How To File A Civil Suit For Defamation In India?


Defamation is actually the injury to the reputation of an individual. If a person injures the reputation of another, he does so at his own risk, because it is within the case of an interference with the property. If defamation occurs in spoken words or gestures or in any other such form then it’s termed as slander and therefore the same if in written or printed form is libel. In India, defamation is a civil and criminal offence. In Civil Law, defamation is under the Law of Torts, which imposes punishment within the sort of damages awarded to the person filing the claim. Under Penal Code, Defamation is a bailable, non-cognizable and compoundable offence. Therefore, the police can’t start investigating the case for the same without it being received from the magistrate as an FIR can’t be filed. The accused also features a right to seek bail. Later, the fees are often dropped if the victim and therefore the accused enter into a compromise thereto effect (even without the permission of the court). Defamation is a criminal offence is stated under section 4991 of the Indian Penal Code.

Steps for Filing a Civil Defamation Suit:

The defamation suit is filed by following a specific procedure. the fundamental steps which have to be followed:

  1. Hiring an Attorney: The primary step towards filing a defamation suit starts with the aggrieved party consulting the attorney. One thing the aggrieved party should curb in his mind is that he/she should have in-depth knowledge about the events as much as possible. The aggrieved party should keep all the documents handy which they might need to provide to the attorney to support the case. The attorney should be given all truth and relevant facts even which are harmful. All of those are vital because this may enable the attorney to offer the simplest possible advice to the client.

  2. Filing of Complaint: Post the consultation session with the attorney and after the initial investigation, a complaint has got to be filed. A complaint is going to be filed which is that the document initiating the lawsuit. Usually, within the case of India, lawsuits proceed quite slowly which takes up a couple of months. Simultaneously settlement negotiations can take its course of your time.

  3. Service and Discovery: Once a lawsuit is filed, a summons has got to be served to the defendants alongside enough time to file a reply of the lawsuit and prepare to fight the case. Once the summons has been obliged the court issues a scheduling order mentioning all the important deadlines during a case. After this Discovery begins which is essentially a proper investigation done by each side to a case. At this stage, the opposite party can invite the documents to support the claims made by you. Thus, the party should have all the documents with them.

  4. Depositions: These are basically the interviews conducted under oath where the attorney for the opposite party interrogates. this is often usually the chance for the attorneys to create their cases

  5. Settlement: Once the invention stage is cleared the settlement negotiations begin. The attorneys attempt to find how to settle the case alongside getting the simplest deal for his client. Further to simply accept the offer or to pursue the trial is at the discretion of the client only.

Essentials of Defamation:

  1. Defamatory Statement: To constitute charges against an individual for defamation then the statement made should be defamatory i.e. it should be made with the purpose to harm the goodwill of the person. within the case of P. Choudhary v. Manjulata2, a press release regarding the desertion of a 17-year-old girl with a boy was published within the local newspapers without verifying truth facts. Such publication had affected the girl’s family and which caused a lot of questions to be raised against her character ultimately leading her marriage prospects to ask the same. Thus, during this case, the defendants were held liable. The burden of proof relies on the plaintiff to prove that the statement made within the property right is in regard to him only. within the case of Hulton & Co. v. Jones3, an article was published within the newspaper a few fictitious characters. An individual with an equivalent name approached the court filing a suit since his relative and friends considered him being mentioned in the article. during this case, the offenders were held liable here even though publication was made without the motive of defaming any individual.

  2. Truth: the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff to prove that the statement is defamatory and if he proves that beyond any doubt then the defendant is often held responsible for an equivalent but if there’s any amount of inaccuracy or the facts are substantially true or there are some minor mistakes made with none intention to harm then the defendant can’t be held responsible for defamation. within the case of Alexander v. North Eastern Railway Co.4, the plaintiff was fined with a quantity of 1 pound and 14 days imprisonment while on the opposite hand railway authorities published the notification within the paper and stated that the plaintiff was awarded imprisonment for 3 weeks. This was considered as an error that was made without the intention to defame the plaintiff rather it had been a real mistake on a part of the defendants, thus they weren’t held susceptible to any compensation or damages to the plaintiff.

  3. Fair Comment: any comments made on the matters which are of public importance or on the courts, governments then this will not be defamation and this constitutes a transparent ground of defence against a press release not being defamatory. But on the opposite hand, if the comments were made after the conspiracy to cause harm to the plaintiff by which he loses specialise in his performance is actionable as held within the case of Gregory v. Duke of Brunswick5.

Remedies for Defamation in Civil Law:

Under civil law, defamation is that the publication of a statement which tends to lower an individual within the estimation of the right-thinking members of the society. To constitute defamation under civil law, few conditions have got to be satisfied:

1. The statement made should be defamatory- Defamatory statement is one which is made with the intent to injure the reputation of the plaintiff. An accusation which exposes one to be humiliated, disgraced etc is said to be defamatory in nature.

2. The said statement must be mentioned by the plaintiff- it’s immaterial that the defendant did not really intend to defame the plaintiff. If the person to whom the statement was published could conclude that the statement mentioned the plaintiff, the defendant is liable.

3. The statement must be published- Publication actually means making the defamatory matter known to some person aside from the person defamed and usually, it is made public so that more people get to know of the same information, and unless and until that’s done, no legal action for defamation lies.


In case of defamation though there is an opportunity of civil liability defamation is a serious offence which hampers the reputation and goodwill of the individual within the society and sinks his image and once done cannot be taken back whatsoever. Thus, in such situation compensation through money is not enough or are often compared to the damage done to the image of the individual. Therefore, an individual should choose imposing criminal liability against the accused if the statement made causes serious damage to the reputation and well being of the person.


1 S499, Indian Penal Code,1806

2 AIR1997Raj170

3 (1902) 4 F. 654 (Scotland)

4 [1865] 6 B & S 340

5 [1843] EngR 859

This article is authored by Chandana Pradeep, Third-Year, B.A. LL.B(Hons.) specialization in International Trade, student at School of Law, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun. 

Also Read – Define ‘Defamation’ And Briefly Describe The Essential Ingredients of the Offence

Law Corner

Leave a Comment