Meaning of Defamation
In general terms, defamation means the act of communicating false statements
about any person that injure or damage the reputation or character of that
person. It means harming the reputation of the person in front of a third party.
Under Section 499 of The Indian Penal Code (IPC), defamation has been defined as
an act of a person done by words, either spoken or deliberately to scrutinize,
or through the mode of illustration, makes or publish any accusation with the
main motive to harm the other person or with the clear knowledge that such an
act can cause distress to him or her, also defaming the reputation of
that specific person comes under an act.
Defamation can be categorized into two parts:
Any defamatory statement which has been published mainly in a written
form comes under this category.:
Any defamatory statement made through the words not mainly in a written
word but through an oral mode comes under this category.
Online/ Cyber Defamation
Cyber defamation or online defamation refers to any act which has taken place
through online mode or a person, is defamed in cyberspace. This kind of
defamatory statement is made mainly when the computer has a proper internet
connection and it is used as a weapon or a device to defame a person by posting
something irrelevant or any defamatory statement in various social networking
sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or emails, just to defame the person
with all clear intention.
The social networking sites has undoubtedly become a great blessing in our lives
and it has also helped in the societal development but it has also become an
equally effective breeding ground for defaming a person by making defamatory
The medium of committing such an act is different, although the law of
defamation is the same.
The liability behind cyber defamation law is as follows:
- On the author of the derogatory material/statement online
- If the retailer or the service provider acts as an intermediary without
providing any kind of modification in the context of defamation, the
intermediary is not liable according to section 79 of the Information
Technology Act, 2000. In addition to this protection, it is also subject to
the condition that the intermediary shall comply with intermediary
guidelines and due-diligence which are imposed by the Central Government and
such inflammatory or illegal content needs to get removed as soon as the
government agency receives the original or the actual content.
Unfortunately, nowadays a lot of people are experiencing cyber defamation.
Consider the Gurugram suicide case in the news. A 12th standard boy committed
suicide when a girl posted an Instagram story that the boy raped her. She
mentioned that she was raped by him two years ago and she has no proof to
justify her statement. Her story instantly got viral and people started
supporting her by sharing it on various platforms without giving a thought to
the truth. The accused boy was pronounced guilty by the court of Instagram. This
new social media law society of India made that little boy end up his life.
The necessary elements for a statement to qualify as a defamatory statement are
Pictures that are modified to disgrace or dishonor the reputation of another
person are also a clear case of defamation.
The statement should be presented not as an opinion but as a fact. Facts are
statements that can be proved accurate or inaccurate while opinions are your
personal perspectives or observations.
The statement of fact should be published on any social networking site, and
then only a person can file a defamation complaint.
Opinions are privileged under the law. So an opinion in itself is not a
defamatory statement. But at times, few opinions are considered, as facts by the
court, if they have caused actual damage to another party.
Laws that are implemented on cyber defamation in India
In India, a person can be made liable for defamation, both under civil and
Under IPC that is Indian Penal Code
Section 499 of Indian Penal Code says that Whoever by words either spoken or
intended to be read or by signs and visual 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.
Section 500 of IPC provides for punishment wherein any person held liable under
section 499 will be punishable with imprisonment of two years or fine or both.
Section 469 deals with forgery. If anyone creates a false document or fake
account by which it harms the reputation of a person. The punishment of this
offense can extend up to 3 years and a fine.
Section 503 of IPC deals with the offense of criminal intimidation by use of
electronic means to damage one’s reputation in society.
Under the IT Act that is Information Technology Act, 2000
Section 66A, Information Technology Act,2000 – This law has been struck down by
Supreme Court in the year 2015. The section defined punishment for sending
‘offensive’ messages through a computer, mobile, or tablet. Since the government
did not clarify the word ‘offensive’. The government started using it as a tool
to repress freedom of speech. In 2015, the whole section was quashed by the
If a person has been defamed in cyberspace or any online site, he/she
can launch a complaint to the cybercrime investigation cell which is a part of
the Crime Investigation Department.
What kind of defamatory statements or publications are acceptable by courts
in India?According to, section 65A and 65B of the Indian Evidence Act:
- Any electronic record printed on paper, or recorded, or copied in
optical or magnetic media shall be considered as a document and it shall be
accepted by the court.
- Online chats are also permissible and acceptable by courts.
- Electronic mails are also relevant, justifiable, and acceptable by
Section 66A of Information & Technology Act 2000 (IT Act), was wiped out by the
Supreme Court of India in the Shreya Singhal v. Union of India
to vagueness in the meaning of the word 'offensive' in the section. The section
says that sending any sort of offensive messages to a computer or any other
technical device in which communication can be held, would be an offense. Such
unrestricted power, under section 66A of the IT Act, was exploited by the
Government in shortening and suppressing people's freedom of speech and
expression and hence got repealed.
Amidst lockdown, when was entire nation was fighting against COVID-19, strange
news had appeared from Delhi. The news was about a group known as the Bois
. The facts of the controversy are that a few guys in their 11th
and 12th standards with a group named Bois Locker Room allegedly made certain
remarks on minor girls which were sexist and objectified and tried to defame
their identity. Some even went to the extent of discussing raping those minor
girls. As per the news reports, few of them have been arrested under 66A of the
IT Act for cyberbullying and under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code.
In the case of SMC Pneumatics (India) Pvt. Ltd. v. Jogesh Kwatra
a dissatisfied employee sent derogatory, defamatory, vulgar, and abusive emails
to the company's employers and its subordinates to defame the company’s name
along with its managing director. The High Court of Delhi permitted ex-parte ad
interim injunctions curbing the defendant from defaming the plaintiff in both
the physical and in cyberspace.
In case of Kalandi Charan Lenka Vs. In the state of Odisha
petitioner was constantly being stalked, and a fake account of her was created
later and vulgar messages were sent to the friends by the accused. A morphed
naked picture was also posted on the walls of the hostel where the victim
actually stayed. The court, in this case, held the culprit liable for his
In the case of Swami Ramdev and Anne v. Facebook Inc. & Ors
Pratibha Singh has ordered all defamatory content that is posted against yoga
teacher Baba Ramdev to be removed, without any territorial restrictions or
limits. It states that if the content is uploaded from India or on a computer
device in India, then courts in India should therefore have international
jurisdiction to issue decisions worldwide.
Facebook, has filed an appeal against the decisions issued by the division bench
of the Delhi High Court. The reason for the said appeal is that although he
knows the people who have uploaded such content, the applicant was not involved
in this case. It is also controversial that Baba Ramdev has not shown strong
prima facie evidence of irrevocable loss. In its complaint, Facebook also
believes, among other things that global seizure regulations, are contrary to
national sovereignty and the international community. It is so because they
violate defamation laws in other countries. Besides, this order also undermines
the immunities granted to them, in other jurisdictions.
In the case of, Rajiv Dinesh Gadkari through P.A. Depamala Gadkari vs Smt.
Nilangi Rajiv Gadkari
on 16th October 2009, after receiving a divorce letter
from her husband, the respondent filed a suit against her husband for repeatedly
harassing her by uploading obscene and vulgar photographs to defame her. The
offense has already been registered, and maintenance of Rs.75,000 per month has
been claimed by the wife (respondent).
With great power comes great responsibility
. This phrase appropriately
describes the situation of the use of technology and how we humans are misusing
it. The world now is entirely dependent on technology especially after this
pandemic situation where we can see that technology is ruling the world. As a
result of which more and more people have started using the internet as a medium
to share their thoughts, views on various issues and problems in society. Not
only in India but all over the world, the use of social media has increased.
Politicians are also using it as a medium to reach out to the masses.
But just like a coin has two sides, similarly the use of social networking sites
also has two sides. On one side, it helps us to raise our voice on societal
issues, similarly, it has also become a medium in which online or cyber
defamation is also happening. Some laws prohibit people from posting such
defamatory statements or content but most people are no quite aware or are
negligent enough to realize what is right and what is wrong.
At times, when free speech runs conflicting with a person's reputation, it
becomes necessary for the State to establish a boundary, to prevent free speech
from becoming a weapon in the hands of certain people. There is an urgent need
for a system that educates and makes people aware of what to do and what not to,
what is right and what is wrong, and what is defamatory and what is not in
cyberspace. Further, the negotiators, which provides people with such an open
platform should monitor the content posted on that particular platform and take
necessary actions against such users who post such defamatory statement or
content to avoid any sort of repetition in the future.