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Lala Lajpat Rai v/s The Englishman Ltd

Issue:
Just over a month after his release from prison, Lala Lajpat Rai, the plaintiff, was once again arrested and taken into custody by the authorities on May 9, 1907, acting on the orders of the Governor-General in Council, acting under the terms of Regulation III of 1818 as extended to Punjab by Act IV of 1872. He was arrested by the police and taken into custody by the authorities.

The Englishmen, a Calcutta-based daily, published an item on the arrest and detention of plaintiff Lala Lajpat Rai in connection with the disturbances in the Punjab region on September 10, 1907.

Because of some passages in the published article, specifically article X, and a number of pieces that claimed to be from a journalist "in the Punjab Hills," the plaintiff sued the defendant "The Englishmen" for defamation.

The plaintiff was released on November 17, 1907, after the Governor-directive. General's The plaintiff's attorneys wrote to the defendants on February 6, 1908, requesting an apology and restitution for the harm brought on by the Statement as previously stated. The plaintiff filed the present lawsuit on April 24, 1908, requesting Rs. 50,000 in damages as a result of none of the defendants responding to this letter in writing.

The accused entered pleas
  1. Insofar as it involves factual accusations, the Statement in question was confirmed in content and in fact, was published in good faith, and the Publisher believed the statements to be true.
     
  2. Insofar as it involves a statement of opinion, the Statement was a fair remark made in good faith and without malice on a subject of public significance and interest and was made in the righteous pursuit of safeguarding legal and constitutional rights. The main attorney for the defendants, Mr. Norton, said he wanted to amend the written Statement to include a plea of privilege rather than a rationale almost immediately after the lead attorney for the plaintiff started his case.

Rule
Statement to be made: Words, whether spoken or written, as well as signs or other visual cues, can be used to make a message. Aakarsh, for instance, is questioned about the theft of Bhuvans' diamond ring. In an effort to persuade everyone that Hasan stole the diamond ring, Aakarsh makes a motion toward Hasan. It is referred to as defamation. In the above example, the message has been conveyed using words, signs, or representations of words and signs.

The Statement must be directed at the plaintiff:
The statement must be spoken against a specific person, group of persons, or the trustees of a corporation, and it must be aimed at the plaintiff. The plaintiff need not be specifically mentioned if he or she can still be identifiable; the allusion might be direct or indirect. However, a defamation action on behalf of a deceased person can only be made if the person filing the complaint is interested. The individual mentioned in the defamatory comment may be living or dead.

The Statement Must Be Defamatory:
Anyone who makes a defamatory remark can be held liable for defamation. Defamation starts with someone making a defamatory remark. A defamatory remark attempts to discredit the positive perception that others may have of the subject and is likely to cause others to see him with contempt, mockery, fear, or contempt.

Derogatory terms can also be used against a person, such as labeling him a hypocrite or a frequent drunkard. Accusing a driver of reckless driving is offensive. The act of critiquing a product is not defamation. To say that a baker's bread is often unhealthy is defamatory. To suggest that someone lacks the degree of knowledge they think they do is defamation.

The wrongdoer's intent: The person making the defamatory Statement is aware that there is a high likelihood that other people would take it to be true, which might cause injury to the person's reputation.

The Defamatory Statement Must Be Untrue:
Since the truth is a defense against Defamation, a Defamatory Statement must be false. Since the Statement's falsity is a requirement for Defamation, there cannot be Defamation if the Statement is true. No matter how painful it may be, stating the truth is not punishable by the law.

The Statement Must Be Made Public:
The Statement must be made public for Defamation to take place. The Statement should be disclosed to a third party. Any remark posted in a private journal or sent as a private message is not defamatory, but it is defamatory if the sender knows that a third party is likely to view it. In Mahendra Ram v. Harnandan Prasad, the defendant was found guilty of mailing a defamatory letter in Urdu knowing that the plaintiff did not comprehend Urdu and that the letter would eventually be read by someone else.

The third person thinks the false item is real:
The rest of society thinks the false statement about the plaintiff is factual and is backed up by facts.

The Statement Must Hurt-Either the Plaintiff sustains a significant financial loss or reputational harm as a result of the Statement. For instance, the remark caused the plaintiff to lose his or her job.

There are two methods that we can distribute the false statement. One is done through libel, while the other is done through slander.

Slander: Similar to libel, slander can also happen. The third person will communicate through the voice, for instance, if someone dictates some disparaging statements to his clerk, who then writes them on letterhead. Therefore, in this case, the transmission method is thought to be transient.

Libel: A libel action requires that the disputed evidence be established to be false, defamatory, published, or in writing. The slanderous Statement must directly or indirectly mention the plaintiff. Additionally, a suitable connection between the comment and the person should be made in this statement.

Analysis
Libel and slander are two different sorts of defamation that might occur; in the situation mentioned above, the statements were plainly written in the article in issue rather than being uttered. According to this, if defamation were to be proven, it would constitute libel.

The Statement that was published in the article read as follows. In the situation mentioned above, the "Englishman" newspaper plainly published their story; this establishes that the Statement was made by the "Englishman."

"The moment has come to unveil the facts behind Lala Lajpat Rai's expulsion. The previous year, native officers from various Punjabi regiments quietly protested to their senior commanders about ongoing efforts to erode sepoy loyalty. The Commanding Officers immediately informed higher Military authorities of this ".

Additionally, the Statement claimed that the plaintiff and Ajit Singh had arranged everything, which the plaintiff has refuted. This demonstrates that the Statement is defamatory to the plaintiff, who must uphold his reputation as a member of parliament.

As many persons who read "Englishmen" also read the essay and agreed with all it said.

Additionally, it has been established that the plaintiff is not the subject of any of the assertions stated in the article.

Furthermore, the plaintiff has suffered as a result of the defendant's fraudulent remarks being publicized, which has severely damaged his reputation.

By posting false information that would harm the plaintiff's reputation in the eyes of the public and supporters, the defendant's intent to harm the plaintiff's reputation is readily evident.

The article included detailed mention of the plaintiff's job, friendship, and certain particular locations-all of which were untrue-and provided specifics, resulting in libel.

Conclusion
J. Fletcher rendered the decision in this case.
First off, according to J. Fletcher, who granted the defendants the benefit of the doubt by saying that they relied on the document they were excused from knowing the truth, and some of the assertions that were made in the article were taken from a public source.

However, additional analysis of the whole article revealed that it expressly made assertions about the plaintiff that were false and defamatory in character.

In Popham v. Pichburn, J. Fletcher cited the following passage: (Wilde, B.)- "It was claimed that this defamation may be justified as a matter of public discussion on an issue of general interest. The reply is that this isn't a discussion or a claim. It is a declaration of fact. Falsely accusing a guy of a repulsive act is far different from making a statement about the truth about him."

Furthermore, this ruling makes it quite apparent what constitutes defamation and what does not. It gives libel more context. Additionally, it lists a number of important rulings in defamation cases, including Son v. Hodgson (1909), Davis v. Shepstone (1886), and Digby v. Financial News.

References:
  • Lala Lajpat Rai vs the "Englishman" Ltd. And Ors. on 6 July, 1909, 3 Ind Cas 224
  • Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, Law of Torts, 28th edition, Chapter Defamation, 2019.
  • Mahender Ram vs Harnandan Prasad on 28 February, 1958, AIR 1958 Pat 445.
  • Popham v. Pichburn (1862) 7 H. & N. 891 at p. 898.
  • Son, Limited V. Hodgson. 1908 Oct. 19, 20; Nov. 18. 1 K.B.
  • Daveis v. Shepstone (1886) 11 App. Cas. 187 at p. 190.
  • Digby v. Financial News (1907) 1 K.B. 502.

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