Lahore, Friday, July 22, 1921

THE PRESS LAWS

WHILE we unreservedly congratulate the Press Laws Committee on its recommendation that both the Press Act and the Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act should be repealed, we are constrained to take exception to some of the other recommendations made in its report. These recommendations are made mostly with a view to the retention of some of the provisions of the Press Act by incorporation in other laws, and it is safe to assert that unless they are seriously modified, some of the principal objections to the existence of the Press Act will remain and will continue to cause that public dissatisfaction which, we gather, is one of the chief reasons why the Committee has recommended the repeal of the Act. Let it be admitted that no attempt is made in these recommendations to retain either the unduly comprehensive definition of the offence punishable under the Press Act or provisions relating to the demand or forfeiture of security. And even as regards the powers, the retention of which by the Government or its officers is recommended, the safeguard of a real appeal to the ordinary courts as distinguished from this illusory appeal under the Press Act is provided. But only a little reflection will show that the recommendation is based on an imperfect appreciation of the fundamental principle of liberty of the Press, on which we have always taken our stand in our fight against the Press Act and that the safeguard itself is far from adequate. The two principal recommendations which we have in view are (1) that local Governments should retain the power of confiscating seditious leaflets, and (2) that the powers conferred by Sections 13 to 15 of the Press Act should be retained, customs and postal officers being empowered to seize seditious literature within the meaning of Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code.

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