PREVENTION OF PUBLICATION OF OBJECTIONABLE MATTER ACT, 1976
27 OF 1976
An Act to provide against the printing and publication of incitement to crime and other objectionable matter Be it enacted by Parliament in the Twenty-seventh Year of the Republic of India as follows : Prefatory Note- Statement of Objects and Reasons-A publication in print has a more lasting and widespread effect than other forms of communication. Press (Objectionable Matter) Act, 1951 was enacted to penalise the abuse of the freedom of the press by publication of matter involving encouragement of violence or sabotage or incitement to certain other very grave offences. The Press Commission which submitted its Report in 1954 accepted the possibility of existence of irresponsible elements who needed to be curbed through special legal measures. The Commission recommended the setting up of a Press Council which would, inter alia, safeguard the liberty of the press and evolve and maintain standards of jourrtalistic ethics. The Commission hoped that as the Press Council "grows in strength and prestige the necessity of having resort to such measures as the Press (Objec- tionable Matter) Act will gradually disappear". In the hope that the press would evolve its own internal control. Government allowed Press (Objectionable Matter) Act, 1951, to expire on the 1st February, 1956. Later, in accordance with the recommendations of the Press Commission, Press Council Act, 1965, was enacted. The experience of the system of Press Council has not, however, been satisfactory. It did not serve to deter those elements which were in a position to use the printed medium in an- undesirable way, for spreading hatred, for character assassination and undermining the people's morale and taste. In view of the need for urgent action in the matter, the. President promulgated on the 8th December, 1975, the Prevention of Publication of Objectionable Matter Ordinance, 1975. 2. The Ordinance provided for the prohibition of the printing or publication of any, specified matter for a temporary period not exceeding two months where such prohibition is necessary for preventing or combating any activity prejudical to the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or any activity involving or likely to involve, or culminate in, incitement to offences. The Ordinance also provided for demanding security from keepers of presses and publishers and editors of newspapers found guilty of being concerned in the publication of objectionable matter as defined in the Ordinance. Provisions were also made in the Ordinance for preventing the circulation and distribution of objectionably matter. The main purpose of the Ordinance was to prevent the use of the Press for encouragement of violence, sedition and other offences and for the publication of obscene or securrilous matter and the definition of "objectionable matter" has been strictly confined to this purpose. 3. The Bill seeks to replace the Ordinance. The Notes on Clauses explain the provi- sions of the Bill.
CHAPTER 1 : PRELIMINARY
SECTION 1 : Short title, extent and commencement
(1) This Act may be called the Prevention of Publication of Objectionable Matter Act, 1976.
(2) It extends to the whole of India.
(3) It shall be deemed to have come into force on the 8th day of Decem- ber, 1975.
SECTION 2 : Definitions and construction
(1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,-
(a) "book" includes every volume, part or division of a volume, pamphlet and leaflet, in any language, and every sheet of music, map, chart or plan separately printed, lithographed or other- wise mechanically produced;
(b) "Code" means (Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973)
(c) "competent authority" means a competent authority appointed under (Section 4)
(d) "document" includes also any painting, drawing or photograph or other visible representation;
(e) "newspaper" means any periodical work containing public news or comments on public news;
(f) "news-sheet" means any document other than a newspaper con- taining public news or comments on public news;
(g) "press" means a printing press, and includes all plant, machinery, duplicators, types, implements and other materials used for the purpose of, or in connection with, printing or multiplying docu- ments ;
(h) "Press Kegistration Act" means (Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867)
(i) "State Government", in relation to a Union territory, means the administrator thereof appointed under (Art.239 of the Constitution of india)
(j) "unauthorised newspaper" means-
(i) any newspaper in respect of which security has been required under this Act, but has not been furnished as required, or
(ii) any newspaper which is published without conforming to the rules laid down in (S.5 of the Press Registration Act, 1908)
(k) "unauthorised news-sheet" means any news-sheet in respect of which security has been required from the publisher thereof under this Act but has not been furnished as required or any news-sheet which does not contain the name of the printer and the publisher;
(l) "undeclared press" means any press other than a press in respect of which there is for the time being a valid declaration under (S.4 of the Press Registration Act, 1908)
(m) any expression used but not defined in this Act shall,-
(i) if such expression is defined in the Code, have the same meaning as in the Code; and
(ii) if such expression is not defined in the Code but defined in (Indian Penal Code, 1860)
, have the same meaning as in the Indian Penal Code.
(2) For the purposes of this Act, where different editions of the same newspaper or news-sheet are published, each such edition shall be deemed to be a separate -newspaper or news-sheet.
(3) Any reference in this Act to any law which is not in force in any area shall, in relation to that area, be construed as a reference to the corres- ponding law, if any, in force in that area.
(4) Any reference in this Act to any officer or authority shall, in relation to any area in which there is no officer or authority with the same designa- tion, be construed as a reference to such officer or authority as may be speci- fied by the Central Government by notification in the Official Gazette.
SECTION 3 : "Objectionable matter" 'defined
In this Act, the expression "objectionable matter" means any words, signs or visible representations- (a) which are likely to-
(i) bring into hatred or contempt, or excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India or in any State thereof and thereby cause or tend to cause public disorder; or
(ii) incite any person to interfere with the production, supply or distribution of food or other essential commodities or with essential services; or
(iii) seduce any member of the Armed Forces or the Forces charged with the maintenance of public order from his allegiance or his duty or prejudice the recruiting of persons to serve in any such Force or prejudice "the discipline of any such Force; or.
(iv) promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities; or
(v) cause fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquillity; or
(vi) incite any person or any class or community of persons to com- mit murder, mischief or any other offence; or
(i) are defamatory of the President of India, the Vice-President of India, the Prime Minister or the Speaker of the House of the People or the Governor of a State; or
(ii) are grossly indecent, or are scurrilous or obscene or intended for blackmail.
Explanation I:-Comments expressing disapprobation or criticism of any law or of any policy or administrative action of the Government with a view to obtain its alteration or redress by lawful means, and words pointing out, with a view to their removal by lawful means, matter which are producing, or have a tendency to produce disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, shall not be deemed to be objectionable matter within the meaning of this section.
Explanation II.-In considering whether any matter is objectionable matter under this Act, the effect of the words, signs or visible representations, and not the intention of the keeper of the press or the publisher or editor of the newspaper or news-sheet, as the case may be, shall be taken into account.
SECTION 4 : Appointment of competent authorities
(1) The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint such officers (being officers of the Central Government, not below the rank of a Deputy Secretary to that Government, or officers of State Governments or Administrations of Union territories not below the rank of a District Magistrate) as it deems fit to- be competent authorities for the purposes of this Act and specify the local limits of their jurisdiction.
(2) An officer appointed under sub-section (1) may exercise the powers of a competent authority under this Act in relation to presses situated and newspapers and news-sheets published within the local limits of his jurisdiction, the keepers of such presses and the publishers and editors of such news- papers.
CHAPTER 2 : PROHIBITION OF PREJUDICIAL PUBLICATIONS
SECTION 5 : Power to control prejudicial publications
((1) The Central Government or the competent authority, if satisfied that such action is necessary for the purpose of preventing or combating-
(a) any activity prejudicial to the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality; or
(b) any activity involving, or likely to involve or culminate in incitement to offences, may, by order in writing, addressed to the keeper of any press or any pub- lisher or editor, prohibit the printing or publication in any document or any class of a documents of any matter relating to a particular subject or class of subjects for a specified period (not exceeding two months from the date of communication of the order) or in a particular issue or issues of a newspaper or periodical.
(2) An order made under sub-section (1) shall not take effect until it is communicated to the person against whom it is made.
3) When any order is made by the competent authority under sub- section (1) against any person, the competent authority snail forthwith report the fact to the Central Government together with the grounds on which the order has been made and such other particulars as in his opinion have a bearing on the matter and the Central Government may, if satisfied after making such inquiry, if any, as it may deem fit, that it is proper so to do, set aside such order or modify such order to the advantage of such person.
(4) Without prejudice to the provisions of sub-section (3), any person aggrieved by an order made under sub-section (1) may, within ten days of the communication of the order to him, make a representation to the Central Government and the Central Government may, after making such inquiry as it may deem fit and after taking into account the action, if any, taken by it under sub-section (3) in respect of such order, dispose of the matter confirm- ing, modifying or setting aside the order or, as the case may be, confirming such action: Provided that if the person making the representation makes a request in his representation that he should be given an opportunity to be heard, the Central Government shall not dispose of the matter without giving to such person such opportunity.
(5) If within a period of seven days from the date of receipt of a repre- sentation under sub-section (4) the Central Governmentfails to confirm, modify or set aside the order against which the representation is made, the order shall, unless sooner set aside under sub-section (3), be deemed to have been set aside on the expiry of that period.
Explanation.-In computing the said period of seven days,-
(a) public holidays, that is to say, days on which the offices of the Central Government remain closed; and
(b) any time allowed to the person making the representation in compliance with his request to be heard; and
(c) any period during which the representation could not be disposed of by reason of any injunction or order of any court (including the day on which such injunction or order was issued or made and the day on which it was withdrawn), shall be excluded.
SECTION 6 : Forfeiture of publications made in contravention of ordersunder Section 5
In the event of disobedience of an order made under (Section 5), the Central Government or the competent authority issuing the order may, without prejudice to any other penalty, to which the person guilty of the disobedience of the order is liable under this Act or under any other law for the time being in force, direct that copies of the publication made in disobedience of such order be seized, and that any printing press or other instrument or apparatus used in the publication be closed down for the period such order is in operation.
SECTION 7 : Penalty for contravention of orders under Section 5
Whoever contravenes, disobeys or neglects to comply with any order made under (Section 5)
shall, on conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.
CHAPTER 3 : PREVENTION OF PRINTING AND PUBLICATION OF OBJECTIONABLE MATTER
SECTION 8 : Power to demand security from presses in certain cases
Whenever it appears to the competent .authority that any press has been used for the purposes of printing or publishing any newspaper, news-sheet, book or other document containing objectionable matter, and that there are suffi- cient grounds for demanding security from the keeper of the press under this section, the competent authority shall, by order in writing, direct the keeper of the press to deposit as security, within twenty-one days from the date of the order, such amount as the competent authority may think fit to require: Provided that if, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the competent authority is satisfied that the requirements of the case will be met by a warning, the competent authority may, instead of demanding security, record, by order in writing, such warning.
SECTION 9 : Power to forfeit security or demand further security from presses
Whenever it appears to the competent authority that any press in respect of which any security has been ordered to be deposited under (Section 8)
or under this section is thereafter used for the purpose of printing or publishing any newspaper, news-sheet, book or other document containing objectionable matter, the competent authority shall, by order in writing, declare such security as has been deposited, or any portion thereof, to be forfeited to the Central Government or direct the keeper of the press to deposit, within twenty-one days from the date of the order, such further secu- rity as the competent authority may deem fit to require and may also, in either case, declare all copies of the newspaper, news-sheet, book or other document containing such objectionable matter, wherever found in India, to be forfeited to the Central Government.
SECTION 10 : Consequences of failure to deposit security as requiredunder Section 8 or Section 9
(1) Where the keeper of the press is required under (Section 8) or (Section 9) to deposit any amount as security and the deposit is not made within the time allowed-
(a) the declaration made by the keeper of the press under the Press Registration Act shall be deemed to be annulled; and
(b) notwithstanding anything contained in the Press Registration Act, neither the said keeper of the press nor any other person shall make or be allowed to make a fresh declaration before a Magistrate under that Act in respect of the press, unless the amount required to be deposited as security by the keeper of the press under (Section 8)
or (Section 9)
is deposited by the keeper of the press or such other person; and
(c) the press shall not be used for printing or publishing of any news- paper, news-sheet, book or other document until the deposit has been made.
(2) lf any press is used in contravention of clause (c) of sub-section (1), any Judicial Magistrate may on a complaint madeto him in this behalf by the competent authority direct the keeper of the press to show cause why it should not be forfeited and after hearing him and on being satisfied that there are sufficient grounds for passing the order, declare the press or any part thereof 'to be forfeited to the Central Government : Provided that the press or any part thereof so forfeited shall not be dis- posed of within a period of three months from the date of tile order of for- feiture, and if the keeper of the press makes the required deposit within the aforesaid period, the press or the part thereof shall be returned to the keeper of the press.
SECTION 11 : Power to demand security from publishers of newspapersand news-sheets in certain cases
Wheneverit appears to the competent authority that a newspaper or news-sheet contains any objectionable matter, and that there are sufficients grounds for demanding security in respect of the newspaper or news-sheet under this section, the competent authority shall, by order in writing, direct the publisher of the newspaper or news-sheet to deposit, within twenty-one days from the date of the order, as secu- rity in respect of the newspaper or news-sheet, such amount as the competent authority may think fit to require : Provided that if, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the competent authority is satisfied that the requirements of the case will be met by a