The act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person is defamation. Defamation forms false opinion towards that person who is defamed. It can be done by written, verbal or other visible representation. For example – A published and article in newspaper which says that B is a member of terrorist organization. This statement is defamation if this fact if false. As this statement can easily affect the image of a person in right thinking members of society.
Perhaps the most common negative consequence of a defamatory statement is harm to your professional reputation. If you’re a local businessperson and someone makes a false statement about you to others, indicating that you did something dishonest, that might cause your customers to take their business elsewhere.
In order to make balance between right to freedom of speech and protection of good name we have law against defamation.
Defamation is a civil as well as criminal offence Under section 499 and 500 of IPC.
Section 499 – whoever by words either spoken or intended to be read or by sign or by visible representation, 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 – whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two year or with fine or both.
Types of defamation
• Slander :- If a statement is made by some spoken words or gestures then the defamation is called Slander.
For example – A announced in a meeting that B is a thief but B was not in that case this is a Slander.
• Libel : – libel is the representation made in a permanent form like writing, movie or picture etc. For example – X posted a picture on Facebook which depicts that Y is a murderer but Y was not this is the libel.
Components essential for defamation
1 Statement of fact
In order to prove defamation firstly we have to check that whether the statement is statement of facts or statement of opinion.
If the statement is proven as statement of fact we have to examine that it is true or false . If the statement proves to be true then it is not defamation . In case the statement is False then this comes under the category of defamation.
However, if the statement is statement of opinion then it can not be actionable under defamation.
Statement of Fact – A says that B is a criminal. (Defamation)
Statement of opinion – A says that I think B is a criminal. ( not defamation)
2. Publication of statement
Statement should be published in order to consider it as defamation.
Publication refers to communication of a defamatory statement to person other then the defamed party.
3. Statement must be defamatory and False .
The statement must affect the reputation of a person in right thinking members of society.
4. Statement must refers to the plaintiff.
Actors are drug paddlers (not Referred to a individual hence not defamatory. A is a drug paddler ( referred to A)
5. Must cause serious Harm.
The statement must cause serious Harm to a persons reputation or financial loss.
For example if somebody lost his job due to a defamatory statement.
Following are the defences available to protect ourselves from liability.
• Justification of truth
Only false statements against a person constitute defamation. Hence if a defendant proves that the statement communicated to him is true then he can escape from liability.
• Fair and Bonafide statement
If the statement communicated is in public interest then it is not a defamation.
Essential for fair statement :-
– Not a statement of fact
– Must be in public interest
– Comment is honest
For example if someone criticise government policies then this is not considered as defamation.
• Privileged statement
Privileged statement means statement giving special status.
If law recognises that the right of free speech outweighs the plaintiff right to defamation in this case the statement is not defamatory.
For example in Parliament a member of parliament has absolute right to freedom of speech.
Such privileges sometimes exists in judicial proceedings as well.
In case the person who made defamatory statement later issues an apology he can escape from liability. But person who is suffering must accept that apology.
Points to remember
• This law tends to prevent person from making false statements about others.
• Statement made virtually are also actionable .
• Anyone who republishes the statement is equally liable even if he reveals the source of that statement.
• Statements in sudden provocation are not defamation.
• Statement between husband and wife are privileged statement not amounting to defamation. Under section 122 of Indian evidence act of 1872.
Innuendo means secondary meaning of a statement.
Sometimes a statement At first seems to be innocent but it became defamatory if Secondary meaning is considered.
For example sarcastic comments.
Defamation is a tort resulting in injury to a person’s reputation that’s why these law are made to protect reputation of an individual and provide remedy to them.