Ever wondered what is the next most precious thing to you after your life? Well, there can be different answers to this question depending upon the thinking of different people. But there is one answer to this question that everyone will agree to. The answer is one’s reputation. No person will ever like his reputation being injured especially by false comments made by someone who actually draws pleasure in destroying someone’s reputation. In this context, we can understand the meaning of defamation. The offense of injuring someone’s reputation, character or fame by publishing false and malicious statements is called Defamation. Thus, one person publishing false articles about another person in a newspaper that are read by quite a number of people will be considered as defamation. The term defamation is used in both civil and criminal law. Today, in this article we will discuss about defamation under criminal law.
Defamation definition as per section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
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, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person.
Important points to note:
- If the reputation of a deceased person is harmed, it will amount to defamation as it would have harmed the reputation of the person if he was alive, and can hurt the feelings of the deceased person’s family members.
- If any statement harms the reputation of a company or any association of persons will also amount to defamation.
- An ironic statement regarding a person or a company that when understood by the people known to that person or company may injure their reputation also amounts to defamation.
- The imputation whether directly or indirectly, must lower the moral or intellectual character of the person, or lowers the character of that person in respect of his caste, will also amount to defamation.
Types of defamation:
- Libel- Representation in a permanent form, e.g., writing, printing, effigy, picture or statue.
- Slander- Through words spoken or gestures.
Essentials of defamation:
- The statement made must be defamatory.
- The said statement must refer to the complainant.
- The statement must be published i.e., it must be communicated to at least one person other than the claimant.
Exceptions of defamation:
- Any statement published for the public good shall not be considered as defamation.
- Fair criticism of a public servant is not defamation.
- Fair and honest statement critical of public men other than the public servants will not amount to defamation.
- Fair and correct report on the proceedings of a court shall not be considered as defamation.
- Case comments of the adjudicated decisions of cases shall not amount to defamation.
- Literary criticism of public performances that are submitted for its judgement, does not amount to defamation.
- Censure by one in authority usually the employer or a teacher is not considered as defamation provided that it was in good faith.
- When a person makes a complaint or accusation regarding another person to a lawful authority so that the authority can take action against the accused is not defamation.
- Imputation made by one person for the protection of his own interests will not amount to defamation.
- Cautioning for public good is not defamation but it should be in good faith.
Punishment for Defamation:
The punishment for defamation is mentioned in Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. This section says that, “Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or both.
Defamation is thus, publishing of false statements by one person about another with a malicious intent to hurt the reputation of the person about whom the statements are made. In civil law, the punishment for defamation is just the payment of damages to the victim. But in criminal law, the offense of defamation attracts fine as well as simple imprisonment for up to two years.
Written by Yaminee Verma @LEXCLIQ