As per Black’s Law Dictionary, defamation means “The offence of injuring a person’s character, fame, or reputation by false and malicious statements”. Defamation in law, is attacking another’s reputation by a false publication tending to bring the person into disrepute by communicating the same to a third party. Generally, defamation requires that there is a false publication and without the consent of the allegedly defamed person. Injury only to feelings is not defamation, there must also be a loss of reputation. Actual truth of the publication is usually a defense to a charge of defamation.For historical reasons, defamation can be divided into the following two types:
Libel – Representation in a permanent form, e.g., writing, printing, effigy, picture or statue.
Slander –Through words spoken or gestures.
ESSENTIALS OF DEFAMATION
- The statement made must be defamatory.
- The said statement must refer to the claimant.
- The statement must be published that is it must be communicated to at least one person other than the claimant.
DEFAMATION IN INDIA
It has been noted above that under English criminal law, a distinction is made between libel and slander. There, Libel is a crime but slander is not. Slander is just a civil wrong in England. Criminal law in India does not make any such distinction between Libel and Slander. Both Libel and Slander are criminal offences under section 499, I.P.C. It has been noted above that though Libel and Slander both are considered as civil wrongs, but there is a distinction between the two under English Law. Libel is actionable per se, but in case of slander, except in certain cases, proof of special damage is required to be proved.
The remedy for civil defamation is stated under the Law of Torts. In a civil defamation case, the person who is defamed can move either to the High Court or subordinate courts and seek damages in the form of monetary compensation from the accused. Also, under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, a person guilty of criminal defamation can be sent to jail for two years.
DEFAMATION UNDER CIVIL LAW
Under civil law, defamation is the publication of a statement which tends to lower a person in the estimation of the right-thinking members of the society. To constitute a defamation under civil law, few conditions has to be satisfied:
- The statement made must be defamatory- Defamatory statement is one which tends to injure the reputation of the plaintiff. An imputation which exposes one to disgrace and humiliation, ridicule or contempt is defamatory.
- The said statement must be referred to the plaintiff. It is immaterial that the defendant did not really intend to defame the plaintiff. If the person to whom the statement was published could infer that the statement referred to the plaintiff, the defendant is liable.
- The statement must be published – Publication actually means making the defamatory matter known to some person other than the person defamed, and unless and until that is done, no civil action for defamation lies.
There are certain defenses against defamation:
- JUSTIFICATION OR TRUTH – In a civil action for defamation, truth of the defamatory matter is complete defense. Under criminal law, just proving that the statement was true is no defense. The exception under criminal law states the statement besides being true the imputation must be shown to have been made for public good.
- FAIR COMMENT – Making fair comment on matters of public interest is a defense to an action for defamation. For this defense to be available, the following essentials are required:
- It must be a comment.
- The comment must be fair.
- The matter commented upon must be a matter of public interest.
The person defamed can move either to the high court or trial court and seek damages in the form of monetary compensation from the accused. The remedy sought is covered under the Law of Torts, a rare and slow course of relief witnessed in India.The law defines defamatory content as one “calculated to injure the reputation of another by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule.” This is the very first condition required to be fulfilled under the civil remedy.Second, the claimant must be identified in the defamatory statement. It must address a particular person and no as such broad-based classification is acceptable.And lastly there must be publication of the defamatory statement in oral or written form. A civil defamation law would be applied once these conditions are attained. The defendant will then have to plead his defense.
DEFAMATION UNDER CRIMINAL LAW
Section 499 of the IPC,1860 defines ‘defamation’ as being committed:
- Through: (i) words (spoken or intended to be read), (ii) signs, or (iii) visible representations;
- Which: are published or spoken imputation concerning any person;
- If the imputation is spoken or published with: (i) the intention of causing harm to the reputation of the person to whom it pertains, or (ii) knowledge or reason to believe that the imputation will harm the reputation of the person to whom it pertains will be harmed.
This definition is subject to four explanations and ten exceptions. If a person is found guilty of having committed defamation in terms of Sec. 499 of the IPC, the punishment is stipulated in Sec. 500, simple imprisonment for up to two years or fine or with both. The Cr PC, 1973, which lays down the procedural aspects of the law, states that the offence is non-cognizable and bailable.
In a criminal suit, the complainant should be able to prove that the accused intended to defame him. In the absence of intention, it has to be be established that the alleged offender had knowledge that the publication was likely to defame the person. Normal stand of proof in criminal cases, which is to prove the offence beyond reasonable doubt, must also be placed before the court.Since the law is compoundable, a criminal court can drop the charges if the victim and the accused enter into a compromise to that effect (even without the permission of the court).
For case specific advice, one can contact best/top/expert Civil Criminal Defamation Lawyer Advocate practicing in District Courts of Chandigarh Panchkula Mohali (Punjab Haryana) for your case.
This post is written by Abhay Tripathi. For more, dial 99888-17966.