New Delhi (Agencies): Prior to taking a final decision on a bill on registration of books and publications, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Friday said to have consulted all stakeholders, including Indian Newspaper Society (INS), and incorporated their suggestions.

Through a statement, the Ministry said the "graded" penalty proposed in the draft has been removed besides liberalizing the provision of six months imprisonment for violations in the existing Act by substituting it with suspension of publication
for a period of 30 days.

The INS yesterday expressed concern on the Cabinet's approval to the amendments to the Press and Registration of Books Act saying the government had not held any consultations with stakeholders before finalising it.

The comprehensive bill will replace the law relating to print media that will cover internet edition of newspapers and include provisions on limits on foreign news content and investment. The Cabinet decided to amend the 1867 Press and Registration of Books Act to streamline the age-old processes pertaining to the print media policy.

The Ministry said the proposal to amend the 1867 Act was mooted in 2005 and representation and comments were received, among others, from INS on the proposal.

The Ministry noted that the draft amendments was put on the websites of Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) and the Ministry in February 2010 and stakeholders were asked to submit their comments latest by March 3, 2010 to the office of the RNI. "In fact, on the request of INS, the last date of receipt of comments was extended till 10th March, 2010," the statement said adding some comments, which were received much after the last date of receipt of comments, were also taken into consideration.

The final draft of the proposed amendments was also sent to the Press Council of India (PCI) in December 2010 which sent their comments last month after considering it in the Council meeting.

"Thus it is evident that wide consultations were undertaken prior to placing the matter before the Cabinet for approval," the Ministry said.