Early Regulations

In India the history of press began with the arrival of the Europeans. Printing press to India for the first time was brought by the Portuguese and the first book (Conclusiones Philosophicas) was published in India by the Jesuits of Goa in 1557. English East India Company was second to set up a printing press in India as they established a press in the year 1684, in Bombay. Since the servants of company didn't want the news of malpractices performed by them to spread, thus they didn't publish any news paper in the territories of the company for almost 100 years and later once development of press started in India they imposed various restrictions and regulations. These acts and regulations like Censorship of Press Act, Licensing Regulation formed the part of early regulations in India.

Development of Press in Modern India

  • James Augustus Hickey published first Newspaper in India entitled The Bengal Gazette or Calcutta General Advertiser (It was also the first newspaper printed in Asia) in the year 1780 although this newspaper was seized in 1782 on the ground of criticizing the govt.
  • The editorial content of The Bengal Gazette was made up of: Hicky's articles that addressed issues of the day including moral ones, Extracts taken from British newspapers, Political and social gossip, Reports on London fashions and local splendour, Correspondence of local and distant writers, Poet's Corner.
  • The Calcutta Gazette (first published on 4 March 1784; it's all publications were wound off by a notification appearing on 29 September 1818 in favour of the Calcutta Journal, a new newspaper, launched by James Silk Buckingham), The Bengal Journal (1785; Founders: Thomas Jones and William Duane; weekly Journal),The Oriental Magazine of Calcutta or Calcutta Amusement (1785), The Calcutta Chronicle (1786) , The Madras Courier (1788), The Bombay Herald (1789) were some of the earlier newspapers published in India.
  • Raja Rammohan united with both the Indian and European editors to force Lord william Bentinck to liberalise the existing press laws and established Brahmenical Magazine in English, Sambad Kaumudi in Bangla, and the Mirat-ul-Akbar in Persian.

      There were apprehensions of these Newspaper reaching London and exposing the  misdeeds of the company s officers thus Britishers in India tried to curb the press via various regulations.

Censorship of Press Act, 1799

  • Apprehending a French invasion of India and engaged in the struggle for supremacy in India, Lord Wellesley (Governor-General of India (1798 1805)) imposed censorship on all Newspapers.
  • The Censorship of Press Act, 1799, imposed almost wartime restriction including pre-censorship on the press as the regulations required the newspaper to clearly print in every issue the name of the printer, the editor, the proprietor, and also the publisher to submit all material for immediate deportation.
  • In 1807, the Censorship Act was extended to cover all magazines, journals, pamphlets and even books etc.
  • Lord Hastings relaxed some of the restrictions in 1818 and the pre-censorship provision was abolished.

Licencing Regulation Act, 1823

  • Imposed by John Adams (his rule lasted for seven months) the acting Governor General.
  • John Adams is known for suppression of Indian press few examples include, cancellation of the license of Calcutta Journal, which published severe comments on the government, simultaneously the James Silk Buckingham's (founder of Calcutta Journal) license for residence in India was also cancelled, and Adams also passed regulations restricting newspaper criticism.
  • Licencing Regulation Act provided that every printer and publisher had to obtain a licence for starting a press or for using it and a penalty of Rs. 400 for each publication without permission, with a rigorous punishment.
  • Magistrates were authorized to seal the press and the Governor General could revoke the licence too.
  • Many vernaculars like Raja Ram Mohan Roy s Miratul- Akhbaar had to stop publication under the provisions of this act.

The Liberation of the Indian Press, 1835 / Press Act of 1835 or Metcalfe Act

  • Although a liberal attitude towards press was adopted by William Bentick (1828-1835) and considerable freedom was available to Indian press, but the 1823 act was not revoked.
  • The 1823 regulations were repealed by the then officiating Governor General Metcalfe during 1835-36.
  • Due to his liberal policy towards Indian press he is known as the Liberator of Indian Press .
  • The free press in India also got support from Lord Macaulay (played an important role in introduction of English and western Education in India).

The Licensing Act, 1857

  • Due to the emergency caused by the 1857 revolt, Britishers imposed this Act.
  • In addition to the already existing registration procedure laid down by Metcalfe Act, licensing restrictions were imposed and at the same time Government reserved the right to stop publication and circulation of any newspaper, book or printed matter.
  • The act s duration was limited to one year and it was an emergency measure.

The Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867

  • This replaced Metcalfe's Act of 1835 and was of a regulatory, not restrictive, nature.
  • As per the Act, it was compulsory for every book/newspaper to print the name of the printer and the publisher and the place of the publication; and a copy was to be submitted to the local government mandatorily within one month of the publication of a book.
  • This act got amended in 1914,1952 and 1953.

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