Vernacular Press Act of 1878

Right after the revolt of 1857, Lord Canning passed a “Gagging Act”, making it mandatory for newspaper publishers to obtain licences and submit material for vetting prior to publication. The Act also held that no licensed press should publish printed material impugning the motives of the British Raj, tending to bring it hatred and contempt and exciting unlawful resistance to its orders. When the British Government found that the Gagging Act was not potent enough to repress all Nationalist sentiments, it went on to create a more forcible law, which came as the Vernacular Press Act of 1878. It was passed under the Governor Generalship of Lord Lytton, for ‘better control” of Indian language newspapers. The purpose of the Act was to control the printing and circulation of seditious material, calculated to produce disaffection against the British Government in India in the minds of the ignorant, uneducated and largely illiterate masses. The viceroy Lord Lytton strongly denounced newspapers published in the vernacular languages as "mischievous scribblers preaching open sedition". He remarked that the whole purpose of most of the vernacular newspapers was an end to the British raj. The Act was intended to prevent the vernacular press from expressing criticism of British policies—notably, the opposition that had grown with the outset of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). The act excluded English-language publications.
Punishable actions under the Act
1. Any attempt to subvert the functioning of democratic institutions
2. Any false allegations against British authorities or individuals
3. Any attempts at endangering law and order to disturb the normal functioning of the state
4. Threats to internal stability
Any one or more of the above were punishable by law. No redress could be sought in any court in the land.

Reactions against Vernacular Press Act
The community of editors and printers unanimously outraged the Act. All the prominent leaders condemned the Act as unwarranted and unjustified, and demanded for its immediate withdrawal. It was repealed on December 7, 1881, when Lord Ripon was Governor General and Viceroy of India. The Indian Penal Code was amended to make room for censorship of objectionable material in the writings of the Indian language press.

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Note compiled from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia