This Article is written by Surbhi (pursuing BALLB from ICFAI UNIVERSITY, DEHRADUN)
Table of Contents
The word defamation has been derived from the Latin word ‘diffamare’ which means spreading evil reports about someone. Crime of defamation is alleged against the person or persons who damage the reputation of another person. In a general sentence, defamation means causing damage to someone’s reputation. In India, protection against defamation is given under both civil and criminal law. in criminal law, it is regulated by principal given under sections 499 to 502 of the Indian penal code. However, the law against definition is not codified in civil law. in a civil matter, it is regulated on the basis of decisions or development made by the court which follows the principle of common law.
Section 499 of IPC provides the definition of defamation which states that “whoever by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by sign or by visual 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, is said to defame that person”.
Section 500 of IPC lay down the punishment for defamation which states that whoever defame any person shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years or with a fine or with both.
Reputation means belief or opinion that a society e hold against someone or something. so defamation is an offence against the reputation of a person because it intends to lower the reputation of a person in society.it is the right of a person to ensure that their reputation is not affected by the false statement or publication that has been made against him.
Essential of defamation
- Statement must be defamatory
- Statement must refer to the plaintiff
- Statement must be published
Types of defamation
- Slander- it is a defamatory statement that has been made in the form of oral statement for gesture.
- Libel- it is a different material statement that has been made in the form of written statement or painting or any visual representation.
The exception provided under section 499: –
- Truth for public good :- it is not defamatory to express opinion concerning any person and it is for public good. Though, the public good is a question of fact that has to be proved before the court.
- Public conduct of public servant :- it is not defamatory to express opinion in good faith concerning the conduct of public servant in the discharge of his public function or his character, to the extent his character appears in that conduct and no longer.
- Conduct of any person affecting any public question:- it is not Defamatory to express opinion in good faith concerning the conduct of any person or his character which affect a public question, to the extent his character appears in that conduct and no longer.
- Publication of reports of proceeding of courts :- it is not defamatory to publish a true report ofproceeding delivered by court of justice or the result of any such proceeding.
- Merit of case decided by court of justice or conduct of witness and any other concerned person:- it is not defamatory to express opinion in good faith concerning the merit of any civil or criminal case decided by court of justice, or concerning the conduct of any person who is party to the dispute or any witness for agent in such cases, Or concerning the character of such person to the extent his character appears in that conduct and no longer.
- Merit of public performance :- it is not defamatory to express any opinion in good faith concerning the merit of any performance which has been submitted by its author to the judgement of public, or concerning the character of the author to the extent his character appears in such performance and no longer.
- Sensor passed in good faith by person having lawful authority over another :- it is not defamatory to pass a censure in good faith by a person having authority over the another person either conferred by law or arising out of a lawful contract with another person, concerning the conduct of that person in matter to which such lawful authority relates.
- Accusations preferred in good faith to authorised person :- it is not defamatory to bring in good faith anaccusation against any person to any other person who have lawful authority over that person with respect to subject matter of accusation.
- Charge made in good faith by person for protection of his or other’s interest.
- Caution intended for good of person to whom can wait for public good:- it is not defamatory to give a warning in good faith to a person against another person. such caution must be for good of the person to whom it is conveyed, or for some other interested person, or for public good.
The constitutional validity of section 499 was challenged in the case of Subramanian Swamy vs Union of India. In this case, the petitioners argued that section 499 of the Indian penal code violates the right to expression of citizens. the court stated that the right to expression of the country is one of the basic rights of citizens but it also comes with some restrictions. And this right must be exercised with restrictions to promote public order, health and security. Court also stated that there must be a balance maintained between the right to expression and public interest that sought to be protected.
- Whether publication of accurate and true report of Assembly proceeding would subject to defamation or not:-
In the case Wadon vs Walter, The court of the United Kingdom stated that “ a faithful and accurate newspaper report of the debate in the legislature is not treated as a breach of privilege or contempt Legislature. Such report is treated as a qualified privilege.”
However, the principle given in the above-stated case was not applicable in India till 1956. after that in 1956, the parliamentary proceeding act,1956 was passed that adopted the principle given in the case Wason vs Walter. The principle states that it is not subject to defamation to publish a report of proceeding of either House of parliament. provided that the report must be substantially true and without malice and for the public good.
- Iscommunication between husband and wife privileged:-
As per section 122 of the Indian evidence act, communication between husband and wife is privileged and it doesn’t come under the ambit of section 499 of IPC Unless communication is about matrimonial suit or suit which deal with an offence against any married party.
The distinction between English law and Indian law:-
In English law. Libel is treated as defamation through publication in written form but not slander.
The criminal law of UK only lib is a crime and under the law of torts slender will be actionable only if:-
- There is an imputation of a criminal offence to the plaintiff filing the suit.
- There is a statement that the complainant had an infectious disease which further leads to society avoiding him.
- There is a defamatory statement regarding the incompetence of a person to the office, profession, trade or business carried on by him, or
- If a statement refers to a girl/ woman’s adultery or character.
Unlike English law, Indian law does not differentiate between libel and slender and both are included in section 499 of IPC together and constitute the offence of defamation.
After analysing all the important points of defamation, we have come to conclusions thy the aim of defamation law is to protect the reputation of every individual with some restrictions. Defamation is an offence against the morals and ethics of the person.it damages the image and fame of an individual in society and stimulates the feeling of humiliation among them.
However, such offence is protected by both criminal and civil law. In criminal law, it is dealt with under section 49-502 of IPC while in a civil case, it is regulated by presidential development which I based on common law