Defamation is a crime, you know why? Because we do care “log kya kahenge”. Reputation is the most valuable thing which a person possesses and the reputation must be protected. Defamation is defined in section 499 and the punishment is given in section 500 of IPC. Defamation is the act of saying false things in order to make people have a bad opinion of someone. According to section 499 IPC, “Whoever by words either spoken or intended to be read or by sign or by visible representation make 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”. According to section 500 IPC, whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for term which may extend to two years or fine.

Defamation can be classified in two categories, viz; Libel & Slander. A person aggrieved may file a criminal prosecution as well as a civil suit for damages for defamation. Under the tort law, the aggrieved person can sue the other party to get a legal compensation. The right to take legal action for defamation is restricted to a period of one year. Defamation is bailable, non-cognizable offence and compoundable offence under the Criminal Law. If the statement is made in writing & published in some permanent or visible form, then, the defamation is called libel. On the other hand, if the statement is made by some spoken words, then, the defamation is called slander.

It must be noted that defamatory statement must be made towards the plaintiff and if it is not made to them, then, it would not amount to defamation. Publication of Statement means that it must come to be known by the third party or other person. For eg: if a person directly sends a defamatory letter or a personal WhatsApp chat to the plaintiff, then he cannot be made liable for defamation, but, if a person sends a defamatory message through WhatsApp in group chat, then, that person would be liable for defamation.

In the case of sukduo Vithal Pansare vs Prabhakare Sukduo Pansare (1974), it was held that making a defamatory statement & communicating it to a person other than the person concurring whom it is expressed is said to be publication. In the case of D.P. Choudhary v. Kumari Manjulata, a local daily, Dainik Navjyoti, published an article that the plaintiff, a girl of about 17 years of age, had run away with a boy named Kamlesh. This was a false news item as she had gone to attend night classes for her B.A. degree. This news item was negligently published by the newspaper and caused a lot of ridicule at the girl. Hence, she filed a suit for defamation and was entitled to damages[1].

The essential elements of defamation are as follows:

  1. Statement: there must be a statement which can be spoken, written or pictured.
  2. Publication: for a statement to be published, a third party must have seen, heard or read the defamatory statement. But, if there is no publication, then, there is no injury of reputation & therefore no action will arise.
  3. Injury: the statement which is published must have caused an injury to the subject, and the reputation of the person must be injured.
  4. Falsity: If it is not false, then, it will not be considered as a defamatory statement.

According to me, under Article 19(1) (a) and 19(2) which talks about freedom of speech and expression should be used by the citizens in limit so that they should not hamper the rights of others. The number of cases related to defamation in India is constantly rising and hence the issue of defamation has become quite common. We as common citizens need to take the problem of defamation seriously and find an effective solution to the offence of defamation.

[1] Krishna Parida-CONCEPT OF DEFAMATION, CONCEPT OF DEFAMATION – Aishwarya Sandeep, visited on 24-07-2021 at 18:16hrs.

Aishwarya Says:

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