What are defamation and its types?

What are defamation

Introduction

The term defamation is derived from the Latin word “Diffamare” which means spreading wrong or bad information about another person. According to the black dictionary defamation is a crime wherein a person’s character and reputation are injured by another person in public by giving false statements. It means when one person defames another person by giving derogatory or false statements in public or on social media to destroy the image of that person in society, the workplace, etc.

For example- Veer posted an image on social media and Aman commented on that post he is a fraud person and he had been in jail for 7 years in a rape case. Now everyone who reads that message thinks Veer is a criminal which leads to destroying his reputation by giving such defamatory information which is untrue.

Meaning

The offense of defamation comes under the 499 section of the Indian Penal Code in 1860. According to this section if a person publishes any false statement, signs, or visible representation to cause harm to the reputation of another person the offence of defamation is committed. The person is punishable for 2 years with or without a fine under section 500 of IPC. Defamation is a criminal offense as well as a civil offense.

Types of defamation

  • Libel
  • Slander

Libel defamation-

This type of defamation harms the reputation of an individual or business group, etc. by giving wrong representations in movies, writing, pictures, etc. It can be permanent. This will occur while publishing articles in the newspaper, and making a comment on social media platforms.

Example- A Newspaper named X published that Mr. B has become bankrupt but in reality, he is not. So it is a wrong statement given in written form which made it libel defamation.

Slander defamation-

This type of defamation means when the wrong statement is given in words or some other form whether it is visible or audible like signs, gestures, hissing, etc. It is generally a civil offence and it needs proof to take action.

Example-X says wrong things about y character which results in y losing her job. It is an audible form of defamation which makes it slander defamation.

Essential points for defamation

  1. A statement consists of defamatory words

When there is a statement given either written or spoken to injure another person’s reputation without lawful justification is deemed to be defamation.

  1. The statement refers to the plaintiff

When a statement is given against the plaintiff. The plaintiff has to prove that the statement he complains about particularly referred to him. If it proves then the defendant is liable.

Examples- all members are theft or x employee is theft of that company so here the first statement is not defamatory because it refers to the whole community, not a particular one. But other statements particularly refer to one person which leads to defamation.

  1. Statement given in Publicly

Publicly means the statement is given to the third party. Publicly does not mean that the statement is published in a news article it states that a person gives a defamatory statement to another person in front of a third person.

  1. Defamation causes harm

This means that if there is a false statement given on somebody and due to this defamatory statement he loses his job or reputation in society then he can claim the defamation. There must be a loss of reputation or financial for the claim.

Civil and criminal defamation

Defamation is punishable in civil law as well as criminal law in India. There is a very small difference between both laws.

Civil defamation

In civil defamation person who is defamed can go to high court or subordinate court for recovery. The remedy for civil cases is given under tort law. Under this, there is no imprisonment.

Criminal defamation

In criminal defamation, the accused will be punishable with 2 years of imprisonment, or fine, or both. The libel and slander defamation is a criminal offense that comes under 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code. it should be an intent to defame the other person. In case to prove that it is a defamatory statement it must contain some following essentials.

  • The statement must directly or indirectly refer to the aggrieved person.
  • There should be more than 2 people when the defamatory statement is passed.

Defenses for defamation

  • Justification or truth

Under defamation, the truth is the key defense for the offense of defamation. It means if a statement is true of the fact then the offence of defamation can never take place. Civil defamation also said that if the statement is true to nature then there are no charges for the defamation. And not punishable under the law because the court can’t punish an individual for speaking the truth.

In criminal law, an individual has to prove that the statement is said in a bona fide manner. Only proving the truth is not enough.

Alexander vs. North Eastern Railway

In this case, the court held that the statement was true and the defendant was not liable for the offense.

  • Fair comment

There are some important points for a fair comment which is:

  1. The comment should be true to nature, not such false narratives.
  2. The statement must be fair and not based on untrue facts.
  3. The comment which is said must be in the public interest. For example- government departments, courts, ministers, public meetings, etc.
  • Privilege

It means a balance between a person’s right to freedom of speech and right to reputation. But there are some circumstances when the law gives more importance to the right to freedom of speech rather than the right to reputation, this situation is called privilege.

Privilege comes under two types

  1. Absolute privilege- In this, a person has some privilege to speak and no action will be taken against them. For example parliamentary proceedings or judicial proceedings.
  2. Qualified privilege- In this, statement is defamatory but without any malice. For example, stamen is given with a good intention.

Punishment for defamation

The punishment for defamation is given under section 500 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. This offense is a non-cognizable, bailable, compoundable offense, or punishable for 2 years or more with a fine or both.

The burden of proof lies on whom for defamation?

The plaintiff has the burden of proof to prove the statement is defamatory and it is published by the defendant which causes harm to his reputation in society.

Conclusion

Defamation includes both civil and criminal wrongs. It causes harm to the reputation of an individual. The offense of defamation comes under the 499 section of the Indian Penal Code in 1860. There are some circumstances when the law gives more importance to the right to freedom of speech rather than the right to reputation, this situation is called privilege. For defamation, it should be an intent to defame the other person.

 

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