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Defamation is an injury to the reputation of a person. A defamatory statement is a statement calculated to expose a person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to injure him in his trade, business, profession, calling or office, or to cause him to be shunned or avoided in society.

The offence of defamation consists of three essential ingredients:-

  1. Making or publishing any imputation concerning any person.
  2. Such imputation must have been made by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs, or by visible representations.
  3. Such imputation must have been made with the intent to harm, or with knowledge or belief that it will harm the reputation of the person concerned.

 

The wrong of defamation may be committed either by way of writing, or its equivalent, or by way of speech. The term ‘libel’ is used for the former kind of utterances, ‘slander’ for the latter. Libel is a written, and slander is a spoken defamation.

A libel is a publication of a false and defamatory statement tending to injure the reputation of another person without lawful justification or excuse. The statement must be expressed in some permanent form, e.g., writing, printing, pictures, statue, waxwork effigy, etc.

A slander is a false and defamatory statement by spoken words or gestures tending to injure the reputation of another.

In order to find an action for libel, it must be proved that the statement complained of is:-

  1. False
  2. In writing
  3. Defamatory
  4. Published

 

Both libel and slander are criminal offences under The Indian Penal Code, 1860 and both are actionable in Civil Court without proof of special damage.

The offence of defamation consists in the injury offered to reputation not in any breach of the peace or other consequence that may result from it. The essence of the offence consists in its tendency to cause that description of pain, which is felt by a person who knows himself to be the object of the unfavorable sentiments of his fellow creatures, and those inconveniences to which a person who is the object of such unfavorable sentiments is exposed.

Though there is no universal rule that to hold the accused guilty of defamation the actual words used by the accused must be proved; it is nonetheless essential to prove the exact words used in as much as the question whether certain words used are defamatory or not depends solely on the shade of their meaning in the context in which they are used. It thus boils down that the prosecution will be required to prove not only the exact words used but also the context in which they were spoken.

Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or both under The Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Following are some of the defenses available under Defamation:-

  1. Imputation of truth which public good requires to be making or publishing.
  2. Public conduct of public servants.
  3. Conduct of any person touching any public question.
  4. Publication of reports of proceedings of courts.
  5. Merits of case decided in Court or conduct of witnesses and others concerned.
  6. Merits of public performance.
  7. Censure passed in good faith by person having lawful authority over another.
  8. Accusation preferred in good faith to authorized person.
  9. Imputation made in good faith by person for protection of his or other’s interests.
  10. Caution intended for good of person to whom conveyed or for public good.

 

Sanchayeeta Das

Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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