Vernacular Press Act
British India passed the Vernacular Press Act (1878) to restrict press freedom and prevent criticism of British policies, especially the resistance that had risen since the start of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). The Act was proposed by Lytton, the Viceroy of India at the time, and on March 14, 1878, the Viceroy’s Council unanimously passed it.
In order to “better control” the vernacular press and successfully punish and repress “seditious writing” in “publications in oriental languages,” the Vernacular Press Act (VPA) was passed. As a consequence, the British had nothing but hatred for the (non-English speaking) Indian press. The Vernacular Press Act of 1878 will be covered in this article and will be helpful for UPSC exam preparation.
Read More: Ilbert Bill
Vernacular Press Act History
The Revolt of 1857 left a bitter heritage of racial hostility between the ruler and the ruled. After 1858, the European press consistently sided with the government in political disputes, in contrast to the local press, which was sceptical of the government. A terrible famine (1876–77) and lavish expenditure on the imperial Delhi Durbar, on the other hand, contributed to a powerful public backlash against Lytton’s imperialistic policies.
Newspapers acted as a catalyst for the new socio-political awareness during the second half of the nineteenth century when the nation’s vernacular press experienced a dramatic expansion. Newspapers used to only be published in Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, and Allahabad, but subsequently, they also started appearing in smaller towns. The majority of newspapers were written in regional languages because they were all distributed in small communities.
There were 20 English newspapers and 200 regional newspapers published at the time this act was enacted in 1878. These local newspapers raised people’s awareness of political problems, and they progressively started to inquire about their rights. In order to protect the government, Lord Lytton passed the Vernacular Press Act in 1878.
Read More: Indian National Movement
Vernacular Press Act Provisions
This act gave the district magistrates the authority to require any printer or publisher to sign a bond promising not to publish anything that might “rouse” public discontentment without first receiving approval from the government. Additionally, the judge was given the power to place a security deposit that, in the event that the printer disobeyed the Bond, could be taken back. If a printer repeats the infraction, his press might be confiscated.
There was no right to appeal to the magistrate’s judgment in a court of law. A government censor could accept documentation from a local publication to exempt it from the Act’s application.
Read More: Indian Association of Calcutta
Vernacular Press Act Impact
The law was named “the Gagging Act.” The inequality between English and vernacular press and the lack of an appeals process was the most heinous features of this act.
Under the VPA, charges were brought against Som Prakash, Bharat Mihir, Dacca Prakash, and Samachar. The Amrita Bazar Patrika, incidentally, changed into an English newspaper overnight in order to escape the VPA. Later, the pre-censorship provision was eliminated, and a press commissioner was chosen to deliver reliable news to the media. The law was abolished by Ripon in 1882 after widespread opposition.
Read More: East India Association
Vernacular Press Act UPSC
The Vernacular Press Act of 1878 stifled the press and led to the prosecution of some members of the vernacular press. Currently, there was a sizable public outcry against this move. Later, the act was repealed by Lord Ripon, who replaced Lord Lytton. The anger it caused among Indians, however, became one of the motivating factors behind India’s expanding independence campaign. For UPSC exam preparation, this document contains all the necessary information about the Vernacular Press Act.
Read More: Poona Sarvajanik Sabha