Defamation is injury to the reputation of an individual. If an individual injures the reputation of another, he does so at his own risk, as within the case of an interference with the property. A man’s reputation is his property, and if possible, more valuable, than other property.
Slander is that the publication of a defamatory statement in a transient form. Libel is representation made in some permanent form e.g., writing, printing, picture or statute.
For example, in a cinema film, not only the photographic part of it is considered to be libel but also the speech which synchronizes with it is also a libel. In Yaoussoupoff vs M.G.M pictures Ltd, in the course of a film produced by an English Company called Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Ltd., a Lady Princess Natasha was shown as having relations of seduction or rape with man Rasputin, a man of the worst possible character.
Section 1 of Defamation Act, 1952 defines that broadcasting of words by means of wireless telegraphy shall be treated as publication in permanent form. Under, English Law, the distinction between libel and slander is material for 2 reasons:-
- Under criminal law only libel has been recognized as an offence. Slander is no offence.
- Under the law of torts, slander is actionable , save in exceptional cases, only on proof of special damage. Libel is always actionable pers se i.e., without the proof of any damage.
In the following four exceptional cases, slander is also actionable per se:
- Imputation of criminal offence to the plaintiff
- Imputation of a contagious or an infectious disease to the plaintiff, which has the effect of preventing other form associating with the plaintiff
- Imputation that a person is incompetent, dishonest or unfit in regard to the office, possession , calling, trade or business carried on by him
- Imputation of unchastity or adultery to any woman or girl is also actionable per se. This exception was related by the slander of Women Act,1891
ESSENTIALS OF DEFAMATION:
- The statement must be defamatory
- The said statement must be referred to the plaintiff. The statement must be understood by right thinking or reasonable minded persons, as referring to the plaintiff.
- The statement must be published i.e., to say, it must be communicated to one person other than the plaintiff himself.
- In case of slander, either there must be proof of special damage or the slander must come up within the serious classes of cases in which it is actionable per se.
In S.N.M Abdi vs Prafulla Kumar Mohanta, it had been upheld that it isn’t necessary that the statement need to show a tendency of imputation to prejudice the plaintiff in the eye of everyone within the community or all of his associates. It is sufficed to establish that the publication tends to lower him in the eyes of the substantial, respectable group, even though they are minority of the total community or of the plaintiff’s associates. In the present case an article published in the illustrated Weekly of India dated 8-9-1990 made certain allegations of misuse of man and muscle power by deposed Chief Minister, Prafulla Kumar Mohanta. The article was held to be defamatory in nature and the plaintiff was awarded damages amounting to Rs. 500000/-.
Thus, in Ramdhara vs Phulwatibai, it has been held that the imputation by the defendant that the plaintiff , a widow of 45 years is a keep of the maternal uncle of the plaintiff’s daughter-in-law, is not a mere vulgar abuse but a particular imputation upon her chastity and thus constitutes defamation.
In Famu vs Malcolmson, in an article published by the defendants, it was mentioned that cruelty was practiced upon employees in some of the Irish Factories. From the article as a whole including a reference to Waterford itself, it was considered that the plaintiff was, therefore, successful in his action for defamation.
Defamation of the deceased– Defaming a deceased person is no tort. Under criminal law, however, it may amount to defamation to impute anything to deceased person, if the imputation would harm the reputation of that person, if living and is intended to be hurtful to the feelings of his family or other near relatives.
If any person is found guilty of having committed a wrong of defamation, which talks according to Sec. 499 of the IPC, the punishment is given in Sec. 500, simple imprisonment (up to two years) or fine or with both. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which lays down the procedural aspects of the law, prescribes that the wrong of defamation is non-cognizable and bailable.
While reporting, the journalists are expected to be careful and cautions. In case of grievance ventilated by individuals on ground that certain defamatory statements are made by publication in the newspapers, reputation of the concerned aggrieved parties on one hand and freedom of press on the other, have to be equally balanced.
Defamation laws are justified by their specialize in protecting reputations. The reputations can be those of individuals or entities. Defamation laws are meant to guard reputations from being damaged through lowering their status or through the other means. Defamation laws which tend to guard reputation that’s non-existent can’t be said to be legally binding because the reputation to be protected isn’t demonstrable. Defamation laws are not meant to hinder the path of constructive criticism, for instance, exposure of corruption deals. Defamation laws don’t give a mandate to sue on behalf of a deceased person. Lastly, defamation laws cannot be justified under the following situations:
- Safeguarding national security
- Maintaining order in the society
- Maintaining open relations at the international level
 Dixon vs Holden, (1869) 7 Eq. 488
 Monson vs Tussauds Ltd., (1894) 1 Q.B 671
 (1934) 50 T.L.R 581
 A.I.R. 2002 Guwahati 75
 (1969) jab. L.j. 582 : (1969) M.P.L.J.483 : 1970 Cr.L.j. 286 (Madh. Pra.)
 (1848) 1 H.L Cas. 637; Also see Orienberg vs PLamondan, (1914), 35 Can L.T 262
 Section 499, Explanation, I.P.C.
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