A man’s reputation is considered and treated as his property and of any harm injury is caused to it, then that becomes a civil or a criminal wrong as in case of other properties and is thus, punishable by law.
The rationale behind it is as to acquire a property, a person puts a lot of heavy labour and grinds himself into the world’s drill and then after constant & continuous efforts, he’s able to stand and build a property of his own. Similarly, reputation is built after persistent struggle in life. Thus any devatration to such hard-earnt possession is held liable/guilty of an offence of defamation.
What do we mean by Defamation?
Any type of deliberate false communication whether written or oral that can harm a person’s reputation or decreases the respect, regard or confidence of a person; or induces disparaging, or a hostile or disagreeable opinion or feeling against a person is known as defamation.
It’s a wide term encompassing a legal claim which involves an injury to one’s reputation which is a result of a false statement of fact. This not only includes libel, which is defamation in written form, but also slander, defamation by spoken word. The main purpose of the law is to eliminate false statements. If the statement is true and it harms the reputation of someone, the same will not create liability.
What are the essentials of the Defamation
1. A statement made should have been defamatory.
2. The statement should be speaking of referring to the plaintiff.
3.Statement must be published i.e. it should have been communicated to some person other than the plaintiff.
4. In slander, there must be proof of special damage or it must come within serious classes of cases in which it’s actionable per se.
Defamation – a civil as well as criminal wrong
Defamation is an offence under both the civil and criminal law.
- Wrong under Civil Law:– Defamation is punishable under the Law of Torts by imposing punishment in the form of damages to be awarded to the claimant.
- Wrong under the Criminal law:– Defamation is a bailable, non-cognizable offence and compoundable offence. Hence a policeman may arrest only with an arrest warrant issued by a magistrate. The Indian Penal Code punishes the offence with a simple imprisonment up to two years, or with fine, or both.
Types of Defamation
- Libel: It is any Defamation that can be seen, such as a writing, printing, effigy, movie, or statue. It refers to a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression.
- Slander: It is any defamation that is spoken and heard. It refers to a false spoken statement that is made to cause people to have a bad opinion of someone
In English law, both libel and slander are considered civil wrong but there’s distinction in application of two in common law. Here defamation in libel form is actionable per se but for filing a suit of defamation for slander, special proof of damage is required.
In Indian law, both libel and slander are actionable per se i.e. a person can claim a legal remedy even when no damage has been caused to the plaintiff.
Five fundamental elements of Defamation
1. Revealing / Exposing / transmitting false facts or something of false nature.
2. Damage toward physical or legal entity.
3. Identification of damaged entity.
4. Transmitting to third person.
5. Intention / Inattention
When can the defamatory statement be justified
- Truth: When the defamatory statements made are entirely true in nature then the person making derogatory remarks can take this defence and justify himself on this basis.
- Fair Comment: Fair comment is defined as a “common law defence that guarantees the freedom of the press to express statements on matters of public interest, as long as the statements are not made with ill will, spite, or with the intent to harm the plaintiff.” It is also referred to as an honest comment.
- Privilege: There are two types of privilege granted under defamation. First is absolute privilege and the other is the qualified privilege.
Absolute privilege is granted when court proceedings or the parliamentary proceedings are taking place. Any pejorative statement made thereof will not amount to defamation.
Qualified privilege is not an absolute privilege. For this defence, there should be an occasion to make the statement and the statement should be made in discharge of the duty or protection of interest and that it should be made without malice.
Reputation is an asset to each and every person. Any damage to such an asset can be legally dealt with. Defamation laws have been enacted to prevent persons from maliciously using their right to freedom of speech and expression. Intentional act of defamation is also punished with imprisonment which prohibits defaming a person with malice intention. The defamation laws are constitutional and reasonable. However, it is no defamation if the acts done fall within the exceptions provided. Over the seventy one years of Independence, there have been numerous cases of defamation and the court has interpreted each and every case with utmost care and they serve as precedents.
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