The Newspaper (Price and Page) Continuance Act, 1961

The Newspaper (Price and Page) Continuance Act, 1956 (Act no. 36 of 1961) dated 5th September, 1961 was enacted with the view to amend the provisions of The Newspaper (Price and Page) Act, 1956 (Act no. 45 of 1956) in order to make continued application of the Act of 1956. The Act of 1956 was enacted to provide for regulation of the prices charges for newspapers relating to their pages, to prevent unfair competition among the newspaper. The Act of 1961 is enacted to amend the provisions of Act of 1956 as aforesaid, however, it is basically to omit the section 1(3) of the Act of 1961 and also the same was enacted after the completion of gap of 5 years. The Section 1(3) of that Act was providing the duration of that Act, which was to only 5 years from its enactment. However, it was felt necessary to continue the effect of that Act, and as such the provision relating to that duration was omitted by providing this Act of 1961. As such all the provisions of the Act of 1956 were continued to apply even after completion of the period of 5 years.

Section 3 of the Act 1956 was important so far as it is relating to regulation of prices and pages of newspapers, etc. The Central Government is empowered thereunder to make an order providing for regulation of prices charged for newspapers in relation to their maximum or minimum number of pages, size or areas and for the space to be allotted for advertising matter, in order to prevent unfair competition among newspapers in order to allow the newspapers to enjoy freedom of expression. However, the sub Section (4) of the section requires the Central Government to first consult with Associations of Publishers of Newspapers, prior to making of such order under this provision. Similarly, as the provision of section 3 of that Act was important one, as such every breach of this provision is prohibited under that Act and also as to ensuring compliance of such orders made under that provisions of that Act the authority was delivered to Press Registrar appointed under the provisions of the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 for directing publishers of such newspaper being subjected to such order, that to furnish weekly returns and statistics regarding particulars mentioned under Section 3. Moreover, any violation of the prohibiting provision of that Act was to be punished with imposing fine extending to 1000 rupees and for continued violation it was to be 2000 rupees. Similarly, if publisher of newspaper was required to furnish returns under that provisions and the publisher was refusing or neglecting to comply such directions, similarly, if he is furnishing false weekly returns, then such publisher was to be punished with fine extending up to rupees 500.

Thus, the section 3 of the Act was very important provisions, however, the provision was challenged before Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Sakal Papers Pvt. Ltd. vs. Union of India, [AIR 1962 SC 305]. The Court in this case pronounced a landmark judgment, wherein, it has decided the constitutional validity of the provisions of this Act and declared the provision of Section 3 of the Act as violative of Article 19(1)(a) of The Constitution of India, thus, the Court has struck down the main provision of the Act i.e. Section 3.

The interim report No. 248 dated 12th September, 2014 of 20th Law Commission of India, in pursuance to the study undertaken by it on ‘The Legal Enactments: Simplification and Streamlining’, the commission had recommended the repealing of this Act of 1956 due to the reason that, Supreme Court had struck down the main provision i.e. section 3 of the Act and as such no fresh order could be made and thus, the Act remained meaningless. Similarly, the Act of 1961 was also recommended for repealing by this Commission, by the reason of original Act is repealing. As such both the Acts i.e. Act of 1956 and Act of 1961 were declared as obsolete law and as such warranted immediate repeal.

by Faim Khalilkhan Pathan