By: Eksha Sharma
Defamation has been defined under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, 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. Defamation is categorized into two:
Libel – Statement published in a written form.
Slander – Statement made in spoken form.
Point to note is, a mere defamatory statement does not amount to defamation. The publication of such statement is a pre-requisite to establish defamation.
Whether it is communication, or access to information, these things have become a huge part of our day-to-day life. As anyone can access the world of internet and can publish and disseminate information through these social networking sites, Defamation has become a subject of concern. The term ‘Cyber defamation’ basically means publishing of false statement about an individual in cyberspace that can injure or demean the reputation of that individual. As we take the current world, the growth and development of technology have brought a drastic change. The internet has made many things fast and easier for us but with the rise of so-called trends of sharing or posting information or pictures on certain social networking sites and commenting on the have increased the risk of Cyber Defamation.
Cyber defamation is a new concept evolved with the evolution of internet world. According to traditional definition of defamation, the statement must refer to the plaintiff, and the intention must be to lower the reputation of the person against whom the statement has been made. And when we talk about Cyber Defamation it involves defaming a person new and more effective method such as the use of modern technology such as updated electronic devices, upgraded and fast internet, and many more. It refers to the publishing of defamatory material against any person in cyberspace.
Although, the medium of committing the act in the physical and digital world are different, the law of defamation applies the same.
LAW ON CYBER DEFATION IN INDIA
In India, section 499 of the Indian penal code primarily governs the law on defamation, however, it is pertinent to note that the law has been extended to “electronic documents”. Section 469 of the IPC has been amended by the Information Technology Act, 2000 to include ‘electronic record forged’ and now reads as a whole as – whoever commits forgery, intending that it is likely to be used for that purpose, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Section 66A of Information and Technology Act 2000 (IT Act), was quashed by the Supreme Court of India in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, due to ambiguity in the definition of the word ‘offensive’ in the section. The section stated that spending any offensive message to a computer or any other communication device would be an offence. Such unfettered power, under section 66A, was misused by the Government in curtailing and suppressing people’s freedom of speech and expression and hence repealed.