The growth and development of technology have brought a drastic change in the world. The Internet has made many things far easier for all of us through various social networking sites. Whether it is communication or access to information, these things have become a piece of cake for all of us. But these facilities may sometimes lead to misuse also. As users can publish and disseminate information through these social networking sites, Defamation has become a subject of concern. The rise of so-called trends of sharing or posting information or pictures on certain social networking sites and commenting on them has increased the risk of ‘Cyber Defamation’. It basically means publishing of false statement about an individual in cyberspace that can injure or demean the reputation of that individual. In India, defamation can be contemplated as both a civil and criminal offence, and thus legal remedies are provided to the victims by the Indian judiciary system.

Liability in Cyber Defamation

In India, a person can be made liable for defamation both under civil and criminal law.

  1. Indian Penal Code

Section 499 of Indian Penal Code says that “Whoever by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs and visual 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, except in the cases hereinafter excepted to defame that person.”

Section 500 of IPC provides for punishment wherein “any person held liable under section 499 will be punishable with imprisonment of two years or fine or both.”

Section 469 deals with forgery. If anyone creates a false document or fake account by which it harms the reputation of a person. The punishment of this offence can extend up to 3 years and fine.

Section 503 of IPC deals with the offence of criminal intimidation by the use of electronic means to damage one’s reputation in society.

  1. Information Technology Act, 2000

Section 66A, Information Technology Act,2000 – This law has been struck down by Supreme Court in the year 2015. The section defined punishment for sending ‘offensive’ messages through a computer, mobile or tablet. Since the government did not clarify the word ‘offensive’. The government started using it as a tool to repress freedom of speech. In 2015, the whole section was quashed by the Supreme Court.

If a person has been defamed in cyberspace, he can make a complaint to the cybercrime investigation cell. It is a unit of the Crime Investigation Department.

Forms of Defamatory Publications

The defamation which is into the online medium falls into the category of libel as the electronic records are designated as documents whether it may be written text, audio or video files.

As per section 65A and 65B of the Indian Evidence Act –

  1. Any electronic record printed on paper or recorded or copied in optical or magnetic media shall be considered as a document and shall be admissible by court.
  2. Online chats are also admissible.
  3. Electronic mails are also admissible.

Legislative Framework

It was specifically observed by the Delhi High Court in the matter of Dharambir v. CBI (2011) that ‘Given the wide definition of the words documents and evidence in the amended section 3 of evidence act read section 2 (o) & (t) IT Act, there can be no doubt that an electronic record is a document and the same has been observed in the recent judgment by Supreme Court in the matter of P.Gopalkrishnan v. State of Kerala (2019). The appropriate step in such a case is two-fold, first, to initiate the proceeding for tracing the identity and second, to initiate the proceeding for criminal or civil defamation through these done alternatively or simultaneously which in turn implies firstly locating the identity and then to initiate the criminal or civil proceeding. In India, Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code basically administers the law on defamation; be that as it may, it is relevant to take note that the law has been reached out to “electronic reports”. Section- 66A of Information and Technology Act 2000 (IT Act), was subdued by the Supreme Court of India in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015) because of uncertainty in the meaning of the word ‘hostile’ in the Section. The segment expressed that sending any hostile message to a PC or some other specialized gadget would be an offence. Such liberated force, under Section- 66A, was abused by the Government in reducing and smothering individuals’ right to speak freely and articulation and thus cancelled. Section- 79 of the IT Act gives a sheltered harbour to middle people against any demonstration of defamation. Section- 79 gives that a middle person isn’t subject to outsider data, information joins facilitated on its foundation. Notwithstanding, the sheltered harbour assurance is restricted to specific conditions viz. a go-between will be obligated in the event that it starts the transmission of such slanderous substance, chooses the collector of such substance or changes such substance. For the offence of cyber defamation to be made out, an accused person must have either made or published defamatory material through the internet. If a person merely writes defamatory content but does not publish or communicate it to others, the offence of defamation may not hold, as held in Rohini Singh v. State of Gujarat (2017). Therefore, a person alleging defamation must necessarily show that the defamatory content was meant for an audience.


The intense volume of information and an easy way of transferring it on the Internet makes it a critical source of defamation. After researching on the aforesaid topic, it can be said that the present scenario of India regarding laws do not have an adequate approach towards cases of cyber defamation. Also, defamation laws should be sufficiently flexible to be applied to all media. As the defamation laws in the era of the Internet, it becomes practically impossible to apply the principle of 18th and 19th-century cases to the issue arising on the Internet in the 21st century.




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