This article has been written by Adv. Prakash yadav B.com(Hon.),L.L.B) studied in the Faculty of Law from lucknow university.
In this Article You will find :-
- Definition of defamation ,
- Types of defamation
- Legal consequences of defamation,
- when a defamation case can be filed ,
- Who will be covered under defamation
- Against whom a defamation case can be filed.
- Jurisdiction of defamation case
- Landmark Judgement
In India, defamation is considered a criminal offense under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It is defined as the act of making a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual or an organization. The punishment for defamation can include imprisonment and/or fines. However, truth can be used as a defense against defamation, as well as the public interest in the matter.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of defamation cases filed in India, particularly against media outlets and journalists. Some critics argue that this is an attempt to silence critical voices and stifle freedom of the press.
There are also concerns about the use of criminal defamation laws to silence political opponents and critics. In 2016, India’s supreme court struck down a provision of the criminal defamation law that allowed for the filing of complaints by government officials, stating that it was “primarily intended to protect public servants from being defamed.”
It’s worth noting that in some cases, civil defamation cases can be a more appropriate remedy for individuals or organizations seeking to protect their reputation. These cases can provide compensatory damages to the plaintiff, rather than criminal penalties for the defendant.
Definition of defamation :-
If someone by words either spoken or written , or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm the reputation of such person, it is said, to defame that person.
In simple words, defamation means to defame someone by using any Slander( oral words) or Libel (written words) which are not true in nature and done with the malafide intention to downgrade the reputation of the concerned person.
Types of defamation:-
Defamation falls in the category of Civil as well as Criminal Law:-
- Civil :- Civil defamation has not been codified until now ,Defamation falls in civil cases under the Law of tort and in the case of civil defamation Person can file suit for compensation only,Intention is not the essential ingredient to Prove the civil defamation and it is easy to Prove.
- Criminal :- Criminal defamation falls under the Indian Penal code,1860 defined under sec. 499 and sec.500 for Punishment and in the case of criminal defamation intention is the foremost condition to Prove criminal defamation. It is very difficult to Prove.
Cases in which defamation can be filed :-
- If any type of allegation against deceased person and the allegation harm the reputation of the concerned person it may amount to defamation
- If any false allegation falls against the company it may amount to defamation against the company.
- Defamation can be against a dead Person if the allegation harms the economical value of that concerned person and the cases can be filed by his legal representative.
- Any type of imputation in sarcastic form against the person may also amount to defamation.
- No imputation is said to harm a person’s reputation, unless that imputation directly or indirectly,in the eyes of third persons lowers the moral or intellectual character of that person, or lowers the character of that person in respect of his caste, or lowers the credit of that person, or causes it to be believed that the body of that person is in a loathsome state, or in a state generally considered as disgraceful.
Exceptions in defamation cases:-
- Imputation which are true in nature:- If any allegations made are true in nature and made for the public good against the concerned person shall not be considered Defamation and allegation is for public good is a question of fact.
- Public conduct of public servant:- It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatsoever respecting the conduct of a public servant in the discharge of his public functions.
- Public Question:- If any person expresses his opinion and raises any question related to a public issue in good faith may not amount to defamation.
- Publication of reports of Proceeding of courts:- It is not defamation to publish substantially true reports of the proceedings of a Court of Justice, or of the result of any such proceedings.
- Case decided in Court or conduct of witnesses and others concerned :- It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion respecting the merits of any performance which its author has submitted to the judgement of the public, or respecting the character of the author so far as his character appears in such performance.
- Merits public performance:- It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion respecting the merits of any performance which its author has submitted to the judgement of the public, or respecting the character of the author so far as his character appears in such performance, and no further.
- Criticism passed in good faith by a person having lawful authority over another :- It is not defamation if any Person having authority over any other person either conferred by law or arising out of lawful contract made in good faith Criticise any Person it may not amount to Defamation.
- Accusation:- It is not defamation if any person having authority accuses any person of any type of allegation in good faith.
- Imputation made in good faith by a person for protection of his or other’s interest:- It is not defamation to make an imputation on the character of another person to Protect self interest or others interest in good faith. Eg. if A the owner of shop tells B that don’t
- Indication of warning to any Person against other Person:- If any Person warns any Person for the good of any Person against any other person by alleging anything in good faith or for the Public good may not be defamation.
Punishment of Defamation
Criminal Punishment :- In the case of criminal defamation if the intention is Proved which is a mandatory ingredient, an accused person can be held liable with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years or with fine or with both.
Civil Punishment :- In the case of civil defamation a person can file for compensation only and the compensation amount differs in different cases and circumstances.
In India, jurisdiction in defamation cases is determined by the location of the cause of action, or the place where the defamatory statement was made or published. This can include the place where the statement was made, the place where it was published, or the place where it was received or read by the person defamed.
The Indian Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) provides that a defamation case can be filed in the court of the place where the cause of action arose or the place where the defendant resides or carries on business.
In case of defamation through internet or electronic media, the jurisdiction lies with the court where the defamatory material is accessible. This is based on the principle of accessibility. The person aggrieved can file the case in the court where the defamatory statement is accessible and he resides or carries on business.
It’s worth noting that in cases where the defamatory statement is made or published in multiple locations, the person defamed may have the option to file a case in more than one court. However, the court that first takes cognizance of the matter will have the exclusive jurisdiction to try the case.
It’s important for individuals and organizations to consult with legal counsel to determine the appropriate jurisdiction for their defamation case and to understand the legal process involved in filing and litigating such a case.
In India, there have been a number of significant defamation cases that have influenced how the law is applied and interpreted.
Rohini Singh v. State of Gujarat (2018)
Making and Publishing is the essential ingredient for filing the case of defamation decided under this case.
Mrs. Pat Sharpe v. Dwijendra Nath Bose (1963)
The authors or Publisher are liable not the sources are liable for any defamatory comment.
Subramaniam swamy vs. Union of India (2016)
This case involved a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with defamation. The Supreme Court of India struck down a provision of the law that allowed for the filing of complaints by government officials, stating that it was “primarily intended to protect public servants from being defamed.”
Rajagopal v. State of Tamil Nadu (1994) :-
This case dealt with the question of whether the right to free speech and expression includes the right to publish information about the private lives of individuals. The Supreme Court held that the right to free speech does not include the right to invade the privacy of individuals and cause harm to their reputation.
R.K. Karanjia v. State of Bombay (1962) –
This case dealt with the question of whether a newspaper editor can be held liable for defamatory statements made by a correspondent in a news item. The Supreme Court held that the editor is responsible for publishing defamatory statements and can be held liable for them.
Bennett Coleman & Co. v. Union of India (1973) –
In this case, the Supreme Court held that the state can impose reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression in the interest of maintaining public order.
Sukumar Mukherjee v. Biswanath Mukherjee (1922) –
This case established the principle that truth can be used as a defence against defamation, as long as it is in the public interest.
These cases have helped to shape the interpretation and application of defamation law in India and have provided guidance on important issues such as the relationship between free speech and the right to privacy, the use of truth as a defense, and the responsibility of editors and publishers for defamatory statements.
In conclusion, defamation is a criminal offense under Indian law that is defined as the act of making false statements that harm the reputation of an individual or organization. The punishment for defamation can include imprisonment and/or fines. However, truth can be used as a defense against defamation, as well as the public interest in the matter.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of defamation cases filed in India, particularly against media outlets and journalists. Some critics argue that this is an attempt to silence critical voices and stifle freedom of the press. There are also concerns about the use of criminal defamation laws to silence political opponents and critics.It’s worth noting that in some cases, civil defamation cases can be a more appropriate remedy for individuals or organizations seeking to protect their reputation.
These cases can provide compensatory damages to the plaintiff, rather than criminal penalties for the defendant. Overall, the law of defamation in India is complex and nuanced, and it’s important for individuals and organizations to be aware of their rights and responsibilities under the law.