The Vernacular Press Act of 1878 was enacted to curtail the freedom of the Indian-languages’ press.
Lord Lytton was being bitterly criticized for the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). So, he promulgated the act with an aim to prevent the vernacular press from expressing criticism of British policies under him. The act excluded English-language publications. It elicited strong and sustained protests from a wide spectrum of the Indian populace.
It was nicknamed the ‘Gagging Act’. For the first time, any Act empowered the Government to issue search warrants, and enter newspaper premises even without court ordersMore stringent anti-press laws were enacted in the passage of time, particularly when the freedom movement gained momentum. Reporting was closely monitored and comments against govt. were not tolerated.
The law was repealed in 1881 by Lytton’s successor, Lord Ripon. However, the resentment it produced among Indians became one of the catalysts giving rise to India’s growing independence movement.