Defamation is the act of making untrue statements about another which damages his/her reputation.
It is a statement that injures someone’s reputation. Defamation is the act of saying false things in order to make people have a bad opinion of someone. Defamation may be defined as a communication to some person, other than the person defamed, of the matter which tends to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of right thinking persons or to deter them from associating or dealing with him. Defamation is a wrong done by a person to another’s reputation by words, written or spoken, sign or other visible representation.
In the words of Dr. Winfield “Defamation is the publication of a statement which tends to lower a person in the estimation of right thinking members of the society, generally or, which tends to make them shun or avoid that person.”
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.
Defamation may be a civil charge or a criminal charge under Section 499 and 500 of IPC.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.Section 500 of IPC:- Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or both.
Types of defamation
Criminal Defamation: Criminal defamation is the act of offending or defaming a person by committing a crime or offence. For criminal defamations, you could always get the liable person or party prosecuted. It is studied in IPC as a criminal act.
Civil Defamation: Civil defamation involves no criminal offence, but on account of this kind of defamation, you could sue the person to get a legal compensation for your defamation. It is studied under law of torts i.e. as a civil wrong.
Essential Elements to prove Defamation
There are three main essentials of Defamation:
1.The statement must be published
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.
The standard to be applied is that of a right minded citizen. A man of fair average intelligence, and not that of a special class of persons whose values are not shared or approved by the fair minded members of the society generally.
2.The statement must refer to the plaintiff
If the person to whom the statement was published could reasonably infer that the statement referred to the plaintiff, the defendant is nevertheless liable.
3.Defamation must be published
Publication means making the defamatory matter known to some person other than the person defamed and unless that is done, no civil action for defamation lies.
After analyzing all the key aspects of defamation as laid in section 499 IPC, we have found that the essence of defamation lies in the injury to the reputation of a person. And for this injury, he can very much sue the defendants. Defamation is of two types libel and slander. Both are considered as criminal offenses in India. There are certain exceptions to this known as privilege.