defamation law in India

DEFAMATION LAW IN INDIA

Criminal Law Indian Penal Code LAW EXPLAINED Tort
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INTRODUCTION[1]:-

Defamation[2] occurs when a person’s reputation is hurt by a defamatory or irrelevant comment published about him or her. The value of a person’s reputation is greater than that of any other physical asset. When compared to material riches, the loss of reputation is considerably higher, i.e., the loss of reputation is far more than the loss of property. In general, defamation requires the publication of a false statement about the plaintiff, causing the plaintiff’s reputation to be injured. Because there is recompense for such things, the statement excludes any improper conduct such as violence, malicious prosecution, or unlawful arrest. Words, pictures, visual images, gestures, and any other metonymy are instances of statements.

Defamation Essentials[3]:-

1. Statement must be defamatory/false:-

 If a plaintiff wishes to bring a defamation lawsuit against a defendant, the plaintiff must first establish that the statement was false, irrelevant, or defamatory. Assume two people, A and B. If A claims that B is a thief, A will be held responsible for making a false/defamatory remark.

2. The comment must be harmful to the plaintiff’s reputation:-

 The plaintiff must show that the statement was harmful to his or her reputation. For example, if a person makes a comment to the author of a novel that damages his reputation, he can sue.

3. The plaintiff must be mentioned in the statement:-

Plaintiff must show that the defendant’s comments were referred to him. For instance, if A wrote a letter containing defamatory allegations in B’s name and address, it was apparent that A was referring to B, i.e., the plaintiff.

4. The Publication of the Statement is must:-

 The statement must be published. There will be no responsibility for defamation if the two requirements are met but the statement was not published. If A scribbled on a piece of paper that B is a thief and kept it in his pocket, the statement was defamatory and also referred to B, but the statement was published. As a result, A will not be held responsible for defamation in this instance since only the two requirements were met.

For instance, if A makes a defamatory comment about B and C in a letter that is seen by a third party, A will be held responsible for the tort of defamation. As C became aware of the letter, or as the letter was read by C, the letter was published, as were all of the elements. So, if a plaintiff wishes to sue a defendant for defamation, the plaintiff must establish all of the components of defamation, including the defamatory remark, publication of the statement, and harm to plaintiff’s reputation. For the tort of defamation, all of the requirements must be met.

In the matter of Chris Cairns v. Lalit Modi[4], New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns sued Lalit Modi for making a defamatory allegation about him, claiming that he was involved in match fixing as a cause for his exclusion from the IPL auction. It was determined that Lalit Modi was liable for defamation because all of the criteria of defamation were met in this case: Lalit Modi made a false and defamatory remark about Chris Cairns, which injured Cairns’ reputation, and Lalit Modi tweeted the same, implying that it was also published.

Types[5]:-

1. Libel: – Libel defamation occurs when a false or defamatory remark about the plaintiff is published in a recorded form, such as a photograph, a film, a postcard, or a statue. For example, beside the street there is a board on which A has written that B is a thief. As a result, A will be found responsible for libel defamation since A made a defamatory comment that injured B’s reputation and it was also published in a recorded form.

2. Slander: -If a false/defamatory remark about the plaintiff is published that is not in a documented form – for example, it may be communicated through words, nonverbal communication, or signs – it is referred to as slander.

For example, if A claims that B is a criminal, A will be held accountable for slander defamation since A made a defamatory remark that injured B’s reputation and was published in an unrecorded form, which is known as slander defamation.

Defamation Defenses[6]: –

For the tort of defamation, there are several defences available in which the plaintiff bears the burden of evidence that the defendant has defamed him. If plaintiff establishes that defendant has defamed him, defendant is limited to a few defences in order to avoid responsibility.

The following are the defamation defences accessible:-

1. Truth or justification: – If the defendant can show that the defamatory statement he made was accurate or justified, he will not be found responsible because his defamatory statement will be a good defence against his defamatory statement.

For example, if A shouts thief to B and then claims a defence of truth that he said thief to B since there are three robbery cases on B for which a conviction order has been issued. As A opted for the truth or justification defence, he will not be held accountable. For example, if A claims that B was imprisoned for four weeks when in fact B was imprisoned for three weeks, the defence might be substantially accurate (which is significant). As a result, A will not be held responsible because he made a basically truthful statement. In the event of a specific charge, it is necessary to establish the truth.

2. Bona fide or Fair comment:- Expressing an opinion on any facts is referred to be a fair or bona fide remark since the fact already exists and we are simply giving our opinion on that particular set of facts, or it may be referred to as a statement made on existing facts for the public good. For example, if A criticises any facts in an honest and for the public benefit manner, he will not be held responsible for the tort of defamation. In the absence of factual quotations, there will be no defence.

Privilege[7]:-

Privilege refers to a situation in which a person can make a comment without fear of being defamed.

Absolute privilege:-  

If a person makes a remark without fear of defamation, even if he knows the statement is malicious or untrue, he will not be held responsible since he is exercising absolute privilege.

a. Proceedings of the Parliament: – Members of parliament and state legislatures can have absolute privileges in parliamentary proceedings. As we all know, any member can make a defamatory comment against another member, and it can be passed only during parliamentary proceedings due to absolute privilege.

b. Proceedings of the Judicial: -if a judge makes a defamatory comment, a lawyer makes a defamatory statement, or a clerk makes a defamatory statement knowingly that the statement is false, they will not be held responsible since they are enjoying absolute privilege.

c. Privilege to qualified: – qualified privilege exists when the defendant is making an honest and careful statement.

For example, if A provides B with accurate facts about C, A will not be held responsible for defamation.


[1] http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-5749-defamation.html

[2]https://www.britannica.com/topic/defamation#:~:text=Defamation%2C%20in%20law%2C%20attacking%20another’s,varieties%20only%20by%20human%20inventiveness.

[3] https://blog.ipleaders.in/defamation-and-its-essentials/

[4] [2012] EWHC 756 (QB)

[5] https://www.toppr.com/guides/legal-aptitude/indian-penal-code/defamation/

[6] https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/privileges-defenses-defamation-cases.html

[7] https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/privileges-defenses-defamation-cases.html

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