Defamation law in India

Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian constitution provides the freedom of speech and expression but Article 19(2) imposed reasonable restrictions and if the person goes all out beyond these exceptions then he is liable to certain offences such as contempt of court, defamation etc. In Chintaman Rao vs. The State of Madhya Pradesh, The Supreme Court explains the meaning of “reasonable restrictions” imposed on freedom of speech, which implies deliberation and intelligent care which is required for the interest of the public.

Defamation is an offence in both criminal law and civil law. Under civil law, damages are awarded to the claimant. To prove the deformation some of the conditions must be fulfilled-

• There must be a defamatory statement that could injure the reputation of the person or a class of person by exposing them to contempt, ridicule and the.
In D.P.Choudhary vs. Manjulatha, Dainik Navjyothi a newspaper published that a seventeen-year-old college girl ran with a boy after she went out in the name of having lectures. The false news has an adverse effect on a girl’s life and also ruined her marriage prospects. The court held the defendant guilty and awarded the plaintiff damages of Rs.10, 000.
• The statement must be for a person or class of person, General statements which is too broad in nature are not considerable.
• It must be published either orally or in written form, unless the content is available to the third party, there can be no defamation.
In Mahendra Ram vs. Harnandan Prasad, a letter is sent to the plaintiff written in Urdu. Therefore he needed a third person to read it. The court held that, since the defendant knows the plaintiff doesn’t know Urdu and would eventually need assistance, the act of the defendant amounts to defamation.

Under criminal law, defamation is defined in section 499 as “Any person who by spoken or written words, signs or visible gestures creates or publishes any imputation on any person with an intention to harm the reputation of that person. The person making such imputation should have the knowledge or a reason to believe that such imputation will ruin the reputation of the person.” However, this section is subject to exceptions included in this section that is:-

• Attribution of any truth made for the public good.
• Any opinion made in good faith in respect to conduct of public servant in discharge of his public functions.
• Any opinion made in good faith regarding the conduct of any person related to public question.
• Result of the proceeding of the court.
• Any opinion made in good faith regarding any case decided by a court of justice.
• Any opinion made about the merit of performance which is out for the judgement of people.
• Accusation of offence in good faith to any person having lawful authority over the alleged person.
• If a statement is made in order to protect the interest of a person making it or any other person or for the public good.

Reputation is an important asset to each and every person and any damage to such asset must be dealt with legally. It prevents a person to use the right of freedom of speech and expression maliciously against any other person. So, defamation laws are constitutional and reasonable however, it would be no defamation if the law falls under the exception.

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