After the 1757 battle playhouse the influence Ofelia. was increasing with tremendous rapidity and in various cities including Madras and Bombay the British Government had complete control which was being extended to other parts of the Sub-continent,
Among the critics were English editors of English newspapers published in the aforesaid places. In January 1795, Mr. Williamson started the ‘Madras Gazette’ and in the same year the Madras Government detected libelous matter printed in the paper and straightway declared that before publication the proofs of this paper should be presented to Military Secretary for inspection.
In May 1799, Lord Wellesley introduced four laws for newspapers> 1. The owner and editor of compare should notify the Government Secretary of their addresses.
2. The name of the printer must be cited on the last page of the paper.
3. No paper should be published until the proofs have been examined by the appointed secretary.
4. No newspaper should be printed on Sunday.
The censorship was further intensified in 1811 with the addition of new rules which made it compulsory that the name of the printer be given in every newspaper, pamphlet, book, and other printed matter.
A Department of Censorship also crone into being with Mr. Adam as Head in 1813, when Lord Hastings succeeded Lord Minto as Governor General of India, the Censorship Department was abolished. When Lord Wellesley had landed at Calcutta in 1798, the British Empire was at stake and the press was considered to be a great danger justifying the imposition of censorship upon the newspapers.
A license was also required before a newspaper could be started. An historian says that- “It was our policy in those days to keep the natives of India in the profoundest possible state of barbarism and .darkness, and every attempt to diffuse the light of knowledge among the people, either of our own or the Independent States, was vehemently opposed and resented .”
One such example was quoted by Sir J.W. Kaye who mentioned (in the Life of Lord Metcalf, Vol. pp. 136·138)that Captain Sydenham, representative of Hyderabad, wanted to gratify a desire expressed by the Nizam to see some of the appliances of European ‘winces.
The Captain presented three specimens, namely an air pump, a printing press, and the model of a man-of-war. As he mentioned in his official correspondence to the Chief Secretary, he was reprimanded for having placed in: hands of a native prince so dangerous an instrument as the printing press.
Under Lord Hastings, free expression of thought was permitted and he had been appreciative of Dr. Marshman and thanked Serampore Missionaries for the publication of a vernacular newspaper. The abolition of the censorship department in 1813 was the greatest achievement of Hasting period of office.
In January 1823, Lord Hastings left Calcutta for England and was succeeded by a senior member of the Council, John Adam, a great advocate of suppression of the press, who believed that the continued domination by the British in India depended upon keeping the natives in a state of ignorance, with officials dowered with despotism, responsible only to the Court of Directors in Leaden hall Street, London. He soon enforced long suspended regulations against the press.
Dr. Marshman described them as “Completely extinguishing the freedom of unlicensed printing.” After Lord -Hasting’s departure the influence of his benign character ceased to shine upon India and the liberty of the press, which he had established, and all the hopes of improvement connected with it, soon sunk with him into the darkest night.
John Adam, the great critic of the freedom of the press, was succeeded by Lord Amherst, who unthinkingly or otherwise .allowed things to take their own course for a time without any “Jockeying” on his part. So the sword of Damocles in the shape of the unrepeatable restrictions on the press, was sheathed by Lord Amherst, and further freedom was granted to the press in the re.i.g• n of Lord William Bentinck:
“He had learned more from the newspapers than from all the other sources of information open to him. ” The English-speaking population of India were taking a deep interest in the emancipation of the press, and in 1835 a petition was presented to ·the Governor General asking that the press regulations formulated and ‘workers’ by John Adam might be repealed, and that newspapers should not continue to be liable to severe treatment at the whim of an official, who, for private motives, perhaps, might wish to put the law into practice.
A reply was received that attention would be given soon to the petition but unfortunately Lord William Bentinck left India before any appropriate action was taken. In the absence of a successor, Sir Charles Met calf was temporarily appointed as acting Governor-General. He was already in favor of freedom of thought, as expressed by Sir J.W. Kaye.
“The draft Act for the future regulation of the press was drawn up and duly published. It declared the repeal of the Press Regulations of 1823 in the Bengal Presidency, and those of 1825 and 1827 in Bombay. It enacted that the printer and publisher of all periodical works within the Company’s Territories, containing public new, or comments on public news, should appear before the magistrate of the jurisdiction in which it should be published, and declare where it was to be printed and published.
Every book and paper was thenceforth to bear the name of t.he printer and publisher. Every person having a printing press on his premises was to make declaration thereof, and for all violations of the provisions of the Act, penalties of fine and imprisonment were decreed. But, beyond the necessity of making these declarations, there was no other restrictions upon the liberty of the press. ” The people of Calcutta were particularly delighted and called Sir Charles Met calf “Liberator of the press”. In his honor a building called “Met calf Hall”, was erected for the public library. All over the Asian sub-continent], meetings were held and congratulations poured in upon the’ acting Governor General.
This, however, aroused anger among the Court of Directors who completely ignored the splendid services rendered by Charles Met Calf.
Eventually, he was succeeded by Lord Auckland, who immediately after taking office as Governor General ended the interregnum and reimposed censorship upon the press together with other penalties which the ingenuity or malignity of bureaucracy could devise. It never proved effective because the press had been made totally free and it was an extremely difficult task to re-introduce. Adam’s strict rules with the necessary vigor to make them effective.
There were different laws enforced at different times in various provinces, those laws were also published in Urdu books for the information of native printers who could not understand English.
In 1845, for instance, one Urdu book specified in its last pages that there were four types of crimes for which printers could be prosecuted. For the first time it was stated that anyone publishing pornographic material would be liable to prosecution.
According to the press Act 1847, it was prohibited to publish a book in a foreign country without the prior permission of the author.
The press laws designed and introduced in 1835 remained in force until May. 1857 on 12 June 1857 severe restrictions were imposed on newspapers and a new law similar to that of 1823 Act was re-enforced.