THE PRESS COUNCIL ACT, 1978

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The statutory organization that administers the performance of print media in India is the Press Council of India. The ultimate authority to deal with the media vests with the Council and it is the central body that upholds democracy. The Press Council has also power to guarantee freedom of speech and expression and confirm whether the freedom is sustained. The Press Council was established on July 4, 1966 on the basis of the Press Council Act of 1965. Presently, the Press Council functions according to the Press Council Act, 1978 enacted by the Parliament under the suggestions of the Second Press Commission of India.

The Press Council Act, 1978 was enacted with an objective to constitute Press Council to conserve the freedom of press and regulation of newspaper and other related agencies. The Council shall have the powers of a company with perpetual succession and the right to litigate in the name of the Council. The Council shall be constituted with Chairman and other twenty eight members. The members shall be designated from among the working journalists, newspaper editors, owners of the newspaper, managers of news agencies, educational experts, scientists, lawyers, person from University Grants Commission and other members to be chosen by the Parliament.

The Chairman shall continue in the office for a term of three years and the conditions of service of the Chairman shall be determined by the Central Government. The meetings of the Council and the norms to be followed in its proceedings shall be specified according to the regulations formulated under the Act.

The Council is vested with the power to assist the newspapers and its agencies to uphold their liberty. A definite system of procedures to be followed by newspapers and agencies in consonance with the high professional standards shall be created by the Council. The newspapers and the agencies shall sustain the standards of public wants and shall abide by the rights and duties of citizen. The Council is also entrusted with the duty to review the progress that restricts the furnishing of news considering the interests of the public. The newspapers shall conduct research on foreign newspaper including their impact on the public and the circulation policies.

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The Council shall conduct necessary inquiry where a complaint is received that the editor of a newspaper, agencies or journalists has acted against the ethics of the profession and public policy. After inquiry if the Council is satisfied that the allegation is true, it shall either warn or censure or criticize the newspaper or do such other acts provided under the Act. Moreover, in discharging the functions and conducting inquiry the Council shall have the powers of a civil court and follow the procedures laid down under the Civil Procedure Code.

The Act does not force any newspaper or agency to reveal the source from which the information or reports are published in that newspaper. All the actions undertaken by the Council shall be considered as judicial proceedings under the Indian Penal Code. The funds, grants or allowances received by the Council from the Central Government and other authorities shall be retained in the fund maintained by the Council and shall be deposited by the Council after informing the Central government. For the purpose of implementing the provisions of the Act, the Central Government is authorized to formulate rules after seeking advice from the Council. The Act empowers the Council to create regulations without contravening the provisions of the Act and the rules made by the Central Government.

The Act amended the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 which conferred power on the Press Council to nominate the Chairman and members of the Press and Registration Appellate Board as against the power of Central Government to appoint them. Hence, the Act provided for the constitution of a very effective machinery to check the functions and activities of the newspapers and the related agencies. The freedom granted to the newspapers shall be controlled and regulated by this quasi judicial body. Recently, the Press Council has requested the Central Government to make appropriate amendments to the 1978 Act to include the electronic media under the control of Act and also to rename the Press Council as ‘Media Council’.

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In addition, the Press Council of India has created Press Council (Procedure for Inquiry) (Amendment) Regulations, 2006 indicate the procedure to followed in lodging a complaint under the Press Council Act and the proceedings of inquiry to be conducted by the Inquiry Committee.