Tuesday, 5 August 2014


There is always a delicate balance between one person's right to freedom of speech and another's right to protect their good name.  Journalist tend to defame  the political leaders film stars sports people and other famous people either due to carelessness or because of lack of sufficient knowledge about defamation.

Words are very powerful. Journalists use them to inform, entertain and educate their readers and listeners. Words can be used to expose faults or abuses in society and to identify people who are to blame.

What is defamation?

Very simply, defamation is to spread bad reports about someone which could do them harm.  Defamation means one who writing about another person which spoils their good reputation, which makes people want to avoid them or which hurts them in their work or their profession. 
 If the plaintiff can prove that the words had a defamatory meaning, identified him and were published, that is defamation. If someone complains to the court that you have defamed them, they are called the plaintiff

Defamation law allows people to sue those who say or publish false and malicious comments.  Anything that injures a person's reputation can be defamatory. If a comment brings a person into contempt, disrepute or ridicule, it is likely to be defamatory.

There are two Kinds of Defamation.
With the development of the press, libel became the most widespread form of defamation. When broadcasting was introduced, most legal systems decided to treat radio and television like the press and apply the laws of libel to them, even though their words are spoken. For the purposes

If the statement is made in writing and published, the defamation is called "libel." 
If the hurtful statement is spoken, the statement is "slander."libel was the written word, while slander was the spoken word.

* Published defamation -- called libel -- for example a newspaper article or television broadcast. Pictures as well as words can be libellous.
* Oral defamation -- called slander -- for example comments or stories told at a meeting or party.

In India defamation is covered by both the criminal law and the civil law.
Under Criminal Law,  According to section 499 of Indian Penal Code, defines defamation as -"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."

There are and four explanation Ten exception Regarding Defamation

Explanations in IPC-

 Explanation 1- It may amount to defamation to impute anything to a deceased person, if the imputation would harm the reputation of that person if living, and is intended to be hurtful to the feelings of his family or other near relatives.
Explanation 2- It may amount to defamation to make an imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such.
Explanation 3- An imputation in the form of an alternative or expressed ironically, may amount to defamation.
Explanation 4- No imputation is said to harm a person's reputation, unless that imputation directly or indirectly, in the estimation of others, lowers the moral or intellectual character of that person, or lowers the character of that person in respect of his caste or of his calling, or lowers the credit of that person, or causes it to be believed that the body of that person is in a loath some state, or in a state generally considered as disgraceful.

The publication of any false imputation concerning a person, or a member of his family, whether living or dead, by which (a) the reputation of that person is likely to be injured or (b) he is likely to be injured in his profession or trade or (c) other persons are likely to be induced to shun, avoid, ridicule or despise him.

Publication of defamatory matter can be by (a) spoken words or audible sound or (b) words intended to be read by sight or touch or (c) signs, signals, gestures or visible representations, and must be done to a person other than the person defamed.

"Any false imputation ..."

An imputation means suggesting something bad or dishonest about someone. In most cases of defamation, this will be done using words although, as we shall see later, it is possible to defame someone by other methods, such as cartoons. For the moment, we will stick to words.

 The reputation of that person is likely to be injured ..."

The law is there to protect a person's reputation in the community or society. A reputation is the general opinions of his personality and character shared by people in his community or society.For example, you may write a story about a man who has previously been convicted of assault. Your new story alleges that he has now stolen money from a church. If this new allegation is false (or you cannot prove it to be true) he could successfully sue for defamation, arguing that the little bit of good reputation he had left has now been damaged.You must, therefore, be extremely careful in your use of words. Ask yourself what they would mean to right-thinking members of society generally.

He is likely to be injured in his profession or trade ..." The law not only tries to protect a person's good name or reputation, it also tries to protect their livelihood against damage by false claims. If, because of a false statement, a shopkeeper loses customers, an accountant loses clients or a policeman loses his job, they can sue for defamation.
It is a journalist's duty to expose faults in any area. However, you must be careful exactly how you describe a person's professional faults.It is always safest to stick to specific claims and not to generalise about a person's skills or professional conduct. 
Other persons are likely to be induced to shun, avoid, ridicule or despise him ..."
In some countries homosexuality is still illegal and therefore the word "gay" there has negative connotations. Even in countries where homosexuality is legal and widely accepted, if you falsely describe someone as being "gay" (i.e. a homosexual), they could get angry and sue for defamation. When a case goes to court, the judge or jury will not care whether the word once meant "bright". They will judge it on its current use and imputation.
In July 2008, a British businessman won a defamation case and £22,000 in damages at London's High Court after false claims about him being gay and a liar were posted on the Facebook social networking website.

There are ten exception mentioned in Indian Penal Code under which a person can escape his liability from an action of Defamation:

  1. True Imputation made / published for the public good 
  2. Public conduct of public servants    
  3.  Public Question of a Person 
  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-  
  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- 
If someone sues you because you made a defamatory statement, you can defend your speech or writing on various grounds. There are three main types of defence:

  • * what you said was true;
  • * you had a duty to provide information;
  • * you were expressing an opinion.
For example:

Defamation - Recent Law
Information Technology Act, 2000 - Defamation through E-Mails will be punishable with liability for compensation. Threat may result in imprisonment up to 2 years.
Case Law
Khushwant Singh v. Maneka Gandhi AIR 2002 Delhi 58
       Judges : Devinder Gupta, Sanjay Kishan Kaul
'It cannot be said that an autobiography must relate to the person concerned directly. An autobiography deals not only with the individual by whom it is written but about the people whom he claims to have interfered with. This is a matter between the author and the people who want to read him. Fetters cannot be put on to what an author should and should not write. It is the judgment of the author." Para 73