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DEFAMATION- EXPLAINED

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

By Subha Lakshmi. K, III year B.A., LL.B. 

Introduction

The word defamation is derived from the Latin term ‘Diffamare’ which means ‘spreading an evil report about someone’. Defamation is wrong done by a person to another’s reputation by words, signs or visible representations. It is a false statement by one about another. Every man has a right, his reputation preserved inviolately.


Definition

According to Dr. Winfield; ‘Defamation’ is the publication of a statement which tends to lower a person in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally or which tends to make them shun or avoid that person’.


Essentials

1. The statement must be defamatory

2. The said statement must refer to the plaintiff.

3. The statement must be understood by right-thinking or reasonable minded persons, as referring to the plaintiff.

4. The statement must be published, ie., to say, it must be communicated to some person other than the plaintiff himself.

The word ‘defamation’ is the generic name for the wrong; ‘libel’ and ‘slander’ are particular forms of it.


Libel

A libel is a publication of the false and defamatory statement in some permanent form tending to injure the reputation of another person without lawful justification or excuse.

It must be in some permanent and visible form, such as writing, printing, pictures, effigies or even through a cinema film or gramophone record.


Bala Ram vs. Sukh SampatLal[1]

The plaintiff was a property broker, the defendant in LokJeevan, a daily newspaper, published an advertisement which related to the plaintiff, in which the plaintiff was imputed with doing fraudulent business. Due to this publication, the plaintiff brought an action against the defendant and the publisher of the advertisement. It was argued by the plaintiff that on account of this publication his business suffered a lot and his reputation was very much lowered in the eyes of the public. The court accepted the contention of the plaintiff and decreed the suit.


Slander

Slander is the false and defamatory, verbal or oral statement in transitory forms intending to injure the reputation of another without lawful justification or excuse.


The statement may be oral spoken words, or by some other transitory form, whether visible or audible such as gestures or inarticulate but significant sounds. So, slander is only addressed to the ear and in a temporary form.

Slander is the false and defamatory, verbal or oral statement in transitory forms intending to injure the reputation of another without lawful justification or excuse.


D.P. Choudhary vs. Manjulata[2]

The statement may be oral spoken words, or by some other transitory form, whether visible or audible such as gestures or inarticulate but significant sounds. So, slander is only addressed to the ear and in a temporary form. There was the publication of a statement in a local daily in Jodhpur on 18.12.77 that Manjulata went out of her house on the earliest night at 11 p.m. on the pretext of attending night class and ran away with a boy named Kamlesh. She belonged to a well-educated family and was herself also a student of B.A. class. She was 17 years of age. The news item was untrue and had been published with utter irresponsibility and without any justification. Such publication had resulted in her being ridiculed and affected her marriage prospects. The statement being defamatory, the defendants were held liable.


Civil defamation

The civil defamation comes under the ‘Law of Torts’. The defamed person can claim damages in the form of monetary compensation. For civil defamation, the mala fide (bad intention) of the accused is not necessary.


Defences

1. Truth

If the said statement is true then the accused is not liable.

2. Fair comment

If the comment stated by the accused is fair, then he is not held as liable.


Criminal defamation

For criminal defamation mala fide (bad intention) is necessary. Sec. 499 to 502 of the Indian Penal Code deals with defamation. According to sec. 500 of the Indian Penal Code, the accused person was sent to jail for two years (or) to pay the fine (or) with both. The defamation offence is bailable.


Defences

According to sec. 499 of the Indian Penal Code provided ten exceptional cases for defamation. The defences are as follows:

1. Imputation of truth with the public good

2. Public conduct of the public servant

3. Conduct of any person touching any public questions

4. Publication of report of proceedings of courts

5. Merits of the case decided in court

6. Merits of public performance by an author

7. Censure passed in good faith by a person having lawful authorities over another

8. Accusation preferred in good faith to the authorized person

9. Imputation made in good faith by a person for the protection of his (or) other’s interest

10. Caution intended for good of a person to whom conveyed (or) for the public good


Conclusion

In this world, no one wants to bend their head down for any reason including defamation, everyone has the right to look straight and walk in the street with a good reputation. For civil defamation mala fide (bad intention) is not necessary but for criminal defamation, mala fide (bad intention) is necessary. The purpose of the defamation is to protect an individual from the defamatory statement.


[1] AIR 1975 Raj 40

[2] AIR 1997 Raj 170