Meaning of defamation
In general term defamation means a false statement presented as a fact that
causes injury or damage to the character of the person it is about. It means
harming the reputation of a person in front of a third party. There are two main
types of defamation: libel which means written defamation, and slander which is
also known as verbal defamation.
When a person is defamed in the cyberspace, it is known as cyber defamation or
online defamation. Such potentially defamatory statement which made online or
through social media -- such as via Facebook or LinkedIn -- that involves the
written (or "posted") word, is considered libel. The internet and social media
are undoubtedly a great thing for people and society in general for development
and growth, but they are also a uniquely effective breeding ground for
potentially libelous statements.
Many people have learned that the internet allows people to speak their mind
almost too easily. The internet is crowded with interesting web sites where
someone could intentionally or accidentally leave a potentially defamatory
comment or post. Such as, letters to the editor of local newspapers, public
comments on media (i.e., newspaper or magazine) web sites, blogs and comments to
blog postings or on the social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and
chat groups on WhatsApp.
While some web sites screen posts for inflammatory or illegal content, the
screening systems are not geared to examine every post for defamatory content,
and so many defamatory postings end up online.
Provisions Governing Online Defamation In India
- Section 499, Indian Penal Code
This section says 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
- Section 500, Indian Penal Code
This section provides for punishment. Any person held liable under section
499 will be punishable with imprisonment of two years or fine or both.
- Section 469, Indian Penal Code
This section deals with the forgery, in this if anyone creates false
document or fake account by which it harms the reputation of a person. The
punishment of this offence can extend up to 3 years and fine.
- Section 66A, Information Technology Act, 2000
This law has been struck down by the Supreme Court in the year 2015. This
section defined punishment for sending ‘offensive’ messages through a
computer, mobile or tablet. Since government did not clarify its stand on
the word ‘offensive’, the government started using it as a tool to repress
freedom of speech. In 2015 the Supreme Court quashed the whole section.
Shreya Singhal V Union of India (2015)
Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 is struck down in its
entirety being violation of Article 19(1)(a) and not saved under Article 19(2).)
Section 69A and the Information Technology (Procedure & Safeguards for Blocking
for Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 are constitutionally valid.
Further, Section 79 is valid subject to Section 79(3)(b) being read down and so
Kalandi Charan Lenka vs. State of Odisha 16/01/2017 In the instant case, the petitioner was continuously being stalked, and a
fake account of her was later created and obscene messages were sent to the
victims’ friends by the culprit. A morphed necked picture was also posted on
the wall of the hostel where the victim stayed. The court held the culprit
liable for the offence.
Rajiv Dinesh Gadkari through P.A. Depamala Gadkari vs Smt. Nilangi
Rajiv Gadkari 16.10.2009 – In this case, after receiving a divorce letter from her
husband, the respondent filed a suit against the husband for continuously
harassing her by uploading vulgar photographs and defaming her. The offence
has already been registered and maintenance of Rs. 75,000 per month has been
claimed by the wife (respondent).
As the use of internet has expanded, many people have started using internet
more as a means of communicating their thoughts on various issues and problems.
The use of social media has brought a revolution not only in the Indian sphere
but all across the world. The politicians are using these mediums to reach out
to masses. Celebrity Stars are using these as a medium to connect to their fans
In this society there is no distinction on any basis, internet has provided them
a platform to convey their thoughts, get involved in discussions, and review a
product, a movie, a song and even a person. Though this platform has provided us
with insightful and well-read people, it has also provided us with goons who
commit cyber defamation, so we have to be aware of what we are posting online.
Posting offensive statement may put you in imprisonment as per the Indian Penal