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Defamation As Civil Or Criminal Wrong And Position Of India?

This project is to show whether defamation is a civil or criminal wrong in India. This will show the current position of Defamation law in India and how it is used as in civil or criminal wrong. The "Black's law Dictionary" tell defamation as:
The offence of injuring a person's character, fame or reputation by false and malicious statements. As a component of the right to personal security, the right to reputation is recognized as a fundamental personal freedom that belongs to every individual.

A right good against the entire globe, it is a "jus in rem". "A man reputation is his property, more valuable than other property" emphasis in Dixon vs Holden (1869) When we consider the level of pain brought on by loss of character in comparison to that brought on by loss of goods, we find that the former hurt is more severe.

However, the law of defamation, like many other tort law divisions, allows for the splitting of interests. the competing interest that must be weighed against the interest that a person has in their right to free expression. A person's reputation is protected and their defences against harm, i.e. The freedom of expression is safeguarded by truth and privilege.

With malicious intentions, no one has the right to harm another person's reputation. As a justified limitation on the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, Clause (2) of Article 19 supports the current legislation against defamation.

"Publication of a statement which seeks to denigrate a person in the opinion of the right-thinking members of society" is how defamation under civil law is defined in tort law, however under criminal law Sec 499 of the Indian Penal Code,1860 indicates that defamation is a crime.

"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".


In legal parlance Defamation is the act of damaging another reputation by a untrue statement or publication (disclosing to the third party) that serves discredit to the target. The "Black's Law Dictionary defines defamation as the offence of injuring a person's character, fame or reputation by false and malicious statements".

Typically, defamation requisites publishing something that is false and done so without the person consent who is allegedly being defamed. Words and pictures are interpreted in accordance with accepted use and the publication's context.

"The right of reputation is acknowledged as an inherent personal right of every person as part of the right of personal security". Prof Winfield defines "Defamation is the publication of a statement which reflects on a person's reputation and which tends to lower a person in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally or which tends to make him shun or avoid that person". Only hurting someone's sentiments does not constitute defamation; reputational harm is required.

Although the individual who was disparaged does not need to be identified, their identity must be known. A group of people is only deemed to have been defamed if all of its members were mentioned in the publication�especially if the group was relatively small or if specific members had been unfairly blamed. Defamation is described in both law of torts and criminal so it can compensate the person in both provision of laws.

"The right of every person during life to the unimpaired possession of a reputation and a good name is recognized by the law". In India the constitutional validity of defamation is also challenged many times but "Subramanian Swamy vs Union of India" where it was held that:
"Under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code,1860 was challenged against the right to freedom of speech and expression, but the Supreme Court upheld the validity of these provisions". Speech that is intended to damage anyone's reputation is illegal under the Criminal Defamation Provision.

Since the person was formed widely, there was a strong likelihood that it would be misused after being consolidated into the Indian Penal Code in 1860 to define critical broadcasting or independent remark. Finally, its constitutionality was now being called into doubt Recent rulings by the courts have upheld criminal defamation statutes by relying on the permission of the Constituent Assembly, without taking into consideration any future developments in constitutional law or a broader definition of personal liberty.

The sheer existence of a pre-constitutional defamation statute, however, does not deem it to be "Reasonable." Second, the "Right to be Offended" received extraordinarily eclectic protection without taking into account the additional protection provided Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, not taking into version precedents given by larger benches.

Defamation Under Indian Law:
In India Defamation is a crime in both civil and criminal wrong. When civil dispute arises, the case is solved through the tortious liability and awarding the damages. In criminal law the defamation is mentioned in the IPC in Sec 499 & 500.

Defamation in Civil Wrong:
Defined as "any intentional false statement either spoken or written, that harms a person's reputation; decrease the respect, regard or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person". As per Salmond "the wrong of defamation lies in the publication of a false and defamatory statement about another person without lawful justification.

One of the bases for enforcing an Article19(2) constitutional restriction on the right to free expression in India is defamation. The term "Defamation" now has a constitutional significance as a result. The full judge bench in Purushottam Lal Sayal vs Prem Shankar "held that the court has to apply the rules of equity, justice and good conscience while deciding whether the words which defamed someone are capable of defamatory meaning.

Every time a defamation case is brought before a civil court, the proof must circumvent the basic elements of defamation. As a result, it is vital to attempt to identify the key elements of civil wrong.

Essentials of Defamation:
  1. A slanderous statement must exist:
    The accuser's writing must be malicious in nature in order for it to be admissible. This basically implies that it must result in a worsening of the reputation of the subject of the remark. The perception of a person by right-thinking members of society once they come into touch with such defamatory material will determine whether or not a statement damages their reputation.
  2. The plaintiff must be identified as the subject of the defamatory remark in order for it to be upheld:
    A person is guilty of an offence if, after the statement has been published, it is reasonable to assume that it is about the plaintiff. In the illustrious Jones v. Hulton case, "where a defamatory article was published about one Artemis Jones while describing a motor festival.

    A barrister named Artemis Jones alleged that this was defamatory to him as right-thinking individuals, as well as his friends, believed that the article referred to him even though it was contended by the defendant that the same was an imaginary name used for the purpose of this article. House of Lords upheld the decision that the same is defamation, even if there was no knowledge or intention on the part of the accused".
  3. There has to be publication of the same:
    It is crucial that the remark that defames a person is published, meaning that it is known to a third party who is not the target of the statement. It is necessary to show that the accused intended for his or her comments to be published or heard or seen by someone other than the person to whom they are directed in order to commit this offence.

    If such evidence is lacking, the claimed individual would not be held accountable for the defamatory statement's publishing. In the case of Mahendra Ram v. Harnandan Prasad, "the defendant was held liable for sending a defamatory letter to plaintiff written in Urdu knowing that the plaintiff did not know Urdu and the letter will very likely be read over by another person.
  4. Proof of special damage:
    The remarks expressed must be untrue and false in actuality. A person cannot be considered to have engaged in defamation by speaking the truth. Furthermore, because they are innately subjective and cannot, therefore, be claimed to be defamatory, statements that represent a person's opinion cannot be accurate or incorrect.
  5. Publication of a libellous remark is as vital necessary:
    In case of R. Rajagopal versus State of Tamil Nadu, [famously known as the Auto Shankar Case], the Hon'ble Supreme Court said that the newspaper could publish the life story so far as it appears from the public records even without the consent or authority. But if they go beyond the public record and publish, they may be invading the privacy and causing defamation of the officials named in the publication.

However, Hon'ble Supreme Court said that "even if the apprehensions of the officials were true about the defamatory contents, they could not impose any prior restraint on the publication, though they had right to take to legal proceedings for defamation after publication". According to a ruling, the government is not permitted to put a previous restriction on the publication of an autobiography since doing so would be libellous or would violate the right to private.

Defamation In Criminal Law

Is defined in IPC sec 499 and 500 where punishment is awarded and It's critical to comprehend why the Indian Penal Code considers defamation to be a crime. This is due to the fact that, after his life, a sensible and judicious man values his reputation most.

IPC Sec 499:
"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". Four justifications and ten exceptions to the principle in this section will be investigated further.

IPC Sec 500:
Lays forth the consequences for anyone who engages in defamatory behaviour. "Punishment for defamation," it says. "Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both."

Comparison Of Libel And Slander

  • Libel is defined as a long-lasting kind of defamation, such as in writing or print. A slander is a sort of transient defamation, such as spoken remarks and physical gestures.
  • At common law a libel is a criminal offence as well as a civil wrong, but a slander is a civil wrong only; though the words may happen to come within the criminal law as being blasphemous, seditious, or obscene, or as being a solicitation to commit a crime or as being a contempt of Court. Under the Indian law, both libel and slander are criminal offences.
  • A slander can be said in the heat of the moment or in response to an unexpected provocation; nevertheless, putting the accusation in paper and publishing it thereafter in a permanent form demonstrates greater thought and suggests malice.
  • Libel is a written form of defamation if one understands that the word comes from the Latin libellus, which is the diminutive of liber, meaning book". A written statement, bill, certificate, plea, or supplication was the definition of libel in its first usage in the 14th century.
  • Unfortunately, the origin of slander�which derives from the Latin "scandalum"is not as interesting ("stumbling block, offense").
  • Libel is a form of right violation in and of itself, and no evidence of real harm is required to support a claim. In accordance with common law, slander is only punishable when it can be shown that exceptional injury resulted from it naturally or when it makes particular imputations.
  • "An action may be maintained for defamatory words reduced into writing, which would not have been actionable if merely spoken". "A libel conduces to a breach of the peace; a slander does not". "This distinction which is recognized in the English law is severely criticized by the framers of the Indian Penal Code.

Defences Against Defamation

  • Truth justification
  • Fair Comments
  • Freedom of Press

Justification of Truth:
When the plaintiff in a libel lawsuit alleges and establishes enough evidence to establish a prima facie case, i.e., he persuades the court that the defendant's remarks are a publishing with the potential to have a defamatory connotation. Given that third persons are likely to understand the words, he is qualified to present his case to the jury. He may, nevertheless, discover that the fun has just begun, as is typically the case.

The defendant might be able to prove that the situation was confidential. He might persuade the jury that the publication did not go beyond the boundaries of appropriate commentary. He might even be able to prove that the remarks that are the basis for the claimed libel are true. The recovery of the plaintiff may be barred by any one of these three well-known defences.

Publicists for the law have commented extensively on each of them. The third-named defence is what this essay focuses on in- depth. It will be the writer's goal to first explore briefly how this defence came to be in English law and to follow its evolution in both English and American jurisprudence. Considering the civil and criminal cases separately will make it easier to do this. In order to investigate the foundations of the rule-making process, he can persuade the jury that the publishing did not go beyond the limitations.

The second step is to look at the principles that underpin the entirety of the defence. Third, in order to provide the plaintiff with a remedy, the courts have occasionally gone so far as to recognise new rights to demonstrate how the rule making truth a complete defence has prevented the law of libel from serving its intended purpose.

Fair Comment:
In Commonwealth nations like Canada, India and the UK, a fair remark can be used as a defence against defamation. In essence, fair comment permits people to express their ideas on issues of public concern without worrying about facing consequences. Fair remark is an effective libel defence as long as the statement's main objective is not malevolent.

Although Stanford's accusations in this specific defamation case were untrue, the judge concluded that "malicious hostility" wasn't the "dominant intent" behind his acts. In other words, the judge sided with Stanford because he really believed that salmon farming is damaging and his ultimate purpose was to conserve fish, not harm Mainstream Canada.

Essentials of fair comment:
  • Rather than being a declaration of truth, that is a comment or criticism.
  • A remark must be about a topic of general interest.
  • The comment is truthful and fair.
We can see in Ramakrishna Pillai vs Karunakara Menon where it was held that:
"No lawsuit will be brought against the defendant for defamation unless he has gone beyond the lines of fair comment or has been motivated by malice, which is not proven in this instance. The articles were subjects of public interest on which the defendant was right to remark".

In some cases, when the right to free expression takes precedence over the right to reputation, the law recognises defamatory statements as having been uttered under privilege. Both qualified privilege and absolute advantage fall under the category of privilege.

Absolute Privilege:
No matter how untrue or malicious the defamatory words are, they are not actionable under absolute privilege. Due to the fact that this topic is of public importance, these remarks are protected under the right to free expression. In Dr Jatish Chandra Ghosh vs Hari Sadhan Mukherjee and Others there it was held that "asserted on his behalf that he had an unrestricted right under Constitutional Article 194 to disseminate the prohibited... alluded to. 487 The publishing of proceedings from the House proceedings is not completely protected by a privilege'.

Parliamentary proceedings:
The defence of absolute privilege is used during parliamentary proceedings to defend statements made by parliamentarians that are offensive in nature, whether they are made orally or in writing, during the proceedings of either House of parliament. For comments they make when the body is in session, members of state legislatures have a comparable amount of absolute privilege.

Judicial Proceedings:
Judges, counsel, witnesses, and parties are not held liable for their statements or writings made during any case or trial before a court or other institution recognised by the law. However, if a witness or attorney makes a defamatory remark unrelated to the topic of the inquiry, the absolute privilege defence will not be admissible..

In Jiwan Mal v. Lachhman Das, "the defendant brought a suit in a trial court that had no connection to the plaintiff and made a defamatory statement about the plaintiff. The defendant claimed absolute privilege as defence against the plaintiff's defamation claim. However, the High Court of Lahore held that the plaintiff had no connection to the suit the defence of absolute privilege could not be taken and defendant held liable".

Absolute Privilege:
Refers to any claim that a person makes to the police that he would vouch for on oath in court. The Karnataka High Court ruled in the case of V. Narayana Bhat v. E. Subbanna Bhatt:
"That even if the defendant lodged a false police report against the plaintiff, he could not be held accountable for defamation since his complaint was absolute privilege-privilege".

Statements, talks, and reports made between government offices or military officers while carrying out official tasks are protected under the defence of absolute privilege and are not subject to libel.

Licensed Privilege:
A person may assert Licensed Privilege privilege as a defence if they make a defamatory statement in good faith during a protected event. In contrast to absolute privilege, the defendant must establish two elements in order to raise the licensed privilege defence.

The appropriate sentence is given during a special event. A task performed or an interest protected is referred to as a privileged occasion. The defence of qualified privilege applies to defamatory statements made without malice while carrying out a legal, social, or moral duty. It is necessary for the recipient of the information to be interested in it.

A responsibility to the public must be established if a defamatory statement was broadcast on television or in a newspaper. The Bombay High Court declared in R.K. Karanjia v. Thackersey:
"That even though a subject is of public importance, it cannot be treated as a privileged occasion if the person conveying it does not have an obligation to do so.

It is crucial that reciprocity of responsibility or interest exists. This implies that both the information's publisher and its recipient must have a responsibility or interest in it. Absolute privilege applies to reports of parliamentary proceedings that are published with the approval of either House of the Parliament. However, if these studies are released without the authority of the house, the defence of qualified privilege can be taken".

The defendant must be able to demonstrate that the reports were released in good faith and without malice. If a sketch or summary of a parliamentary report contains a reference to the complete report and may be seen as a fair portrayal of what happened as understood by the listeners, it may be protected by the defence of qualified privilege.

The appropriate should be made objectively. The qualified privilege defence cannot be used if malice was present when the defamatory remark was made. The absence of any malice on the side of the defendant is therefore crucial. This is justified by the idea that the defendant should only be permitted to rely on the defence in privileged occasion.

If the defendant uses the occasion for some false or indirect motive, then the occasion ceases to be privileged.

In Horrocks v. Lowe, "it was established that even if the defendant published a defamatory matter against the plaintiff, if he is of the honest opinion that the statement said by him is true, then he can take the defence of qualified privilege".

"Even if there is reason to believe that the defendant had malicious intentions, if he is of an honest opinion, then he has used the occasion to discharge a duty or protect an interest and therefore the occasion is deemed privileged."

Freedom of the Press:
"Press freedom is a symbol of people's freedom in a nation." The Indian Supreme Court ruled in Pandit M.S.M. Sharma versus Sri Krishna Sinha 'that press freedom is a necessary component of a free and democratic state, but that it is also subject to reasonable limitations. "Every free man has an undeniable right to put whatever views he pleases before the public; to ban this, is to undermine the freedom of the Press; but if he publishes what is unsuitable, harmful, or criminal, he must bear the consequences of his own boldness," the court said'.

A variety of negative remarks are allowed under the defence of fair comment if the facts of the case are truthfully represented. However, the publisher may be held accountable for defamation if the disclosed information is untrue and has a defamatory nature. In the case of Sardar Charanjit Singh v. Arun Purie "the Delhi High Court established that the defence of fair comment or privilege can be taken even if a false statement has been published. The statement published should not be without justification".

"Reputation of the concerned aggrieved parties on one hand and freedom of the press on the other, have to be equally balanced."

Civil v/s Crimnal Defamation

Verbal and written slander are both forms of it. Libel is the term for written defamation, whereas slander is the phrase for spoken defamation. The identical IPC clause applies to both crimes.

Defamation can have both civil and criminal repercussions. Despite the absence of a codified defamation statute in India, the harmed person may file a civil lawsuit under English common law, subject to certain statutory limitations.

If the defamation is the result of spoken remarks, civil litigation is not an option. Using the media as an example, the press or newspapers are more likely to solely conduct libel as a written and printed medium.

Liability and defence:
In terms of legal liability for defamation, intent is not relevant. Complete defence Truth of statement is essential to a civil defamation lawsuit. In criminal law, there must be a motive for the offence. The defence of good faith exists in criminal law. However, in a criminal proceeding, the truth is not a defence, save for the first exception to Section 499 IPC. It is crucial to demonstrate that the slanderous publication is the general welfare.

Punishment v/s Compensation
The amount of compensation is the primary distinction between a civil lawsuit and a criminal defamation action. While the objective of a criminal prosecution is to punish the offender with prison time, fines, or both, the objective of a civil lawsuit is to fairly compensate the person who has been defamed for the loss of reputation through damages.

Cumulative nature of remedies
The civil and criminal remedies are complementary rather than competing with one another. A victim of wrongdoing may bring both a civil lawsuit and a criminal complaint at the same time. The harmed party may still bring a civil lawsuit for damages even when the defendant has already been found guilty in a criminal court in accordance with Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code.

According to IPC Section 499, Defamation
When someone's reputation, which is considered their property, is defamed, is damaged. Section 499 of the IPC provides the following definition of defamation. "Except in the cases hereinafter expected, any person who makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person with the intent to defame, or with reasonable cause to believe that such imputation will defame, the reputation of such person is said to have done so by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representation."

This section explains how defamation can also be committed by signs and visual representations, in addition to spoken or written assertions. This suggests that a slanderous cartoon or image might perhaps be the focus of a defamation action.

Penalties under Section 500 of the IPC
Section 500 of the IPC imposed penalties for defamation. According to this clause, anybody who disparages another person faces a sentence of simple imprisonment, which may last for more than two years, a fine, or both.

The consequences for a journalist might be severe because the defamatory statement was widely reported. The crime may be increased if a journalist makes a reckless remark with malicious intent. The sentence he receives will also depend on what he does following the publication and throughout the trial.

"Printing and engraving matter known to be defamatory" and "selling of printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter" are offences punishable by simple imprisonment up to two year or a fine under Sections 501 and 502 of the Indian Penal Code, respectively.

Defamation in Indian Criminal Law
The Indian Penal Code has a lengthy section on defamation. In addition to the definition, Section 499 also contains ten exceptions and four explanations.

Explanations Attached With Defamation

Four Explanations are attached with the definition of defamation:

  1. If a statement is made about a deceased person that would have an adverse effect on their reputation if they were still alive and is intended to offend their family or other close friends, it may be deemed defamation.
  2. Making an imputation for a firm, an organisation, or a group of people as a whole might be considered defamation.

    Only when an association or group of people can be distinguished from the rest of the community may they file a complaint. A remark stating that journalists are susceptible to negative influences in general may not be considered a crime. However, if the allegation is made with reference to, say, Delhi journalists, it is made against a certain group, and so becomes illegal. Even though his identity is not given, any journalist from Delhi may file a complaint.
  3. When an imputation is made using an alternate or amusing phrase, defamation may result. If the complainant can demonstrate that the innuendo or sarcastic remark is intended at In the opinion of a sane person, he, that may also be cause for legal action.
  4. The reputation of a person is not deemed to be injured by an imputation unless it directly or indirectly casts doubt on their moral or intellectual character, caste or profession, or their character in general. It harms that person's credit, or lends credibility to it.

As mentioned in Article 21, the right to reputation is a component of the right to life and dignity. Free speech and expression are protected under the Indian Constitution. However, this authority has logical bounds. False statements must never be used to diminish a person's standing in society.

A person can protect their right to their reputation thanks to the Defamation Law. This rule only applies when the comment is untrue, however, as truth is a defence against defamation. But in certain cases, we see lot of ambiguity in many cases although it is well defined in the IPC what is defamation and how it can be used and its exceptions are also given but when we talk about law of tort, we still see some vagueness because as it uncodified.

So, best solution lies in the hand of plaintiff because if he wants compensation then he must sue in law of tort but if he wants punishment then the best scenario lies in criminal defamation. Reputation of a person is most important jewel of this time so we must understand the importance of which remedy we want and therefore the filling of law suit in correct provision of law is very much important.

Through my research work I tried to give brief about what is civil and criminal defamation is and how can we differentiate between both of them, and to file a suit in which provision of laws. How important it is to understand the importance of defamation and basically it helps everyone to find out which remedy they want through their suit.

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