History of RNI in India

  • May 30, 2024
  • Dushyant Sharma
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The office of the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI), or simply RNI office, is an attached office of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and a statutory office under Section 19(A) of the Press and Registration of Books Act 1867. 

 

In this article, we will take a look at the history of the RNI in India.

Press and Registration of Books Act 1867

The RNI's responsibilities are outlined in the Press and Registration of Books Act. Keeping a record of books and publications published in the nation was the primary goal of this Act during the British era. Since then, the Act has been amended 22 times—11 times prior to independence and 11 times after.  

 

It was the recommendations of the First Press Commission that led to the establishment of the RNI office. In 1954, this commission had submitted a report to GOI to suggest the constitution of a statutory authority that would be responsible for the collection of reliable statistics relating to the Indian press. India had no central authority for registration of publications in India until the RNI office came into existence in the year 1956. The respective District Magistrates at their offices maintained the registration record. 

 

It was in September 1952 that the First Press Commission was appointed under the chairmanship of Justice G.S. Rajadhyaksha. This commission had some of India’s most prominent personalities and journalists as its members, such as Dr. C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar, Acharya Narendra Dev, Dr. Zakir Hussain, Dr. V.K.R.V. Rao, P.H. Patwardhan, T.N. Singh, Jaipal Singh, J. Natarajan, A.R. Bhat and Chalapati Rau. The commission's task was to assess the condition of the Indian press and offer suggestions for its long-term, all round development.

 

Following two years of intense effort, the Commission on July 14, 1954, filed its report with several significant recommendations. As a result, in 1955, the Press and Registration of Books Act of 1867 was modified. The amendment's main goal was to give the Central Government the power to enforce the Act's newspaper-related restrictions. The authority of State Governments was unaffected by the modification. They nevertheless had full responsibility for the application of the laws pertaining to printing presses and books. They continued to be responsible for upholding the newspaper-related provisions.  

 

The appointment of RNI Registrar or Press Registrar was one of the main recommendations of the commission. Subsequently, the RNI office was created on 1st July, 1956 and the RNI registrar was appointed under Section 19 (A) of the Press and Registration of Books Act of 1867. At the same time, the Registration of Newspapers (Central Rules) of 1956 was also promulgated. The first RNI registrar of India was Shri M L Bhardwaj. 

When was the RNI established in India?

The RNI came into existence upon the establishment of its headquarters in New Delhi in 1956. Before the RNI office moved its current location to Soochna Bhawan in CGO complex in Lodhi Road in 2018, the RNI office functioned at various places across Delhi.

 

Till 1977, RNI regional office was located at Shimla and looked after certain functions related to RNI registration until it was shut down. RNI regional offices were established in the 1990s in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata under the VIII Plan. Under the IX Plan, two more regional offices of RNI newspaper office were established in Bhopal and Guwahati. However, as part of a consolidation exercise in 2016, all the five RNI regional offices for RNI registration were shut down and some of their functions were transferred to the Press Information Bureau office in respective stations.

RNI Functions

Now, let’s discuss RNI’s functions. We will begin by discussing statutory functions of registrar of newspapers.

Statutory Functions of RNI

  • Compilation and maintenance of a RNI Register of Newspapers containing particulars about all the newspapers published;
  • Issuance of RNI Certificate of Registration a.k.a RNI Certificate to newspapers published under valid declaration;
  • Careful examination and evaluation of the annual reports that newspaper publishers submit each year in accordance with the PRB Act, which include data on ownership, circulation, and other topics;
  • notifying district magistrates of the titles' availability and aspiring publishers so they can submit a statement;
  • ensuring that newspapers are published in compliance with the guidelines established by the PRB Act of 1867;
  • validation of the distribution claims provided by the publishers in their annual statements in accordance with PRB Act Section 19-F;
  • Preparation and submission of a report to GOI containing all available information and statistics about the press in India with particular reference to the emerging trends in circulation and in the direction of common ownership units etc. on or before 31 December every year.

Non-statutory Functions of RNI

  • Formulation of Newsprint Allocation Policy – Guidelines and issuance of Eligibility Certificate to the eligible newspapers to allow them to import newsprint and obtain indigenous newsprint;
  • Evaluating and certifying the essential needs and requirements of newspaper establishments to import printing and composing machinery and related materials.

Understanding RNI Title Registration and RNI Title Verification

RNI Registration for newspapers, magazines and other periodicals is done in two steps. In the first step, RNI title registration is done. The intending publisher has to apply in the office of District Magistrate (DM) concerned for RNI title verification in the prescribed format as part of the RNI title registration process. The RNI registration application is then forwarded by the DM concerned to RNI for RNI title verification. For RNI title registration online, in 2014, a facility had been created on the RNI website for filing RNI title verification application online. Printout of the same is required to be submitted to the DM concerned for forwarding to RNI office for title verification to achieve RNI title registration.

 

The RNI title verification procedure is derived from proviso to section 6 of PRB Act, 1867 which mentions the DM concerned shall inquire from Press Registrar that the newspaper proposed to be published should not bear a title which is same as/similar to, that of any other existing newspaper published in the same language or same state. For this purpose, the titles are verified within the framework of RNI guidelines. 

 

Once the DM concerned receives the title forwarded by the DM concerned, RNI verifies the title after checking the data of the titles already verified. Before the registration data was computerized in 1999, a manual card system had to be maintained. However, due to computerization, software based checking has been adopted. Now, the intending applicants can have an idea of existing titles before applying as the data of titles already verified is available on the official RNI website. Once the RNI newspaper title gets approved, the RNI title verification letter becomes available on RNI website for download. In 2019-2019, about 15,278 title applications were received and 3,156 RNI verified titles were verified for RNI title registration.

 

Once RNI title verification is completed, the publisher/and or printer is required to file a declaration using Form I in the office of DM concerned. Upon the declaration’s authentication, Volume - I Issue - I of the publication is to be brought out within a prescribed period. Thereafter, the publisher needs to submit the requisite documents to RNI office for issuing RNI Registration Certificate a.k.a Newspaper Registration Certificate. These are the required documents:

  • Title verification letter
  • Authenticated declaration
  • An affidavit for no foreign tie-up
  • First issue and latest issue of the publication
  • Content intimation/ confirmation in the prescribed form
  • Certificate intimating appointment of the printer

If the complete/correct documents for RNI or newspaper registration are not received within 2 years from the date of RNI title registration verification, the title gets automatically deblocked and is then made available to any intending applicant. In 1998, the first exercise to deblock unregistered titles was undertaken and about 1.7 lakh titles were deblocked for the prevention of squatting. During the year 2018-2019, a total of 3,984 RNI verified titles were deblocked.

RNI Certificate of Registration

The publication receives a registration number and is entered in the Register of RNI once it has been confirmed that it has been produced and published in accordance with the various provisions of the PRB Act, 1867 and the rules enacted thereunder. The Press Registrar then grants the publisher the RNI Certificate of Registration. Following computerization, a system was established to issue registration numbers together with state and language code.

 

The first newspaper to receive a RNI Certificate of Registration in 1957 was "Vishva Jyoti" from Punjab. The first newspaper to receive a RNI Certificate of Registration with a State and Language Code was "Rashtriya Hindi Mail." RNI issued 1,986 Registration Certificates in total in 2018–19.  

Conclusion

Established several decades ago, RNI plays an important role in the newspaper industry as it provides RNI title registration and RNI Certificate to the publishers so that they can publish their newspapers and other periodicals in India. As of 31 March 2024, a total of 17,573 newspapers and 1,00,666 periodicals are registered with RNI. For assistance in RNI title registration or RNI certificate, get in touch with Registrationwala.


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Dushyant Sharma
Author: Dushyant Sharma

Hey there, I'm Dushyant Sharma. With the extensive knowledge I've gained in past 8 years, I have been creating content on various subjects such as banking, insurance, telecom, and all the important registration and licensing processes for various companies. I'm here to help everyone with my expertise in these areas through my articles.

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