What Do You Mean By Defamation?


To understand the types of defamation, firstly we have to understand the word “Defamation.” In the language of an ordinary person defamation is “to harm the reputation of a person.” But in law, it has a different meaning, even, defamation has a different meaning in Indian and English law. Defamation in law means that any intentional false communication or sentence either written or oral injures the reputation of a person or decreases the reputation of another person.[1] The reputation is the more valuable property of a person. In English law, there are two types of defamation:

  • Libel: It is a representation made in some permanent form or written form. E.g. writing, printing, picture, effigy or statute.
  • Slander: It is the publication of a defamatory in a transient form. E.g. spoken by words or gestures.[2]

Defamation in India is both civil and criminal wrong under the law of torts and Indian Penal Code, 1860 respectively. Defamation defines under Section 499[3] states that “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 excepted, to defame that person.”

There were three essential of defamation:

  1. The statement must be defamatory;
  2. The said or written statement must refer to the plaintiff’
  3. The statement must be published.


Libel is a representation or involves the act of a publishing a wrongful, false or untrue statement either in written form or broadcast over media, radio, television or internet in a permanent form which causes harm to the reputation of another person. Libel is an English concept and it is considered as criminal wrong.[4] Libel is a method or type of defamation which is embodied in a physical and permanent form that is injurious to a person’s reputation, exposes a person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule or which causes injures his business or profession. Traditionally, libel was governed by state law and they generally follow the common of libel that means damages can be recovered without proof of actual harm. In libel, offending statement should be factual not opinion-based. If the statement involves any phrase which makes a sentence opinion-based. The statement had a strong impression on an individual’s mind that it believes to be factual or real.[5]


A slander is a form of defamation which harming a person’s reputation by spoken words or gestures to one or more people that is an untrue or false statement and damaging reputation of that person. Slander considered as civil wrong i.e., Tort. In simple language, slander means “the action of making a false statement damaging to a person’s reputation. Slander is different from libel and it is considered as more temporary than libel because it involves speech and oral statement. In slander, the statement must be spoken or made in front of a third party. It requires special damage to be proved. When slander recorded or written anywhere, it became libel.[6]

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan,[7] in this case court held that proof of actual malice for claiming damages is required in action for libel and slander involving public officials. For the first time, found a constitutional problem in this case that speech about public officials to common law is defamation liability.


The main difference between libel and slander is, libel is a written defamatory statement whereas slander is an oral defamatory statement. Under English law, there was a distinction between libel and slander. Under criminal law, Libel is an offence but slander is no offence. Under the law of torts, slander is actionable, in exceptional cases, it can be proved on special damages. Libel is always actionable per se, i.e., without proof of any damages.[8]


In English law, libel is a criminal offence but slander is a civil wrong. But in India, libel and slander both are criminal offences as well as tort. There has been a controversy that slander and libel both are actionable or slander is actionable always like or not. In case of Parvathi v. Mannari,[9] held by Turner C.J and MuthuswamiAyyar, J. said that English law, in which except in certain cases requires to proof of damages in case of slander, being founded no reasonable basis and should not be adopted by British India. So, libel and slander both are actionable in India.

Defamation in countries has a different status and different meaning. In some countries it is divided into two forms: Libel and Slander and in some countries have the only concept of defamation. So, here some types of defamation in English law and Indian law.[10]


[1]www.investopedia.com (last visited on 5th June 2020)

[2]Dr.R.K.Bangia, 24th Edition 2017

[3] Indian Penal Code, 1860

[4]www.dictionarylaw.com (last visited on 6th June 2020)

[5]www.law.cornell.edu.com (last visited on 6th June, 2020)

[6] Ibid

[7] 376 U.S. 254 (1964)

[8]www.investopedia.com (last visited on 8th June, 2020)

[9]I.L.R (1885) 8 Mad. 175

[10]Dr.R.K.Bangia, 24th Edition, 2017

This Article Written by Nishu Singh, Student of Jagannath Institute of Management Science.

Also Read – How To Draft A Defamation Notice?

Md Sahabuddin Mondal

Junior Advocate, Calcutta High Court

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