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Defamation In IPC

Section 499 of IPC deals with defamation. Defamation arises when a person makes or publishes any wrong or false statement or allegation or false imputation related to any person, by words or in oral or by signs or in any form it is said to defame that person.

Essential elements for defamation:

Section 499 constrain of three essential elements for defamation under IPC
  1. An allegation or imputation is made to harm the person against whom it is made
  2. Such allegations or imputations must be made by In oral or in written or by words Sign or Visible representation
  3. Publishing such allegations

Explanation 1: It may amount to defamation to impute anything to a deceased person, if the imputation harm the reputation of a living person and intended to hurt the feelings of his/her family or any near relatives.
Explanation 2: Imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such, may amount to defamation.
Explanation 3: Imputation in the form of an alternative or ironically expressed may amount to defamation.
Explanation 4: No imputation is said to harm a person's reputation, unless it lowers the moral or intellectual character of a person, or lowers his character of a person regarding caste or by his calling in society directly or indirectly.

Exceptions of defamation:

Under sec 499 of IPC there are some exceptions under defamation

Imputation of truth which public good requires to be made or published. It is not considered as a defamation where anything which is true regarding to a person, if the imputation is published for the public good. Here the question of fact arises whether it is for public good or not.

Public conduct of public servants. It is not said to be defamation when expressed any option in good faith whatever respecting the conduct of a public servant in discharge of his public functions, or regarding his character.

Conduct of any person touching any public question. The conduct of any person touching any public question, and regarding his character, so far as his character appears in that conduct, and no further, is not defamation to express in good faith.

Publication of reports of proceedings of courts. Publishing of substantially true reports of court proceedings

Merits of case decided in Court or conduct of witnesses and others concerned. To express any opinion respecting merits of any case in good faith either civil or criminal which has been decided by the Court of Justice, or respecting conduct of a person of a party , agent or witness in any such case as far as his character appears in that conduct, and no further.

Merits of public performance. It is not said to be defamation to express in good faith any opinion regarding the merits of any performance which it's author has submitted to the judgement of the public or respecting the character of author.

Censure passed in good faith by person having lawful authority over another. It is not defamation in a person having over another any authority confined by law or arising out of lawful contract made with other to pass in good faith. Accusation preferred in good faith to authorized person. Accusation against any person to any of those who have lawful authority over that person with respect to the subject-matter of accusation, it is not defamation to prefer in good faith.

Imputation made in good faith by person for protection of his or other's interests. Making an imputation on the character of another provided that the imputation be made in good faith for public good or for the protection of the interests of the person making it.

Caution intended for good of person to whom conveyed or for public good. It is not defamation to convey a caution, in good faith to one person against another, such caution be intended for the good of the person to whom it is conveyed Punishment for Defamation as Per Section 500 IPC As per this section, the punishment for defamation is simple imprisonment, the term of which may extend to two years, or fine, or both.

Types of defamation: Defamation are of two types:
  1. Libel
  2. Slander
Libel defamation Published defamatory statement or a written statement is known as libel. It is usually found in printed media such as social media, magazines, newspapers, etc.
Slander defamation The defamatory statement committed verbally is known as Slander. It is usually found in public gathering, television etc.

Difference between libel and Slander

The following gives the information about the difference between libel and slander
  • Slander is defamation in temporary form where, defamation is permanent in libel form.
  • Slander may be known as words uttered under some provocation.
  • In slander the person who utters the word voluntarily and necessarily be guilty, whereas in libel the actual publisher is not liable he may be innocent.
The point to be noted in India is both libel and slander are criminal offences, and there is no distinction between libel and slander.

Relevant case laws:

D.P Choudhary & Ors. V. Kumari Manjulata

[AIR 1997, Raj 170]
Kumari Manjulatha was 17 years old, living with her family. Manjulatha was a B.A. student and her mother Nirmal Devi was M.A. B.Ed., her father was Mohan Singh M.A. M.Com and M.Ed. and was a senior teacher. Her brother was a student studying at University. By this it can be said that Manjulatha belongs to a well educated family. On the date of 18.12.1977 there was a false news published with unfair comment upon Kumari Manjulatha on a daily newspaper named Dainik Navjyoti that she had eloped with her boyfriend named kamlesh, where she went for attending extra classes in her college.

  • Whether the news published was true or false?
  • Did the news publisher intended to harm the reputation of Kumari Manjulatha?
  • Was the lower court correct in awarding the damages of 10,000?

Arguments of parties:
  1. Defendant appellants said that they don't know the plaintiff personally but they just got information from a reporter who collected information from the police station. There was no intention to defame the plaintiff. There is no mala fide intention present to defame the plaintiff.
  2. They said that the information they got was based on facts that was confirmed by the plaintiff respondents mother, but here her mother wasn't cross examined. Hence it was not established that the information was true.
  3. The defendant stated that they sent the report for the newspaper publication in the good faith of getting back Manjulatha to her parents. But the court felt strange because they never asked her parents to do so.
  4. It was stated that the information was received from one of the police constable named Ramesh Chandra, but even he was not produced in the witness box. Hence there was no record of evidence.
  5. Any action taken against Kamlesh was not mentioned in the records.
  6. No written information in any register to produce before the court.
  7. Untrue facts were produced before the court about Majulata's treatment.
  8. Many witnesses from the plaintiff's respondent side that the information published in the newspaper was false.
  9. No evidence has been produced by the defendant appellate.
  10. It has been stated by Kumari Manjulatha that after this publication her family reputation has been lowered. And her marriage proposal has been deceased. The same has been proved by the evidence of witness.

This judgement is an appeal from the district judge's decree. If the defendant has intention to hurt or to cause injury the plaintiff's reputation then he is liable, but here he had no intention to do so and had no such kind of purpose in his mind when he wrote those words. Every man must presume to know the consequences of his act. The words are actionable if false and defamatory, even though published accidentally.

From the above argument in the court, the information published about the plaintiff was false and no proper evidence was provided from the respondent side about the validity of information. Hence it was a false statement due to which the plaintiff's family reputation had injured. The primary objective of the law of defamation is to protect individual reputation. Here the respondent had no intention to cause injury to the plaintiff's reputation acted in good faith and they believe that the information was true but they still held liable because the defense of privilege was not raised.

Because of the news article Kumari Manjulatha's and her family's reputation has been lowered. And they faced many problems in the society and in finding marriage proposals to their daughter. As the words were proved false and defamatory, general damages were presumed and the court's opinion on collecting damages of 10,000 was correct.

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