Defamation is a tort that relates to stating untrue things in order to harm
someone's reputation. Defamation is defined as the disclosure of information to
someone other than the person who has been defamed in order to degrade the
plaintiff's standing in the eyes of right-thinking people or to discourage them
from associating or interacting with him. Defamation is an act of harming
another's reputation by the use of words, whether written or spoken, a sign, or
any other visible representation.
As far as Defamation under tort law is concerned, as a general rule, the focus
is on libel (i.e., written Defamation) and not on slander (i.e., spoken
Defamation). in order to establish that a statement is libellous, it must be
proved that it is
- defamatory, and
Defamation is a tort that occurs when someone's reputation is harmed. it is the
act of causing harm to another's reputation by making a false statement to a
third party. Defamation is an infringement of the right to one's reputation. the
purpose of Defamation legislation is to safeguard people's reputations from
unjust assault. in reality, it has the primary consequence of stifling free
expression and shielding powerful individuals from criticism. people can sue
individuals who utter or publish false and harmful statements under Defamation
My main motivation behind this paper is making a detailed analysis about the
civil com criminal wrong Defamation and what are some landmark cases which
changed the view of this tort in the society.
A man is respected in society by his reputation. the purpose of Defamation law
is to protect one's good name, honor, integrity, character, and dignity in
society. an injured person can bring criminal action as well as a civil suit for
damages for Defamation.
Defamation is an intentional false communication, the act of publishing
defamatory content, written or oral, that damages someone's reputation, or gives
rise to disparaging, hostile, or objectionable opinions or feelings you have for
others that hurt them in a way you defame them in person.
The right to take legal action for Defamation is limited to a period of one year
Defamation Statements Can Be Made As Defamation Or Slander:
Historical Background Of Defamation
- Defamation: publishing false statements and Defamation to defame another person
without legal reasons or allow. declarations must be in printed form, e.g.
writing, printing, drawing, sculpture, etc.
- Slander: false statements and Defamation through speech and/or gestures that
tend to damage the reputation of others.
Dating from the early 1300s, proceedings pertaining to the forerunner of libel
were murky and limited to religious tribunals, and it was not until well into
afterwards that the prince's courts accepted trials for defamatory remarks. the
practical character of common law does not lend itself to the creation of an
offense based solely on words. it's mostly about particular actions and
repercussions, such as bodily injury, thievery, and murders.
A common law slander case did not emerge until the 16th century. Defamation was
treated as a purely spiritual concern before to 1500, and was dealt with by
ecclesiastical courts. the ecclesiastical courts ruled that slander was a crime
and that the perpetrator could only be sentenced to penance, which was a
relatively minor sentence.
Before that time, however, there were occasional actions involving Defamation
and degradation of character. in the fourteenth century, for example, there were
lawsuits from nobles who had been slandered in the king's public courts. "in
1358, a judge received a substantial sum of money for being called a traitor in
court. in addition, there have been some false testimony lawsuits about men in
second marriage, a very damaging charge that could ruin your reputation."
Around the same time, the "Scandalum Magnatum" statute allowed top judges and
church officials to take legal action if they had been insulted or defamed. the
first recorded common law Defamation case was filed in 1507 when the royal court
changed its mind over mere words, ruling that they could affect a man's honor as
much, or even more, than physical assault. there were three categories of
slander at that time:
- words that accused someone of a crime;
- words accusing someone of being incompetent at his job and
- words accusing someone of suffering from a certain disease (for example, french smallpox).
Human nature, driven into a deluge of actions and various forms of Defamation,
became the daily bread of the royal court, which until the middle of the
sixteenth century became mainly action. in cases 1557 and 1565, several judges
attempted to limit the number of complaints by:
- Insisting that the plaintiff demonstrate real and particular damage to
- Words labeled as joking or angry were impractical and
- Interpreting ambiguous words as less defamatory than they might be.
while this was done to reduce stocks a bit, they were still very common.
Some specific rules were also created, such as that a man can sue even if he
already has a bad reputation.
Until 1660, common law did not make a clear distinction between written and
spoken Defamation. however, defamatory words in scripture were often punishable
by harsher penalties. currently, a distinction is made between ephemeral
statements, often spoken (Defamation) and permanent statements, often written
Object Of The Study:
To comprehensively understand the definition, background, and the current
scenario of the Defamation .the paper also explains about various aspects of
Defamation, case laws that involved Defamation. it explains the benefits and
limitations of Defamation.
Significance Of The Study:
This study shall help us to understand the past, present of Defamation. it will
also highlight the social impact of the Defamation on the people in the society.
The researcher used a number of web resources, such Manupatra, a widely
accessible database for cases, statutes, treaties, and legislation, as well as a
large database. in order to gather relevant information and data for this paper,
various research papers and journal articles were also reviewed and read. the
paper also made use of the India contract law of 1872. black law's dictionary,
the most reliable legal dictionary, accredited by the supreme court of India was
also used by the researcher.
To find answers to the research questions, the researcher used the doctrinal
method of study. to substantiate and justify the answers, it has been expanded
with an explanatory method.
Defamation refers to the act of making false statements, either in spoken or
written form, that harm the reputation of an individual, business, or other
entity. these false statements, often referred to as "defamatory statements,"
can be either spoken (slander) or written (libel).
To Prove Prima Facie Defamation, A Plaintiff Must Show Four Things:
- A false statement purporting to be fact;
- Publication or communication of that statement to a third person;
- Fault amounting to at least negligence;
- Damages, or some harm caused to that person or entity who is the subject
of the statement.
Explanation Of The Four Elements:
Defamation in India:
- A False Statement Purporting To Be Fact:
A defamatory statement should be false, because the truth is a defence to
Defamation. if the statement is genuine, there is no Defamation because the
statement's untruth is a necessary component of Defamation. the law does not
punish someone for telling the truth, no matter how unpleasant it is.
- Publication Or Communication Of That Statement To A Third Person:
The comment must be made public in order for Defamation to occur. a third party
should be informed of the statement. any statement made in a personal diary or
sent as a personal communication is not defamatory; nevertheless, if the sender
knows that a third person is likely to see it, it is defamatory.
Case Law: Mahender Ram Vs Harnandan Prasad On 28 February, 1958 
- Fault Amounting To At Least Negligence
The statement made should in some way harm or injure the plaintiff. for example,
the plaintiff's job was lost as a result of the statement made.
- Damages Caused To That Person Who Is The Subject Of The Statement
The defamatory statement must be directed at a person, a group of people, or the
firm's trustees. the reference can be explicit or oblique. if the claimant can
still be recognised, it is not necessary to mention him by name. the person
named in the defamatory statement can be dead or alive; however, a Defamation
suit on behalf of a deceased man could only be filed if the plaintiff has an
interest in the case.
citizens have such a set of freedoms in article 19 of the constitution. article
19(2), is from the other hand, has imposed a legitimate exemption to the freedom
of speech and expression guaranteed by article 19(1). (a). exceptions includes
contempt of court, slander, and incitement to offence committed.
both civil and criminal law regard Defamation being a crime. "Defamation is
punishable in civil law under the torts law, which prescribes a punishment in
the form of damages to be granted to the claimant. Defamation is a bailable,
non-cognizable, and compoundable offence under criminal law." as a result, a
policeman can only make arrests if a judge issues an arrest warrant. the offence
is punishable by a simple imprisonment of up to two years, a fine, or both under
the Indian penal code.
Defamation Under Sec. 499 IPC Is Subject To The Following Exceptions:
- Civil Defamation:
"The statements made must be false, and they should be made without the alleged
defamed person's consent." for defamatory, the defendant can be sued for
financial damages. a successful Defamation claim requires meet certain criteria.
they are as follows:
there must have been an offensive statement expressed. defamatory content is
intended to harm a person's or a group's reputation by exposing them to hatred,
contempt, or ridicule. the to see if it harms one's reputation must be
calculated through the eyes of a common man and his understanding of the
situation second, the statements must refer to a particular person or group of
people. blanket statements such as "all politicians are corrupt" are too broad,
and no single politician can be compensated for it.
Defamation requires the false statement to be communicated to a third party,
either through spoken or written means. if a letter containing defamatory
content is sent in a language the recipient doesn't understand, and they
rely on a third party to read it to them, it still qualifies as Defamation.
this is because the involvement of a third party is necessary for the
message to reach the recipient, making it a public communication, even if
the letter was originally intended to be private.
- Criminal Defamation:
This constitutes Defamation, which could result in a potential prison sentence.
to pursue a criminal case, there must be a deliberate intent to harm someone's
reputation through false accusations. it needs to be established beyond a
reasonable doubt that the action was taken with the purpose of tarnishing
another person's character, or at the very least, with the awareness that it
would lead to Defamation.
Defamation and its exemptions are outlined in section 499 of the Indian penal
code, 1860. it pertains to words or gestures that are either expressed with the
intention to cause harm or with the knowledge that such expression will cause
harm. if statements are made about a deceased individual that could negatively
impact their reputation, it may still be categorized as Defamation.
- Constitutionality Of Defamatory Laws
"Defamation laws have triggered a debate about whether they violate the basic
right granted by article 19 of the constitution. the supreme court has declared
that Defamation laws are constitutionally valid and therefore do not conflict
with the right to free speech. the court also recognized the right to free
speech and expression is "absolutely fundamental" but not absolute." article 21
stipulates that a person's right to life includes his or her right to.
- Right To Speech Vs Right To Reputation:
due to their overlap nature, the right to free speech and the right to
reputation are two fundamental human rights that often conflict with one
another. each of these rights have been regarded as crucial not only by the
Indian constitution, but also by many international accords. people have the
right to live a decent life while also having the freedom to freely express
their beliefs and opinions. as previously stated, the court has often underlined
the importance of balancing these rights. parliamentarians, on either hand, have
unlimited right to free expression within the four walls of the parliament where
the right to free speech has been fairly limited for the protection of the right
during the course of parliamentary business, they have the absolute right to
make statements, no matter how defamatory they are. while the committee on
privileges has stressed the importance of exercising caution while making
statements during the course of parliamentary business, the lack of formal
proceedings has left it open to abuse by members. the question that remains
unanswered is whether unlimited freedom of speech is truly necessary for members
of parliament to function effectively. and how does making disparaging remarks
against a member of parliament constitute efficient work?
while these questions have yet to be answered, the committee on privileges
should assess the members' free speech privileges in order to guarantee that a
balance is maintained between the right to free speech and the right to
- Remedies Available Under Indian Law:
India provides a civil law remedy for damages as well as a criminal law remedy
for punishment to those who have been defamed.. "Defamation is covered by the
law of torts in civil law, which imposes punishment in the form of damages
granted to the claimant (person filing the claim). Defamation is a bailable,
non-cognizable, and compoundable offence under criminal
law." The time limit for filing a criminal Defamation complaint is three
years from the date of knowledge of the offence. the civil remedy is to bring a
lawsuit for damages, and criminal Defamation is dealt with under sections 499
and 500 of the Indian penal code (IPC).
A private complaint is made before the judicial magistrate in the context of
A person who has been defamed can file a civil Defamation action with a
competent court with pecuniary jurisdiction and seek damages in the form of
monetary compensation. a civil complaint can be initiated where the defendant
lives or where the defamatory remark was made/published, according to section 19
of the civil procedure code (cpc).
Court fees for a civil Defamation case are calculated based on the amount of
monetary compensation sought. the cost of going to court varies from state to
- Defences Available Under Indian Law:
Defamation is a civil as well as a criminal offence. as a result, a person who
has been wronged by Defamation can either submit a civil case or a criminal
complaint under the ipc. Defamation of a person is punishable by two years in
jail and a fine under section 500 of the ipc. the amount of the penalties or
damages, on the other hand, varies from case to case.
Important Landmark Judgements
- The public interest necessitates the making or publication of imputations of truth.
- A public servant's public conduct.
- Any person's conduct when it comes to a public issue.
- Reports of court proceedings are made public.
- The merits of the case, as determined in court, or the conduct of witnesses and those involved.
- The benefits of performing in public.
- Censure imposed in good faith by someone with legal authority over someone else.
- Authorized person is preferred over accusation made in good faith.
- Imputation made in good faith to promote the welfare of oneself or others.
A wide range of Defamation lawsuits have been heard in India's courts. the
following are a few notable instances with noteworthy facts or a significant
D.P. Chaudhary Vs. Manjulatha:
As reported by the local newspaper Dainik Navjyothi, a 17-year-old college
student, the plaintiff, eloped with a boy after falsely stating that she was
attending classes. this false news article had a detrimental effect on her
reputation and adversely affected her prospects for marriage. the misinformation
in the article was legally actionable, leading to an award of rs. 10,000 as
general damages in her favor.
Mahendra Ram Vs. Harnandan Prasad:
the plaintiff is a well-respected individual with considerable wealth who has a
high level of public favour. the plaintiff's son had purchased and was
constructing a house adjacent to the defendant's house to the south. the
defendant sent a registered notice in urdu to the plaintiff in Siwan from
Sultanpur. because the plaintiff was unfamiliar with urdu script, he had Kurban
Ali read the notification in front of a group of people.
Issues of the case: it was a defamatory notice and contained false allegations
against him and he was very much surprised and pained by them. the defamatory
statement lowered the plaintiff in the estimation of the public and harmed his
reputation. he suffered both mental and physical injuries.
Subramanian Swamy Vs. Ram Jethmalani:
"The court found Dr.Swamy guilty of defaming Ram Jethmalani by alleging that he
accepted money from a prohibited organisation in order to defend the then-chief
minister of Tamil Nadu from the case of Rajiv Gandhi's killing."
Subramaniam Swamy's remarks were found to be defamatory since the claims he made
against Ram Jethmalani that llte monies were put in Ram Jethmalani's son a/c
were proven to be incorrect. furthermore, the remarks made against Ram
Jethmalani were aphoristic. third, the statements were identified as having been
issued because Subramaniam Swamy read the
defamatory remarks in the proceedings even after they had been annulled by the
jain commission of inquiry's authorities.
The state of Madhya Pradesh Vs. Chintaman Rao:
The supreme court clarified the scope of article 19's "reasonable limits" (2).
it suggests thoughtful consideration and deliberation, which is essential in the
The Facts Of This Case Are As Follows:
The petitioners were biris manufacturers and labourers in Madhya Pradesh's
saugar district, who were involved in the production of biris. on 16.10.1948,
the Madhya Pradesh government passed the central province of berar regulation of
manufacture of biris (agricultural purpose) act, which was in effect in m. p. at
the time the Indian constitution was made applicable there. On June 13, 1950, the
deputy commissioner of district saugar issued an order prohibiting the
manufacture of biris in several areas, including the petitioner's hamlet.
The supreme court ruled that the terms "proper ban" in article 19(7) of the
Indian constitution mean that the prohibition should not be imposed arbitrarily
or unjustly to any person's rights, but rather in the public good.
An act that unjustly oppresses rights is not said to be proper until it strikes
a balance between the rights bestowed under article 19(1) (g) and the social
contract established under article 19(1) (a) (6).
It was also decided that while the proportion of property held by the
legislature is not definitive, the supreme court's oversight is critical. the
supreme court has the power to overturn any law passed by the legislature that
violates the rights of citizens.
A.M.A.Mohideen Vs. T.V.Ramasubha Iyer:
Defendants published a statement with no aim of defaming the defendants. it was
in relation to a specific person who was suspected of smuggling agarbathis to
ceylon. the plaintiff was also in the same line of business, and the court
granted him damages since his reputation had been harmed.
Every individual's reputation is a valuable asset. any harm to such a valuable
asset can be dealt with legally. Defamation laws were designed to prevent people
from utilizing their right to freedom of speech and expression for malevolent
purposes. libel and slander are not differentiated in Indian law, which is
correct. otherwise, there could have been opportunities for slander and evasion
of the laws prohibiting the release of information in writing.
Intentional Defamation is also punishable by imprisonment, and it is illegal to
defame someone with malice in mind. the laws against Defamation are legal and
reasonable. it is not Defamation, however, if the conduct is within the
restrictions listed. there have been countless cases of Defamation over the past
seventy-one years of independence, and the courts have analyzed each case with
great care, and they serve as precedents.
- law of torts by rantanlal and dhirajlal
Written By: Siripurapu Madan Kumar,
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- History of Defamation' (English Legal History, 2021)
(accessed 16 October 2023)
- A defamatory speech or writing published to the injury of a peer, judge, or other great officer of England.
- History of Defamation' (English Legal History, 2021)
(accessed 16 October 2023)
- History of Defamation' (English Legal History, 2021)
(accessed 16 October 2023)
- Defamation law made simple (www.nolo.com, 2023) (accessed 16 October 2023)
- LII/Legal Information Institute, 2021, Defamation.
[online] available at: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/Defamation (accessed 16 October 2023)
BA LLB (Hons.), Damodaram Sanjivayya
National Law University, Visakhapatnam.