussed in the light of passing of an order by an unprecedented Full Bench of 28 judges staying the implementation of the U.P. Assembly resolution ordering two judges of Allahabad High Court to be brought in custody before the Bar of the House to explain why they should not be punished for the contempt of the House.
The two judges had admitted the habeas corpus petition of and granted bail to one Keshav Singh who was undergoing imprisonment in pursuance of the Assembly Resolution declaring him guilty of the breach of privilege.
The resolution of the Assembly and the stay order issued by the Full Bench resulted in a constitutional stalemate. Consequently, the president referred the matter under to the Supreme Court for its opinion. The Supreme Court by a majority of 6:1 held that in India notwithstanding a general warrant issued by the Assembly, the Courts could examine the legality of the committal in proper proceedings.
The SC further stated that Article 226 empowers the High Court to issue a writ of habeas corpus against any authority.

Legislative Assemblies and Parliament never discharge any judicial function and there is no immunity from scrutiny by courts of general warrants issued by the House. Parliament and State Legislatures are duty bound to look carefully before making any law, so that it doesn't harm other rights. At the same time the members have to properly use these privileges and not misuse them. The fact that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely necessitates that the public and the other governing body should always be on vigil.

What is defamation? What are the provisions of IPC dealing with defamation?

 Defamation is the publication of statement which reflects on a person’ reputation and tends to lower him in the estimation of right thinking members of society generally or tends to make them shun or avoid him. In simple term it means tarnishing somebody’s image by speaking or writing something damaging. There are two types of defamation:

1. Libel: written/published form of defamation

2. Slander: spoken/oral form of defamation

There are laws which deal with defamation. The basic idea of having a defamation law is to balance the private right to protect one's reputation with the public right to freedom of speech. It allows people to sue those who say or publish false and malicious comments.

Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code defines defamation as, ‘whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible, representations makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm the reputation of such person, is said except in cases here in after expected, to defame that person.’

The section further explains what may amount to defamation:

1. To impute anything to a deceased person, if the imputation would harm the reputation of that person if living and is intended to be harmful to the feelings of his family or other near relatives;
2. To make an imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such;
3. To make an imputation in the form of an alternative or expressed ironically
4. But no imputation is said to harm a person’s reputation unless that imputation directly or indirectly in the estimation of others lowers the moral or intellectual character of that person or lowers that character of that person in respect of his caste or his calling, or lowers the credit of that person or causes it to be believed that the body of that person is in a loathsome state or in a state generally consider as disgraceful’.

The section also talks about ten exceptions about what can’t be termed defamation:

First Exception: To impute anything which is true concerning any person, if it for the public good that the imputation should be made or published.
Second Exception: To express in good faith any opinion whatever regarding the conduct of a public servant in the discharge of this public functions.
Third Exception: To express in good faith any opinion regarding the conduct or character of any person who touches any public question.
Fourth Exception: To publish a substantially true report of the proceeding of a court of justice, or the result of any such proceedings.
Fifth Exception: To express in good faith any opinion whatever regarding the merits of any case, which has been decided by a court of justice or the conduct of any person as a party or witness or agent, in any such case.
Sixth Exception: To express in good faith any opinion whatever regarding the merits of any performance which an author has submitted to the judgment of the public.
Seventh Exception: If a person having any authority over another person, either conferred by law or arising out of any lawful contract to pass in good faith any censure on the conduct of that other in matters to which such lawful authority relates.
Eighth Exception: To prefer in good faith an accusation against any person to any of those who have lawful authority over that person with respect to the subject matter of accusation.
Ninth Exception: To make an imputation on the character of another person provided it is made in good faith for the protection of his or other's interests.
Tenth Exception: To convey a caution, intended for the good of a person to whom conveyed or for public good.

Chapter XXI, Section 500, 501, and 502 of the IPC deals with the punishment for defamation:

Section 500: Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.
Section 501: Whoever prints or engraves any matter, knowing or having good reason to believe that such matter is defamatory of any person, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
Section 502: Whoever sells or offers for sale any printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter, knowing that it contains such matter, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.

Some famous defamation case of the immediate past:

The Gujarat government's ban of the controversial book by Mr Jaswant Singh Patel under Section 153A or 153B of IPC for an alleged attempt to defame Sardar.

In the Arushi-Hemraj murder case accused Dr Talwar’s initiated defamation proceedings against UP Police for accusing double murder without forensic evidence.
A defamation suit was filed against Forum for Saving Gandhi’s Heritage in New York by Indian National Overseas Congress for defaming Sonia and Rahul Gandhi during their visit there.

Defamation beyond IPC:

Defamation otherwise is also an offence. Section 5B, Cinematograph Act, 1952 prohibits exhibition of a film which is defamatory. Even freedom of the press does not permit to publish defamatory matter though there can’t be prior ban on publication. In R. Rajagopal vs State of Tamil Nadu the Supreme Court held that neither the Government nor the officials had any authority to impose a prior restraint upon publication of a material on the ground that such material was likely to be defamatory of them. It said that penal sanction is better than prior restraint.

Civil and Criminal Law of Defamation:

The Civil law relating to defamation is not codified in India. Civil action against defamation is based on the English Common Law subject to statuary exceptions. Criminal Law of defamation is contained in Sections 499-502 of the IPC.
The main difference between Civil & Criminal proceeding for defamation is pertaining to compensation. While the object of Civil action is to adequately compensate the person defamed for the loss of reputation by damages; the object of Criminal prosecution is to punish the offender by way of imprisonment of fine or both.

A malicious printing or writing or signs, diagrams, cartoons, pictures or visible expression (broadcast) tending to tarnish the reputation of a person so as to expose him/her to public hatred, contempt or ridicule comes under libel. This kind of a libel is usually categorized as civil defamation answerable in damages to the person against whom it is committed. If a libel published by a newspaper / media tends to incite a riot that would be a criminal defamation punishable by the State for the protection of public safety & public good. Publication of obscene, seditious or blasphemous words is punishable under the criminal law of defamation.

Seditious libel:

If defamation results in a criminal prosecution this is known as seditious libel. It is often against the Government, Constitution, Religion, etc. to promote ill-will and hostility between different classes. Seditious libel conforms to the offences of sedition under Section 124A & 153A of IPC. As it poses danger to the public peace, the truth of the statement constitutes no defence.

Three defence:

1. One can defend himself on the grounds that what he said is true... civil onus is on the plaintiff, criminal on the state.
2. If one has a duty to make a statement (eg. activists, social workers), you may be protected under the defence of qualified privilege. For e.g. a teacher making a comment about a student to the student’s parents about his/her bad behaviour. But the teacher won’t be protected if he comments about the student in the media. Well, if you are an MP you can speak under parliamentary privilege. In this case, the speech is protected by absolute privilege, which is a complete defence in Law.
3. You are expressing an opinion –
Note: Another way is, don’t be cowed down by intimidation, uphold truth while writing news stories and articles or while broadcasting news. Use all forms of reforms, legislature to ensure freedom of speech an expression, and also be careful not to misuse it and defame someone out of personal vendetta or prejudice. Call a spade a spade, but beware and aware of the law of defamation.

Defamation and Press:

Libel is one of the greatest dangers or threats to the publisher/broadcaster. If a publication/broadcaster violates the law of defamation, and defames a person, it may be subject to civil & criminal libel. Governments and their officials often want to make the law of defamation more stringent. They argue that even if the matter is brought before a court of law, the accused tenders an apology or escape with a nominal fine or light sentence (maximum punishment IPC 2 years).
On the other hand Press is of the view that the law of defamation often prevents fearless journalism and exposure of corrupt and scandalous officials. Their argument is that there is already too much misuse of criminal defamation by corporate houses and others to silence the critic and flog off free opinion. Most defendants in defamation law suits are newspapers or publishers or TV channels and most plaintiffs are corporations, business men, entertainers, and public figures.
The Press has been suggesting that the offenders be charged with only civil liability and not with criminal defamation. If it was of a criminal nature, a timely apology should relieve the offender. The press as whole has been demanding amendment of the law of defamation on the lines of the English Defamation Act 1952.
In UK, defamation is mainly a civil offence. The offence of defamatory libel lies in the tendency to provoke a breach of the peace unlike the IPC where defamation is a cognizable offence to the extent to which it causes pain in the person who is defamed

What are the functions of Parliament? Describe the conduct of a day in Parliament.

Parliament has four main functions: legislation (making laws), representation (acting on behalf of voters and citizens), scrutiny (examining the government), and formation of government. The functions of the Indian Parliament can be divided into legislative, executive, financial and other categories.

Legislative Functions:

The process of legislating, making laws is the most basic day-to-day function of parliament. Under Articles 245 and 246 Parliament can make laws for the whole or any part of India as defined under the Seventh Schedule.
Parliament can make laws on the subjects mentioned in the Union List which has 97 subjects. Along with the State Legislatures, the Parliament is empowered to make laws on the Concurrent List. In case, both the Centre as well as the States makes a law on the subject mentioned in the Concurrent List then the central law prevails upon the state law if there is a clash between the two. Any subject not mentioned in any list i.e. residuary powers are vested with the Parliament.

To Form or To End Government:

The Indian Parliament, like all parliamentary democracies, forms the government. Members of Parliament, from the largest party in the Lok Sabha or of late from the largest coalition, form the Government at the centre.

The government can function as long as it enjoys the support of the majority of the members of the Lower House.

The Executive Functions:
The executive is responsible to the legislature for all its acts. The Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers are responsible to the Parliament individually as well as collectively. The Parliament can dislodge a ministry by passing a vote of no-confidence or by refusing to endorse a confidence motion.
Parliament also maintains its control over executive in a routine manner through several other ways:
a. The members of Parliament can ask questions and supplementary questions regarding any matters connected with the affairs of the Central Government. The first hour of every working day of Parliament relates to the Question Hour in which the Ministers have to answer the questions raised by the members.
b. If the members are not satisfied with the Government’s answer then they may demand separate discussion on the subject.
c. Calling attention notice or adjournment motion is used to raise matters of urgent public importance. The government always takes these motions very seriously because the government’s policies are criticized.

Censure Motion: This motion implies severe indictment of the government though it does not require resignation of the Council of Members.

d. The Lok Sabha can express its lack of confidence in the executive by disapproving budget or money bill or even an ordinary bill.

The Financial Functions:

The Parliament is the custodian of the public money. It controls the entire purse of the Central Government. No taxes can be legally levied and no expenditure incurred from the public exchequer without specific parliamentary authorization by law (articles 114, 116 and 265).This approval may be taken before the actual spending or in rare cases after the spending.
The annual statement of the estimated receipts and expenditure i.e. budget has to be approved by the Parliament every year. It monitors the expenditure of public funds through Public Accounts Committee, Committee on Public Undertakings, Estimates Committee and the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

The Electoral Functions:

The elected members of Parliament are members of the Electoral College and participate in the election of the President of India. They elect the Vice-President. The Lok Sabha elects its Speaker and Deputy Speaker and the Rajya Sabha elects its Deputy Chairman.

A Forum for Debate and Expression of Grievances:

During debate and discussion on legislative proposals or Finance Bills, motion to consider and approve government policies, motion of thanks on the President’s Address, Budget, etc. members are free to express themselves and to say what modifications in the existing policy are required. It acts as a forum for ventilation of the grievances of the people, their difficulties and their passions, anxieties and frustrations. After necessary legislation is taken up in this regard

Power of Removal:

Certain high functionaries may be removed from office on the initiative of the Parliament. The President of India may be removed through the process of impeachment. The judges of Supreme Court and of High Courts can be removed by an order of the President, which may be issued only if a resolution of their removal is passed by both Houses of Parliament by special

Amendment of the Constitution:

Most of the parts of the Constitution can be amended by the Parliament by special majority. But certain provisions only be amended by the Parliament with the approval of States. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Parliament cannot change the basic structure of the Constitution.

 Miscellaneous Functions:

Besides the above-mentioned functions, the Parliaments also performs a variety of other functions. Some of them are as follows:
a. While it is the power of the President to declare Emergency, the Parliament approves all such Proclamations of Emergency. Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have to approve the Proclamation.
b. Parliament may form a new State by separating the territory from any State or by uniting two or more States. It may also change the boundaries and the name of any State. In the recent years (2000), new states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand were created.
c. Parliament may admit or establish new States in the Indian Union (Sikkim in 1975).
d. The Parliament can abolish or create Legislative Councils in the States. This is done only on the request of concerned States Assemblies.

The Two Houses of Parliament:

From the federal point of view the Rajya Sabha represents the States while the Lok Sabha is the representative of the Indian people. The members of Legislative Assemblies of the States elect the members of Rajya Sabha while the people directly participate in the elections to the Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha is a permanent House while the Lok Sabha is constituted for a specified term of five years. There are three aspects that need to be kept in mind as we are discussing the functioning of the Parliament:
1. Introduction and adoption of money bills and removal of a cabinet by passing no confidence motion are two functions in which Lok Sabha is superior to the Rajya
Sabha i.e. there is no need for the Rajya Sabha to sanction either of these.
2. In certain areas Rajya Sabha has been vested with exclusive powers. For example, it can declare a subject in state as a matter of national importance and facilitate a central legislation.
3. In all other cases both the Houses enjoy equal powers and need to approve, whether it is proclamation of emergency, moving of adjournment or anything else.

Thus the Indian Parliament, though limited by the federal nature of the political system, has wide functions to perform. In performing its functions, it has to mirror the aspirations and needs of the people of India. It also has to function as an agency for resolving socioeconomic or political conflicts in the country. It also helps in building consensus on specific issues, which are crucial to the nation.

Conduct of a day in parliament:

In a democracy Parliament acts as a bridge between the government and the people. The Parliament is the supreme forum through which people seek to realize their aspirations, urges and expectations. The Members of Parliament act as the chief communication channel between the people, Parliament and the Government. So a day in Parliament is designed for legislative functions as well as for the MPs to raise their queries and concerns. A day’s schedule can be normally divided in three parts:

1.    Question Hour
2.    Zero Hour
3.    Regular listed business

Time of commencement of a sitting:

Unless the Speaker otherwise directs, or the House itself decides otherwise, the House ordinarily sits from 11.00 hours to 13.00 hours and from 14.00 hours to 18.00 hours. Though there are some special days when the House meets at other time. They are:
(i)    On the day of the President's Address
(ii)           On the Budget Day

Mode of commencement of a sitting:

A sitting of the House is duly constituted when it is presided over by the Chairman or a member competent to preside over a sitting of the House. Before any of the presiding officers takes the Chair at the commencement of a sitting, the Marshal of the House ensures that there is a quorum in the House. If there is no quorum, the bell is rung till the House makes the quorum. The Marshal announces to the House the arrival of the presiding officer by his designation in Hindi. All present in the House stand up. The presiding officer enters from the Chairman's Chamber which is just behind the Chair and greets the House and takes the seat. Members respond to his greetings and take their seats.
With the quorum in the House and the presiding officer in Chair, the sitting of the House commences. Then the presiding officer proceeds with the business for the day as listed in the List of Business. The same practice is followed when the House reassembles after the lunch-recess or any other adjournment of the House during the course of its sitting.

Quorum for a sitting:

The quorum to constitute a meeting of either House of Parliament is one-tenth of the total number of members of the House. If at any time during a meeting of a House there is no quorum, it shall be the duty of the Chairman or Speaker or person acting as such, either to adjourn the House or to suspend the meeting until there is a quorum.

Question Hour:

The first hour of every sitting is available for the asking and answering of questions. The
Ministries/Departments of the Government of India are divided into five groups and the Ministers concerned answer questions by rotation.

Starred and Un-starred Questions:

Notices of questions by Members can be for oral or written answer.
Unstarred questions are not called for oral answers in the House and thus no supplementary questions can be asked thereon. These questions, along with their answers, are deemed to be laid on the Table of the House and are printed in the official debates of the sitting of the day for which they are put down. The questions asking for information of statistical nature; questions going into administrative details; questions about resolutions of a conference or recommendations of an expert committee, and action taken thereon etc.; questions which raise matters of local interest etc. are put under unstarred category.
Starred questions are taken up for oral answer during the question hour and supplementaries can be asked thereon. Under this category are put those questions only in respect of which supplementary questions are likely to arise.

Note: Not more than five questions in all whether starred or unstarred, can be placed on the lists of questions for any one day. Notice for these questions has to be given 21 days in advance.
Adjournment Motion: The primary object of an Adjournment Motion is to draw the attention of the House to a recent matter of urgent public importance having serious consequences and in regard to which a motion or a resolution with proper notice will be too late. Before the commencement of a session, notices of adjournment motion can at the earliest be given with effect from a day (which is usually the third working day before the commencement of the session) fixed in advance and notified in Bulletin. Notice of an adjournment motion should be addressed to the Secretary-General and given by 10.00 hours on the day on which the motion is proposed to be made. Notices received after 10.00 hours are treated as notices given for the next sitting.

Zero Hour Submissions:

Zero Hour may is the interregnum between the end of Question Hour and the beginning of the regular listed business in the House. There is no procedure prescribed in the Rules of Procedure for regulating the Zero Hour submissions. By conventions and practices Zero Hour has developed without having any specific sanction of the rule book. Zero Hour submissions, like Special Mentions, have also become an established practice and secured a distinct identity so as to warrant a separate treatment and discussion.

Although called Zero Hour, it lasts for may be half-an-hour or more or less. Sometimes it may also occupy full one hour or may even extend beyond an hour, depending on the number of matters which members may like to raise and the gravity and importance of such matters.

The emergence of Zero Hour can be traced to early sixties when many issues of great public importance and urgency began to be raised by members immediately after Question Hour, sometimes with prior permission of the Chairman or some other times without such permission. The "Zero Hour" has been a convention since the days of Dr. Radhakrishnan. People have been permitted to raise questions during this Hour and it goes on in both the Houses.

Zero Hour is of very special importance as Parliament is not only Government and Opposition-it is 630 individual members. It is quite conceivable that for various reasons, neither the Government nor the official Opposition might wish to discuss a matter which ought to be debated. The eternal problem in Parliament is that of reconciling the various claims: Government, Opposition, minorities and the single back bencher.

Regulating Zero Hour:

The Special Mention procedure was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in the seventies. However, the demand for Zero Hour has not diminished even with the introduction of the Special Mention procedure. Since last two years, a practice has more or less developed that members approach the Chairman in his Chamber and give him in writing the subjects they wish to raise. Only those members to whom permission is granted are ordinarily permitted to mention the matter in the House.

Note: Unlike Special Mentions, there is no follow-up action on matters raised as the Zero Hour submissions.

Regular listed business:

After zero hour followed by lunch recess begins the regular listed business of the day. During this hour only new Bill, budget and such government proposals are discussed. This is the longest of the daily sessions of the Parliament and lasts till 6pm.
    In this duration ministers make statements in the House with prior notice to and the Speaker, in order to keep the House informed of matters of public importance or to apprise the House about Government policy. Notices regarding statements to be made in the House by Ministers or statements, reports or papers to be laid on the Table are  accepted from 10.00 hours on the days the List of Business wherein the item has been included, is circulated to members. In a case where a supplementary List of Business is circulated in the House in regard to a statement, notices in respect of that statement, received within fifteen minutes of circulation of the supplementary.

The major Press Laws enacted during the British period? Write in detail about the 1867 Press and Registration of Books Act and the Vernacular Press Act.

The major laws during the British period:

Tipu Sultan was a friend of the French. The Marathas had won the war against the Nizam. Thus the British tried to maintain a strict control over the Press. Thus came the earliest regulatory measures in 1799 when Lord Wellesley promulgated the Press Regulations, which imposed press censorship on an infant newspaper publishing industry. What was followed was a set of laws one after another with a single objective, “To suppress and control the Press”. A summary:

The British colonial rule: Press Laws and Regulations (1799-1947)

1. First Censorship Law (1799)

2. Censorship Law Modifications (1813)

3. Censorship Law Modifications (1813)

4. Regulations for Registration (1823)

5. Metcalfe’s Act of 1835 (Registration of the Press Act)

6. New Regulations on Printing Presses (1857)

7. Indian Penal Code (1860)

8. Press and Registration Act 1867

9. Vernacular Press Act (1878)

10. Criminal Procedure Code (1898)

11. Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act (1908)

12. Indian Press Act (1910)

13. Official Secrets Act (1923)

14. Indian Press (Emergency Power) (1931)

A recap of the major laws from the above ones:

The1835 Press Act undid most of the repressive features of earlier legislations on the subject. On 18th June 1857, the government passed the ‘Gagging Act’, which among various other things re-introduced the pre 1835 situation. It introduced compulsory licensing for the owning or running of printing presses; empowered the government to prohibit the publication or circulation of any newspaper, book or other printed material and banned the publication or dissemination of statements or news stories which had a tendency to cause a furor against the government, thereby weakening its authority. The 1860 Indian Penal Code (IPC) gave the government powers to search and forfeit publications which violated Sections like 124A, 153A or 295A.

Next came the ‘Press and Registration of Books Act’ in 1867 which continues to remain in force till date. After the criticism of Lord Lytton’s role in the second Afghan War by the Indian Press, Governor General Lord Lytton promulgated the ‘Vernacular Press Act’ of 1878 allowing the government to clamp down on the publication of vernacular language writings deemed seditious and to impose punitive sanctions on printers and publishers who failed to fall in line.

One of the last major Press Law of the British rule came in 1908 when Lord Minto promulgated the ‘Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act, 1908. It authorized local authorities to take action against the editor of any newspaper that published matter deemed to constitute an incitement to rebellion.

But the most stringent law came in 1923in the form of the Official Secrets Act (OSA). This prohibited the publication of classified official information. Lots of information vital to the public was withheld from the press in the name of OSA till recently until the RTI was passed.

Press & Registration of Books Act 1867:

During the rein of the British Government in India writing of books and other informatory material took a concrete shape and with the advent of printing presses various books on almost all the subjects and periodicals touching every aspect of life started appearing. Thrust on education gave an impetus to this with the result that lot of printed material became available.

Those in the field of writing, publishing and printing gave a thought to organize a system for keeping a record of the publications. The then East India Company was urged to keep a record of the publications. An attempt was made by the authorities to make a collection of the books and other publications emanating from the various printing presses throughout India.

Board of Directors of East India Company issued an instruction that copies of every important and interesting work published in India should be dispatched to England to be deposited in the library of India House. Such an instruction had a slow impact.

A system of voluntary registrations of publications was evolved but it failed. It was found necessary to establish a system of compulsory sale to Government, of three copies of each work in India.

So was brought the Act, the oldest to survive: Press and Registration of Books Act (PRB), 1867.


Since 1867 PRB Act remained the fundamental law governing the rules for the regulation of the publication of newspapers and of having printing presses. Though no license or permission is required for starting and running a newspaper, no paper can be published without complying with the provision of this act. Two conditions are necessary to be fulfilled for publishing a newspaper:

One, the name of the printer, the place of printing and the name of the publisher and place of publication must be legibly printed on every book or newspaper printed/published within India.

Two, a declaration must be made before the district, Presidency or Sub-divisional Magistrate within whose jurisdiction the newspaper is to be published, stating name of the printer and publisher, premises where printing and publishing is conducted, the title, language and periodicity of the newspaper. The printer and publisher either in person or through an authorized agent should make the declaration. If the printer or publisher is not the owner of the paper, the declaration should specify the name of the owner.

Note: Similarly, no printing press can be set without making a relevant declaration.


The act requires that Every time a press is shifted to a new place a fresh declaration is necessary. But if the change of the place is for a period less than 60 days, the new location also falls within the jurisdiction of the same Magistrate, and the keeper of the Press continues to be the same. No fresh declaration need to be made. In that case an intimation regarding the change of place sent within 24 hours will suffice.

But, making a declaration does not automatically pave the way for publishing a newspaper. Publication can be started only after the said Magistrate authenticates the declaration.


Every time the title, language or periodicity is changed a fresh declaration must be made. A similarly declaration is necessary as often as the ownership or the place of printing or publication of the newspaper is changed.

However, only a statement furnished to the Magistrate will suffice if the change of place is for a period not exceeding 30 days or if he is by infirmity or otherwise incapable of carrying out his duties for more than 90 days, then a fresh declaration will have to be made.

Note: No person who does not ordinarily reside in India or a minor can file a declaration or edit a newspaper.

If the declaration is made in accordance with the provisions of the law and if no other paper bearing the same or similar title is already in existence in the same language or the same state, then the Magistrate cannot refuse to authenticate the declaration. However, before authentication he must make an inquiry from the Registrar or newspapers for India (RNI) about the existence of such other paper. After authentication the paper must be started within a specific period.

The declaration in respect of a newspaper to be published once a week or more shall be void if it is not commenced within six weeks of the authentication. In case of all other newspapers the time limit for commencing publication is three months.

If in any period of three months, a daily, a tri-weekly, a biweekly or a fortnightly newspaper publishes less than half the number of issues, which it should have published in accordance with the declaration, the newspaper shall cease to publish. A fresh declaration must be filed before it can be started again.

In case of any other newspaper the maximum period of non-publication must not exceed 12 months.

Two copies of each issue of a newspaper and up to three copies of each book must be delivered, in a prescribed manner to the Government free of expense.


The Magistrate can cancel the declaration after giving opportunity to show cause to the person concerned, if the Magistrate is satisfied on the following counts:

• The newspaper is being published in contravention of the provisions of this Act or rules made under it, or

• The newspaper bears a title which is the same as, or similar to that of any other newspaper published either in the same language or in the same state, or

• The printer or publisher has ceased to be so, or

• The declaration was made on false representation on concealment of any material fact.

The Magistrate’s decision can be challenged in an appeal before the Press and Registration Appellate Board comprising a Chairman and another member nominated by the Press Council of India.


If a newspaper (or a book) is printed or published without legibly printing the name of the printer and publisher as also the name of the place of printing/publishing, the printer or publisher can be fined up to two thousand rupees or imprisoned up to six months or punished by both.

The same punishment can be awarded for keeping a press without making declaration or for making false statement or for editing, printing or publishing a newspaper without conforming to the rules. In the last case the Magistrate, may in addition to this punishment also cancel the declaration in respect of the newspaper.

Non-compliance with the requirement regarding the delivery of copies of newspaper will invite a penalty of up to Rs 30 for each default.

In case of publication of a book, the value of the copies of the book may be charged.

Registrar of Newspaper:

There is a provision for appointment of a Press Registrar by the Government of India for the whole of the country. The Press Registrar maintains a register containing the following particulars of each newspaper:

Title, language, periodicity, name of the editor, printer and publisher, place of printing and publication, average number of pages per week, number of days of publication in the year, average number of copies printed, sold and distributed free, retail selling price per copy, and name and addresses of owners.


The Press Registrar also issues a certificate of registration to the publisher of the newspaper. He does this on receipt of a copy of the declaration from the Magistrate who has authenticated it.

The publisher has to furnish to the Press Registrar an annual statement for the above particulars about his newspaper.

The publisher has to publish all such particulars in the newspaper as may be specified by the Press Registrar. The Rules require the publication in the first issue after the last day of February each year, the name, address, nationality of the editor and publisher, and the name of all those holding one percent or more shares in the newspaper.

The newspaper is also obliged to furnish returns, statistics and other information as the Press Registrar may from time to time require. Non-compliance attracts a fine of five hundred rupees. The Press Registrar has a right of access to record and documents of the newspaper for the purpose of collection of any information about it.

Vernacular Press Act 1878:

Vernacular Press Act 1878 was enacted to curtail the freedom of the Indian-language (i.e., non-English) press. Notably Lord Lytton was being bitterly criticized for the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). So, he promulgated the act with an aim to prevent the vernacular press from expressing criticism of British policies under him. The act excluded English-language publications. It elicited strong and sustained protests from a wide spectrum of the Indian populace.

It was nicknamed Gagging Act. For the first any Act empowered the govt. to issue search warrants and enter newspaper premises even without court orders. The IPC already gave powers to the govt. to search and forfeit publications which violated Sections like 124A, 153A or 295A. More stringent anti-press laws were enacted in the passage of time, particularly when the freedom movement gained momentum. British govt. wanted to curb the activities of revolutionaries and the right of newspapers to report these. Reporting was closely monitored and comments against govt. were not tolerated.

The law was repealed in 1881 by Lytton’s successor as viceroy, Lord Ripon (governed 1880–84). However, the resentment it produced among Indians became one of the catalysts giving rise to India’s growing independence movement. Among the act’s most vocal critics was the Indian Association (founded 1876), which is generally considered to be one of the precursors of the Indian National Congress (founded 1885).

        Later in 1882 due to the efforts of Lord Ripon the Act was repealed in 1882.

Trace the history of the first and the second press commission.

First Press Commission (1952-54):

The first Press Commission was formed under the Chairmanship of Justice J. S. Rajadhyakhsa on 23rd September 1952 by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to inquire into the state of the Press in India. Some of the other members of the 11-member working group were Dr. C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyer, Acharya Narendra Deo, Dr. Zakir Hussain, and Dr. V.K.V. Rao. It was asked to look into factors, which influence the establishment and maintenance of high standards of journalism in India.
The Commission inquired into the control, management and ownership, the financial structure as well as other important aspects of the newspaper industry in the country. The Commission, after a careful and detailed study, concluded that there should be indigenisation of both capital and the staff especially at the higher levels and it was highly desirable that proprietorial interests in daily and weekly newspapers should vest predominantly in Indian hands.
After considering the recommendations of the Press Commission and the Note submitted by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, the Union Cabinet adopted a Resolution on 13 September, 1955, which became the basic policy document in regard to the Press in India. The resolution is as follows:-
“The Cabinet considered the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s note dated May 4, 1955, and was of the view that so far as the ownership of newspapers and periodicals by nationals of other countries was concerned, the problem was not a very serious one as there were only a few such newspapers and periodicals. The Cabinet, therefore, felt that no action needs to be taken in regard to these newspapers and periodicals but that no foreign-owned newspaper or periodical should, in future, be permitted to be published in India. The Cabinet, however, agreed that the other recommendation of the Commission that foreign newspapers and periodicals, which dealt mainly with news and current affairs, should not be allowed to bring out Indian editions, should be accepted in principle.

During the past 46 years since the above Resolution came into effect, no foreign newspaper or periodical has been allowed to be published from India nor has any foreign investment in the domestic print media sector been permitted.
However, in the new context of globalization, the demand for foreign participation and investment in the print media has been raised by a section of the newspaper industry. In the public debate which has taken place on this issue, the opinion of the print media has been divided. Since the issue has far reaching consequences for the Press in India, the Committee decided to take up this subject for a detailed study. A public notice was issued.

The commission was appointed because after independence the role of the press was changing from a mission to business. It found that there was a great deal of scurrilous writing often directed against communities or groups, of indecency and vulgarity and personal attacks on individuals. It also noted that yellow journalism was on the increase in the country and was not particularly confined to any area or language. The commission, however, found that the well established, newspapers on the whole, had maintained a high standard of journalism.
It remarked that whatever the law relating the press may be, there would still be a large quantity of objectionable journalism, which, though not falling within the purview of the law, would still require some checking. It felt that the best way of maintaining professional standards of journalism would be to bring into existence a body of people principally connected with the industry whose responsibility would be to arbitrate on doubtful points and to ensure the punishment of any one guilty of infraction of good journalistic behavior. An important recommendation of the commission was the setting up of a Statutory Press Commission at the national level, consisting of press people and lay members. Its recommendation and the action taken can be summed up as follows:

• To protect the freedom of the press and to maintain high standards of journalism, a press council should be established.

The press council of India was established on July 4, 1966 which started functioning from November 16 (on this date, National Press Day is celebrated) 1966.

• To prepare the account of the press and the position of every year, there should be appointment of the Registrar of Newspaper for India (RNI).

It was also accepted and RNI was appointed in July 1956.

• Price-page schedule should be introduced.

It was also accepted in 1956.

• For maintaining a cordial relationship between the government and the Press, a Press Consultative Committee should be constituted.

It was accepted and a Press Consultative Committee was constituted on 22nd September
• Working Journalists Act should be implemented.

The government implemented this and in 1955 the working journalist and other newspaper employees (conditions of services) and miscellaneous Provisions Act was set up.
• It recommended establishment of a fact-finding Committee to evaluate the financial position of the newspapers and news agencies.

A Fact Finding Committee was set up on 14th April 1972. It submitted its report on 14th January 1975.

• For protecting the main principles of the freedom of the press and to help the newspapers against monopolistic tendencies, a Newspaper Financial Corporation should be constituted.

It was accepted in principle and on 4th December 1970, a Bill was also presented in the Lok Sabha, but it lapsed.

Second Press Commission:

The government of India constituted the Second Press Commission on May 29, 1978. The second press commission wanted the press to be neither a mindless adversary nor an unquestioning ally. The commission wanted the press to play a responsible role in the development process. The press should be widely accessible to the people if it is to reflect their aspirations and problems.
The question of urban bias too has received attention of the commission. The commission said that for development to take place, internal stability was as important as safeguarding national security. The commission also highlighted the role (and, therefore, responsibility) of the press in preventing and deflating communal conflict.
Both press commissions of India included several respectable members from the press. The recommendation of the first press commission for the first time provides idea of what a responsible press should be. The second press commission formulated in a clear manner that development should be the central focus of the press in a country, which is building itself to become a self-reliant and prosperous society. The commission declared that a responsible press could also be a free press and vice versa. Freedom and responsibility are complimentary but not contradictory terms. The main recommendations can be briefed as follows:
• An attempt should be made to establish a cordial relation between the government and the press.
• For the development of small and medium newspaper, there should be establishment of newspaper Development Commission.
• Newspaper industries should be separated from industries and commercial interests.
• There should be appointment of Board of Trustees between editors and proprietors of the newspaper.
• Price-page schedule should be introduced.
• There should be a fixed proportion of news and advertisements in small, medium and big newspaper.
• Newspaper industries should be relieved from the impact of foreign capital.
• No predictions should be published in newspapers and magazines.
• The misuse of the image of the advertisement should be discontinued.
• The government should prepare a stable Advertisement Policy.
• The Press Information Bureau should be reconstituted.
• Press laws should be amended.

Write a critique on the Press Council of India, its functions. What are the guidelines issued by Press Council and how effective they are?

The first Press Council of India was constituted on 4th July, 1966 as an autonomous, statutory, quasi-judicial body, with Justice J R Mudholkar, a Supreme Court Judge, as its Chairman. The Council draws its function from the Press Council Act, 1965 which are as follows:
i)    To help newspapers to maintain their independence.
ii)    To build up a code of conduct for newspapers and journalists in accordance with high professional standards.
iii)    To ensure on the part of newspapers and journalists the maintenance of high standards of public taste and foster a due sense of both the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
iv)    To encourage the growth of a sense of responsibility and public service among all those engaged in the profession of journalism.
v)    To keep under review any development likely to restrict the supply and dissemination of news of public interest and importance.
vi)    To keep under review such cases of assistance received by any newspaper or news agency in India from foreign sources, as are referred to it by the Central Government provided that nothing in this clause shall preclude the Central Government from dealing with any case of assistance received by a newspaper or news agency in India from foreign sources.

Guidelines issued by the Press Council of India:

Accuracy and Fairness:

i)    The Press shall avoid publishing inaccurate, baseless, graceless, or misleading material. All sides of the core issue or subject should be reported.
ii)    Whenever exposing the wrong doing such reports need to be backed by irrefutable facts and evidences.

Pre-Publication Verification:

i)    Any report or article of public interest or complaint etc. should be checked for its factual accuracy from other authentic sources.
ii)    A document, which forms a basis of a news report, should be preserved at least for six months.

Caution against defamatory writings:

i)    Newspaper should not publish anything which is defamatory or libelous unless after due verification, there is sufficient reason/evidence to believe that it is true and its publication will be for public good.
ii)    No derogatory personal remarks against a dead person should be published except in rare cases of public interest.
iii)    The Press shall not rely on objectionable past behavior of a citizen to provide the background for adverse comments with reference to fresh action of that person.
iv)     Publication of defamatory news by one paper does not give licence to others to publish news/information reproducing or repeating the same.
v)    It is necessary that the press realize its responsibility and do not indulging in giving credence to rumours and sensationalism.
vi)    Freedom of Press does not give licence to a newspaper to malign a political leader or mar his future political prospects by publishing fake and defamatory writings.

Public Interest and Public Bodies:

As a custodian of public interest, the Press has a right to highlight cases of corruption and irregularities in public bodies but it should be based on irrefutable evidence.
Newspapers should refrain from barbed, stinging and pungent language and ironical/satirical style of comment. The attempt of the press should be to present a fair and balanced report, uninfluenced by any extraneous consideration.

Right to Privacy:

The Press shall not intrude or invade the privacy of an individual, unless outweighed by genuine overriding public interest. Special caution is essential in reports likely to stigmatise women.

Note: Things concerning a person's home, family, religion, health, sexuality, personal life and private affairs are covered by the concept of PRIVACY.

Caution against Identification:

While reporting crime involving rape, abduction or kidnap of women/females or sexual  assault on children, or raising doubts and questions touching the chastity, personal character and privacy of women, the names, photographs of the victims or other particulars leading to their identity shall not be published.
Minor children and infants who are the offspring of sexual abuse or forcible marriage' or illicit sexual union shall not be identified or photographed.
Intrusion through photography into moments of personal grief shall be avoided.

Recording interviews and phone conversation:

The Press shall not tape-record anyone's conversation without that person's knowledge or consent, except where it is required to protect the journalist in a legal action, or for other compelling good reason.
Prior to publication offensive epithets used during such conversation should be deleted.

Conjecture, comment and fact:

Newspaper should not pass on or elevate conjecture, speculation or comment as a statement of fact.
Cartoons and caricatures depicting good humour are to be placed in a special category of news that enjoy more liberal attitude.

Headings not to be sensational/provocative:

In general and particularly in the context of communal disputes or clashes
a. Provocative and sensational headlines are to be avoided;
b. Headings must reflect and justify the matter printed under them;
c. Headings containing allegations made in statements should either identify the body or the source making it or at least carry quotation marks.

Newspapers to eschew suggestive guilt:

Newspapers should not name or identify the family or relatives or associates of a person convicted or accused of a crime, when they are totally innocent and a reference to them is not relevant to the matter being reported.
It is contrary to the norms of journalism for a paper to identify itself with and project or promote the case of any one party in the case of any controversy/dispute.

Caution in criticizing judicial acts and reporting proceedings of a Legislature:

Excepting where the court sits 'in-camera' or directs otherwise, it is open to a newspaper to report pending judicial proceedings, in a fair, accurate and reasonable manner. In case of Legislature newspapers have a duty to report faithfully the proceedings of either House of Parliament or Legislative Assembly which is open for the media.
Newspapers may make reasonable criticism of a judicial act or the judgment of a court for public good but shall not scandalize the court or the judiciary as a whole, or make personal allegations of lack of ability or integrity against a judge.


When any factual error or mistake is detected or confirmed, the newspaper should suo- motu publish the correction promptly with due prominence and with apology or expression of regrets in a case of serious lapse.

Right of Reply:

The newspaper should promptly and with due prominence, publish either in full or with due editing, free of cost, at the instance of the person affected or feeling aggrieved/or concerned by the impugned publication, a contradiction/reply/ clarification or rejoinder sent to the editor in the form of a letter or note. This is a concession which has to be availed of sparingly with due discretion and caution in appropriate cases.

Obscenity and vulgarity to be eschewed:

Newspapers/journalists shall not publish anything which is obscene, vulgar or offensive to public good taste. Newspapers shall not display advertisements which are vulgar or which, through depiction of a woman in nude or lewd posture, provoke lecherous attention of males as if she herself was a commercial commodity for sale.
The globalisation and liberalisation does not give licence to the media to misuse freedom of the press and to lower the values of the society. So far as that role is concerned, one of the duties of the media is to preserve and promote our cultural heritage and social values.

Photo Coverage on Terrorist Attack, Communal Clashes and Accidents:

While reporting news with regard to terrorist attacks or communal riots, the media should refrain from publishing/telecasting pictures of mangled corpses or any other photographic coverage which may create terror, or revulsion or ignite communal passion among people.
It shall avoid presenting acts of violence, armed robberies and terrorist activities in a manner that glorifies the perpetrators on their acts, declarations or death in the eyes of the public.

Caste, religion or community references:

In general, the caste identification of a person or a particular class should be avoided. Newspapers are advised against the use of word 'Scheduled Caste' or 'Harijan' which has been objected to by some.
An accused or a victim shall not be described by his caste or community when the same does not have anything to do with the offence or the crime and plays no part either in the identification of any accused or proceeding.
Newspaper should not publish any fictional literature distorting and portraying the religious or well known characters in an adverse light offending the susceptibilities of large sections of society who hold those characters in high esteem.
Commercial exploitation of the name of prophets, seers or deities is repugnant to journalistic ethics and good taste.
It is the duty of the newspaper to ensure that the tone, spirit and language of a write up is not objectionable, provocative, against the unity and integrity of the country, spirit of the constitution seditious and inflammatory in nature or designed to promote communal disharmony. It should also not attempt to promote balkanisation of the country.
One of the jobs of the journalists is also to bring forth to the public notice the plight of the weaker sections of society. They are the watchdogs on behalf of the society of its weaker sections.

Paramount national interest:

Newspapers shall, as a matter of self-regulation, exercise due restraint and caution in presenting any news, comment or information which is likely to jeopardise, endanger or harm the paramount interests of the State and society.
Publication of wrong/incorrect map is a very serious offence. It adversely affects the territorial integrity of the country and warrants prompt and prominent retraction with regrets.

Foreign Relations:

Media plays a very important role in moulding public opinion and developing better understanding between countries. Objective reporting so as not to jeopardise friendly bilateral relations is therefore desirable though newspapers may expose misuse of diplomatic immunity.

Investigative journalism, its norms and parameters:

Investigative reporting has three basic elements.
a. It has to be the work of the reporter, not of others he is reporting;
b. The subject should be of public importance for the reader to know;
c. An attempt is being made to hide the truth from the people.

The investigative reporter should, as a rule, base his story on facts investigated, detected and verified by himself and not on hearsay or on derivative evidence collected by a third party. The investigative journalist should maintain a proper balance between openness and secrecy, placing the public good above everything.
The tone and tenor of the report and its language should be sober, decent and dignified, and not needlessly offensive, barbed, derisive or castigatory, particularly while commenting on the version of the person whose alleged activity or misconduct is being investigated. Nor should the investigative reporter conduct the proceedings and pronounce his verdict of guilt or innocence against the person whose alleged criminal acts and conduct were investigated.

Confidence to be respected:

If information is received from a confidential source, the confidence should be respected. This rule requiring a newspaper not to publish matters disclosed to it in confidence is not applicable where:
(a) Consent of the source is subsequently obtained; or
(b) The editor clarifies by way of an appropriate footnote clarifies that since the publication of certain matters were in the public interest, the information in question was being published although it had been made 'off the record'.


Commercial advertisements are information as much as social, economic or political information. What is more, advertisements shape attitude and ways of life at least as much, as other kinds of information and comment. Journalistic propriety demands that advertisements must be clearly distinguishable from news content carried in the newspaper

Newspapers to avoid crass commercialism:

While newspapers are entitled to ensure, improve or strengthen their financial viability by all legitimate means, the Press shall not engage in crass commercialism or unseemly cut-throat commercial competition with their rivals in a manner repugnant to high professional standards and good taste.
The practice of taking security deposit by an editor from the journalists at the time of their appointment is unethical.
The media house must retain its impartiality in functioning as media house and reporting cannot be permitted to become subservient to other business interests.

Apart from all this newspaper should avoid involvement in fraudulent activities, professional rivalry, plagiarism, unauthorized lifting of news, illegal reproduction or non-return of unsolicited material.


Media in India especially the print media has a very rich and entrenched history. Recent studies show that while readership is growing in all the languages; the average time spent on reading has gone down. But still even during the recent slowdown the old media (print) has registered strong growth compared with the radio and the new media (television and Internet). But all these media have their own importance. To safeguard this diverse and established media, the Press Council of India (PCI) was constituted on 4 July 1966 as an autonomous, statutory, quasi-judicial body on the recommendation of the First Press Commission.

PCI is jointly funded through fees levied on registered newspapers with minimum circulations of 5,000 and grants from the ministry of information and broadcasting. It is headed by a chairperson who is, most often, a retired Supreme Court judge. The council discharges its responsibilities primarily through inquiry committees, adjudicating on complaints received by it against the press for violation of the norms of journalism or from the press for interference with its freedom.

The council has been trying to keep pace with the number of complaints received over the years but the inordinate delays are on the rise. From 2001-08 PCI received more than seven thousand complaints while from 1990-2000 it received more than nine thousand complaints. Of the complaints received most (average 70%) complaints are against the press.  Roughly 25% are adjudicated upon, and around 60-70% are dismissed. While many cases keep awaiting their chance as the council takes inordinate amount of time over its interventions. This also happens because the Council is largely Delhi-based.

In the recent years print media has tried to imitate television news in terms of content, genre and presentation to garner attention using various ways. In this competition to get more sensational news and faster, there is growing evidence of journalistic principles being compromised. The council is quiet on unethical practices such as so-called private treaties or ad-for-equity deals, the rise of advertorial phenomenon and the lack of job security for journalists.

In 1992, the council chronicled, “A Guide to Journalistic Ethics” outlining the broad principles evolved in the course of its adjudication on various subjects—both in respect of standards of journalism and freedom of the press. This guide deals with the issues of communal writing, journalistic impropriety, obscenity and bad taste, pre-verification of news, scurrilous writing and right to privacy, advertising and press freedom.

But sections of the press do not seem to take the council very seriously. Though it is meant to be a mechanism for self-regulation, the council’s guidelines and recommendations are often just ignored and media organizations do not even bother to appear before its inquiry committees. Recent examples of these violations and apathy include openly communal coverage of incidences of terror and conflict.

Time and again, there have been suggestions that the council should have penal powers to punish the delinquent newspapers/journalists. In response, the council has said its moral authority is quite effective.

Self-regulation does work but only if the Press remains committed to it—it is this commitment and acceptance that gives the council its real teeth. Press councils and such regulatory bodies across the world have played a more proactive role in setting industry standards, undertaking regular studies, organizing regular public consultations and also empowering readers. The existing model of PCI is, therefore, an ineffective comparison or benchmark for ongoing discourse on regulating broadcast content. Any self-regulatory system needs to be prompt, proactive, participatory and, above all, one to which the newspaper and magazine publishing sector is committed and accountable. There is a clear need to re-look at accountability systems across media, including print.