Internet editions of newspapers will soon be subject to the same laws that govern their print editions. An amendment to the Press and Registration of Books Act 1867, to this effect was cleared by the Cabinet on Thursday to be introduced in the coming session of Parliament.
A key feature of the proposed Press and Registration of Books and Publications Act 2010 is new definitions, which distinguish between magazines, trade journals, newsletters and other publications.Keeping abreast of technological developments, some new definitions have also been introduced to cover foreign publications, facsimile editions and syndicated columns.
The Indian Newspaper Society, however, reacted sharply to the cabinet decision saying the government had not held consultations with stakeholders before finalising the amendments.
PTI quoted INS president Kundan R Vyas saying the amendments, cleared "without any proper consultation with the industry", included a section which provided draconian "penalty".
Vyas also said the penalty clause was violative of the Constitution.
He said punishments are prescribed for several technical violations.
The suspension of a publication is too wide a power to be granted to a magistrate or even Press Registrar, he said.
"Any provision that causes cessation of a publication has no place in democracy and is violative of right to freedom of speech," Vyas said.
Officials in the I&B ministry said the proposed amendments had been uploaded on the ministry's website for "sufficient time" and the INS could have sent their comments as other organisations did.
The amended Act, however, was later removed from the website, a senior official said, adding that this was standard procedure.