Amit Patel DSNLU, Vishakhapatnam

Prachi Ganeriwala, Amity University, Kolkata


Shristi Singh, UWSL, Karnavati University


Media law is a branch of law enumerating a system of legal norms that regulate the activities of the media, regulates media production and its use. Media law regulates the ethics of the dissemination of media products, and, on the other hand, it can affect the content of media products. They are often hailed as the “fourth pillar”, alongside the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. Their role is not solely confined to the reproduction of facts since mass media also communicates political, social, ethical, cultural, and other ideas, and thereby making an important contribution to the institution of public opinion.

The concept of media freedom is pre-dominant in media law. In each realm where the law regulates media activity, the core issue is whether the measure is inconsonant with media freedom. The perplexity lies in identifying measures that are permissible from those which efface the heart of media freedom. To add to the challenges, the concept of media freedom is used as a powerful rhetorical tool. The imposition of a privacy injunction is often greeted with a declaration in newspapers that it marks the end of press freedom.

Media law takes media of all types (TV, film, music, publishing, advertising, internet & new media, etc.), and stretches over various legal fields, including but not limited to corporate, finance, intellectual property, publicity, and privacy within its gamut. It is a legal field that refers to the Advertising, Broadcasting, Censorship, Confidentiality, Contempt, Copyright, Corporate law, Defamation, Entertainment, Freedom of information, Internet, Information technology, Privacy, Telecommunications.

In addition to laws that directly regulate the use of media, media law entails various other laws, including intellectual property law, that’s often an issue. With the prevalence of piracy and image reproduction, media producers and other organizations struggle to protect their trademarks and copyrights. Besides, media law may involve many other types of law including, Employment issues, Contract laws, Crime, Torts, Labour issues, Tax laws, Bankruptcy, Immigration, Insurance regulations. The Indian Constitution does not provide freedom for media per se. It is gleaned from Article 19(1) (a). Which guarantees freedom of speech and expression? Article 19 of our Constitution deals with the right to freedom and it enumerates certain rights regarding individual freedom of speech and expression etc.

Historic Perspective of Mass Media Laws in India

Mass media laws in India have a long history and are profoundly established in the nation's pioneer understanding under British standards. The earliest administrative measures can be followed back to 1799 when Lord Wellesley proclaimed the Press Regulations, which had the impact of forcing pre-restriction on a newborn child paper distributing industry. The beginning of 1835 saw the proclamation of the Press Act, which fixed the majority of the oppressive highlights of prior enactments regarding the matter.

From that point on eighteenth June 1857, the legislature passed the 'gagging Act, which among different things, presented necessary permitting for the claiming or running of print machines. At that point followed the Press and Registration of Books Act In 1867 and which keeps on staying in power to date. Lead representative General Lord Lytton declared the Vernacular Press Act of 1878 permitting the administration to force correctional assents on printers and distributors who neglected to conform. In 1908, Lord Minton declared the 'Papers (Incitement to Offenses) Act, 1908 which approved neighbourhood specialists to make a move against the editorial manager of any paper that distributed issue esteemed to comprise an actuation to resistance or rebellion.

Notwithstanding, the most noteworthy day throughout the entire existence of Media Regulations was the 26th of January 1950 - the day on which the Constitution was brought into power. The frontier experience of the Indians caused them to understand the critical importance of the 'Freedom of Press' Such opportunity was consequently consolidated in the Constitution; to engage the Press to disperse information to the majority and the Constituent Assembly hence, chose to ‘Freedom of Press’ as a key right. Although the Indian Constitution doesn't explicitly specify the freedom of the press, it is clear that the freedom of the press is remembered for the ability to speak freely and articulation under Article 19(1) (a). It is any way relevant to specify that, such opportunity isn't total however is qualified by certain beyond all doubt characterized constraints under Article 19(2) In the Interests of general society.

Acts dealing with the media law post-Independence

· The Press (Objectionable Matters) Act, 1951 - This order gives against the printing and distribution of induction to wrongdoing and other offensive issues.

· The Newspaper (Prices and Pages) Act, 1956 - This rule engages the Central Government to control the cost of papers comparable to the quantity of pages and size and furthermore to manage the designation of room to be took into account publicizing matter.

In the case of Sakal Papers v/s Union of India[1] the Court believed that the privilege of the right to speak freely of discourse and articulation couldn't be removed with the object of putting limitations on the business action of the residents. The right to speak freely of discourse can be limited only on the grounds mentioned in provision (2) of Article 19.

· Guard of India Act, 1962 - This Act came into power during the Emergency announced in 1962 due to war with China. The Act enabled the Central Government to issue rules as to restriction of distribution or correspondence biased to the common defence tasks, avoidance of biased reports and preclusion of printing or distributing any issue in any paper.

· Common Defence Act, 1968 - It permits the Government to make rules for the denial of printing and distribution of any book, paper or other report biased to the Civil Defence.

· Press Council Act, 1978-Under this Act the Press Council was reconstituted (after 1976) to keep up and improve the norms and standards of paper and news organizations in India


In the case of Indraprastha People v. Union of India[2], the Delhi High Court recommended institution of an independent statutory body under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, “consisting of men and women of eminence.” Further they said, “security of tenure of a kind should be provided for the Members of the Board so that they are free from Government interference.” The Court held that until this comes into force, the Government shall recognize the BCCC, as competent to decide complaints on violation of the law by broadcasters and Its decisions shall be treated as the foundation to take appropriate action.

Media regulation in India is not unified and has multiple regulatory body. Further there are issues surrounding the enforceability of its decisions. An independent broadcasting media authority along the lines of TRAI was suggested by the Supreme Court in Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting v. Cricket Association of Bengal[3].

The Supreme Court of India, in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1024/2013, agreed to hear a Public Interest Litigation praying for an independent regulatory authority to govern broadcast media averring that the Information & Broadcasting Ministry was unsuccessful in constituting adequate infrastructure to ensure quick decision-making against offending channels and in imposing penalties as provided by law.

Though the freedom of speech and expression, as guaranteed in the Constitution of India, empower the press to disclose information indispensable to public interest, it often results in intrusion of privacy. On several occasions, sting operations have sought to reveal information within the domain of an individual’s private life having no bearing on public interest. In 2008, the Delhi High Court took suomotu cognizance of an orchestrated sting operation on a schoolteacher resulting in her suspension and assault by a mob and directed the government to consider adopting guidelines for sting operations.[4]

In the case of Sakal Papers v/s Union of India, the Daily Newspapers (Price and Control) Order, 1960, which fixed a minimum price and number of pages, which a newspaper is entitled to publish, was challenged as unconstitutional. The State justified the law as a reasonable restriction on a business activity of a citizen. The Supreme Court struck down the Order rejecting the State’s argument and opined that, the right of freedom of speech and expression couldn’t be taken away with the object of placing restrictions on the business activity of the citizens. It can only be restricted on the grounds mentioned in clause (2) of Article 19.

In Hamdard Dawakhana v. Union of India[5] the Supreme Court held that, an advertisement is no doubt a form of speech and expression but every advertisement is not a matter dealing with the expression of ideas and hence advertisement of a commercial nature cannot fall within the concept of Article 19(1)(a).

However, in Tata Press Ltd. v. Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd[6], a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court had contradicting view from what was expressed in the Dawakhana case and held that ‘commercial advertisement’ was definitely a part of Article 19(1)(a) as it aimed at the dissemination of information regarding the product. The Court, however, made it clear that the government could regulate commercial advertisements, which are deceptive, unfair, misleading and untruthful.


The media is a cornerstone to serve the people with news, events, incidents and opinions in verbatim. Freedom of expression and media freedom are the important prerequisite for open and democratic societies. The term “media freedom” is often used as an alternate to the term “freedom of speech or expression”, but the protection of media freedom takes a special position due to the its role as a “public watchdog” as well as its function to disseminate information, thus guaranteeing the right of the public to receive the information. The freedom of expression is necessary for economic and social progress. At an individual level, freedom of expression is vital to the development, dignity and fulfilment of every person.

The fact that media plays a pivotal role in scrutinizing government functionaries cannot be disregarded, but still there are a lot of lacunas that need to be filled. Media's conduct is expected to be administered with certain degree of professionalism and ethics. Further, it should not impede the privacy of any individual unless done in public interest.

The media world has expanded its dimensions and law relating to mass media does not constitute a single field of law but is rather comprised of a diverse set of laws and provisions that are scattered across the entire legal framework, consequently, it is not within the ambit of this Article to deal with the whole subject of media laws, but this Article tries to make a person aware of the various important legislations affecting the various branches of Media Communication.

[1] Sakal Papers v/s Union of India, 1962 AIR 305. [2] Indraprastha People v. Union of India, WP (C) No.1200/2011, (Del. HC). [3] Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting v. Cricket Association of Bengal, AIR1995 SC 1236. [4] (2008) 146 DLT 429. [5] Hamdard Dawakhana v. Union of India AIR, 1960 SC 554. [6] Tata Press Ltd. v. Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd, (1995) 5 SCC 139.

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