The latter half of the 19th century saw a remarkable growth in the Vernacular Press of the country and newspapers played a role of catalyst in the new socio-political consciousness.
Earlier, the newspapers were being published in Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Allahabad only but later the newspapers started getting published from smaller places also.
Since, most of the newspapers published from smaller places, they all were in vernacular languages. In 1878, when this act was passed, the number of English Newspapers was 20 and Vernacular newspapers were 200. These vernacular newspapers made the people aware of the political affairs and now the people slowly started asking questions for their rights.
So, in the best interest of the Government, Lord Lytton passed the Vernacular Press Act in 1878.
By this act, the magistrates of the districts were empowered, without the prior permission of the Government, to call upon a printer and publisher of any kind to enter into a Bond, undertaking not to publish anything which might “rouse” feelings of disaffection against the government.
The magistrate was also authorized to deposit a security, which could be confiscated if the printer violated the Bond. If a printer repeated the violation, his press could be seized.
Thus the Vernacular Press Act of 1878 gagged the press and result was some proceedings against some vernacular press people. There was now a popular protest against this act. The act was later repealed by Lord Ripon, who followed Lord Lytton.
Another Interesting Fact:
Lord Metcalfe (Governor General of India 1835-36) had succeeded Lord William Bentinck. He is best known for giving entire liberty to the press. Being senior member of council, His short term of office is memorable for the measure which his predecessor had initiated, but which he carried into execution.
Due to his liberal policy towards press, Lord Metcalfe is known as Liberator of India Press but soon he became a victim of party politics in England and was succeeded by Lord Auckland in 1836.