Defamation laws in India

The Constitution of India has given us freedom of speech and expression. This Fundamental right is mentioned in article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution. Though this right is not absolute and this article also comes with some restrictions which have been mentioned under article 19(2) of the Constitution. Such restrictions are made where the statement made are detrimental to the country or are defamatory in nature. To protect the reputation of others and to ensure that false statements to destroy the reputation of others are not made, defamation laws were introduced.

Meaning of Defamation

Defamation is the act to injure the character, reputation, fame of any person by publishing a false or malicious statement. In India, legal action of defamation can be taken under Civil Law as well as Criminal Law. That means a person can either be sued for compensation by the person defamed or he/she can be criminally prosecuted for such actions. To bring an action of defamation there must be false publication regarding the person without his/her consent and there must be a loss of reputation due to the false statement.

READ – Fundamental Rights – Meaning And Concept

Types of Defamation

There are two types of defamation in Indian Law those are:

  1. Libel: It refers to defaming a person by representing the statements in permanent form. For example, writing, printing in the newspaper, publishing of defamatory photos.
  2. Slander: It refers to defamation through spoken words or gestures. It also includes sign language form of expressions such as booing, winking or any other way of injuring reputation.

The difference between Slander and Libel is that slanderous statement can be made in any form. It could be in any blog comment or spoken in a speech or said on television. The libelous act occurs when a statement is made in writing. Slanderous statement is only made orally, however, it is necessary that in both cases Slander and Libel the defamatory statement must be heard/seen by a third party.

Defamation under Indian Laws

To constitute a case of defamation there are three essentials which need to be there:

  1. Published Statement- The defamatory statement must be published and that statement must cause injury to the reputation or character. Publication means it must be heard/seen by any third party.
  2. The statement must refer to another person- The defamatory statement must refer to the other person. Even if the person does not have an intention to defame he/she can be liable for his/her statement if they are defaming another individual. If a statement does not refer to any other person that can not constitute defamation.
  3. Such statement must be defamatory- The statement made by any person must be defamatory in nature that means the person who is asking compensation or imprisonment must be defamed in front of a third party. The court will decide whether a statement if defamatory or not. Indian laws further says that defamation can also include any statement made against the deceased person if such a statement is intended to the hurtful to their family or reputation. Any statement against any corporate can also be held defamatory.

Punishments available for Defamation

Defamation claim can be made in Civil as well as in Criminal also.

If it is Civil offense the remedy is given under the law of tort and the aggrieved person has to file a civil suit in the appropriate High Court or District court claiming the monetary compensation.

In Criminal law, both Libel and Slander are considered as a criminal offense under the Indian Penal Code (Sec. 499 and 500). Punishment available is imprisonment of a maximum of 2 years or fine or both.

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