Defamation – Meaning and Explanation

By | November 8, 2016
Defamation is a crime against the reputation of a person. Defamation is also a tort. It is one of the most important rights of a person or right of his reputation. Defamation is of two kinds Libel and Slander. If the statement is made in writing and published in some permanent and visible form, then the defamation is called libel. Whereas, if the statement is made by some spoken words then the defamation is called slander.
The apex court’s judgement in Subramanium Swami v. Union of India and Ors. Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 184 of 2014 decided on May 13, 2016  put a rest on the debate over the constitutional validity of the provisions by upholding its validity.
According to section 499 of IPC  – Whoever by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes 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.
The following are the essentials of this section regarding defamation:-
1. PERSON :-  Person means the person who publishes are the person who makes an imputation. Person includes anyone like editor or a journal, the printer or the writer of the articles in the paper.
2. PUBLICATION :- Publication of the defamatory statement is essential. If a person merely writes out a defamatory matter but does not publish, then the same will not be defamation. Publication means the defamatory statement, must come into the notice of third person.  Because the reputation of a person remains in the eye of third person. Publication may be done by :-
1. An act which conveys the defamatory statement to a third person.
2. By drawing the attention of others towards the defamatory matters already existed.
Thus, this communication of defamatory matter to the person defamed and to the third person is necessary.
3. Publication of defamatory statement must be intending to harm the reputation of another person:-  The information to cause harm is the most essential part of an offence under section 499 of IPC. There must be an intention of harming or knowing or having reasons to believe that the imputation will harm the reputation. It is sufficient that there was reason to believe that the imputation made would harm the reputation.
EXCEPTIONS : These are the exceptions to the offence of defamation. Under these exceptions no offence of defamation is proved. They are:-
1. True statement : It is not defamation if any thing which is true concerning only person if it is for the public interest. The imputation must be in good faith and in public interest.
2. Public conduct of public servant:- It is not defamation to express, in good faith any opinion whatever respecting the conduct of a public servant in discharge of his public sanctions or respecting his character so far as his character appears in that conduct and not further.
3. Public quotation: It is not a defamation to express in good faith any opinion whether respecting the conduct of any person so far his character appears in that conduct and no further.
4. Publication of court proceedings.  It is not defamation to publish a substantial true report of the proceedings of court of justice.
5. Conduct of witness in the court:- It is not a defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever respecting the writ of any case, civil or criminal which has been decided by a court of justice or respecting the conduct of any person. Along with witness or any agent in any such case or respecting the character of such person as far as his character appears in the conduct and no further.
6. Merit of public performance :- It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion respecting the merit of any performance. Which is submitted to the judgment of public or respecting the authority that appear in such performance and no further.
7. Censure passed in good faith:- It is not a defamation of a person to pass, In good faith any censure on the conduct of that person in consented matter.
8. It is not defamation to perform in good faith, an accusation against any person to any of these who has lawful authority over that person with respect to subject matter or within this exception.
9. It is not defamation to make an imputation if the imputation is made in good faith for the protection of the interest of the person making it.
10. It is not defamation to convey a caution that is intended in the good faith of the  person.
                                PUNISHMENT FOR THE ACT OF DEFAMATION
Under section 500 of IPC it is provided that the punishment for the offence of defamation , which is simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.
Mayank Shekhar
Author: Mayank Shekhar

Mayank is a student at Faculty of Law, Delhi University. Under his leadership, Legal Bites has been researching and developing resources through blogging, educational resources, competitions, and seminars.

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