Types and Essentials of defamation:– Defamation is a statement given by another person that injures someone’s reputation. It is the act of saying or presenting false information against someone in order to make the people have a bad image of that person. It is a wrong done by a person to another person’s reputation. It can be in written, oral, signs or any other way of visible representation. Our constitution of India provides us with the right to freedom and speech and also gives the right to protect our dignity.
Right to freedom to speech does not mean that the person can use bad words or false words against another person in order to make the bad image of that person in society. So, to make the balance between the right to speech and the right to protect our good name or dignity, the law of defamation comes into existence. We will study the meaning, Essentials of defamation and other related topics to the defamation in this article.
What is defamation?
The publication of any statement which lower the reputation of a person in the eyes of society and society started to avoid that person is called defamation.
Example: Rahul posted a comment on Vivek’s post that he had been in prison for 5 years in a murder case. This comment sounds like a defamatory statement if it a false statement.
Now, if the person read this comment on the post, the person will think that the Vivek is a criminal and he spent 5 years in a jail which can be bad for the reputation of Vivek because no one will give him the respect and avoid him. So these types of statement which decrease the reputation of a person are called defamation. It is also defined under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 500 of IPC gives the punishment of defamation where the imprisonment can be up to two years with or without fine. The defamation comes under criminal as well as in civil wrong. A person who has been defamed can sue for damage to the person who defamed him.
Types of defamation
There are two types of defamation:
Libel: – the wrong representation which is made in the form of writing, picture, movie etc. is called libel defamation.
For example- Z publishes in his newspaper that X is bankrupt but the X was not. This is a false statement which is libel.
Slender: – the statement which is made verbally or by using gestures is called slender.
For example – X questions the chastity of Z in the interview. It is slender defamation.
Essentials of Defamation
To prove the defamation, the plaintiff must prove the defamation. If the statement given by a person is following these essentials, the statement will be considered as defamation. So, let us discuss the essentials of defamation:
Statement of fact
The statement given by the person must be the statement of fact not a statement of opinion. If a person is giving his opinion in the statement whether it is true or false, it will not be considered as defamation. Let’s take the example to understand the difference between the statement of fact and statement of opinion.
- Rohit says that I think Mohit is a criminal. Here, he is giving his opinion; this is a statement of opinion. It will not be considered as defamation whether it is true or false.
- Rohit says in an interview that Mohit is a criminal he had committed theft. It is a statement of fact. It will be considered as defamation if the statement given by Rohit is false. But if the statement given by Rohit is true, it will not be considered as defamation.
Publication is required
There must be the publication of the false statement passed by the person. Publication does not mean that it should be published in the newspaper only, it means the statement is communicated other than the defamed party. If the person gives his statement only to the person who is wanted to blame will not be considered as defamation.
A said B in the personal chat that you are a criminal, here, there is no communication with other persons. It will not be considered as defamation. But if B passes the same statement by posting it on the Whatsapp group where there are lots of members in the group it will come under the definition of defamation.
The statement must be defamatory and false
The statement passed by the person must be in the nature of defamation and must be a false statement. The statement which is true cannot be taken as a defamatory statement.
The statement must refer to the plaintiff
The statement must be referring directly to the person who is claiming the defamation. There must be a specific person who is targeted.
Must cause serious harm
The false statement must have an effect on the reputation or financial growth of the plaintiff. If there is no harm to the reputation or financial growth, the person cannot claim the [defamation]. For example, if a person losses his job due to the false statement given by a person is considered as the financial loss to the person and that person can claim the defamation.
Defamation is civil and criminal
In civil defamation, the person who is defamed can move either high court or subordinate courts and seek damages in the form of monetary compensation. There will be no jail sentence to the person who had passed the defamatory statement.
In criminal defamation, the person against whom a [defamation] case is filled might be punished for two years imprisonment or fined or both. In India, both libel and slander [defamation] is a criminal offence under section 499 and 500 of Indian penal code and thereby give the chance to the aggrieved person to file a criminal case against the person accusing him or her. In case the apex court of India has sustained the validity of [defamation] laws and has given a judgement that such laws are not disputed with the constitutional right of speech
In order to prove that it is a defamatory case of either libel or slander, the statement must contain the following essentials of defamation.
- A defamatory statement must directly or indirectly identify the plaintiff
- The statement has been communicated or published to minimum one person other than the plaintiff or victim
Defences against defamation
Let’s read some statements that don’t fall under [defamation]:
- Any true of genuine statement spoken or published for the national interest or public interest.
- Public opinion on the conduct or character of a public servant with respect to his discharge of duties.
- Conduct on any publicly asked question
- Any kind of publication of any court proceeding or trial or judgement made by the court
- A statement is given in the debate of parliament.
- If the person who has passed the defamatory statement ask for an apology by the defamed person and the defamed person accept the apology, then also it will not be considered as defamation.
Punishment for defamation
It is proved that if the accused is guilty before the criminal court of justice then he/she will bear the following punishment
- Imprisonments for 2 years or up to
- Or Fine
- Or both
This offence is a non-cognizable, bailable or compoundable offence
Who bears the burden of proof?
The liability to prove the defamatory statement lies on the plaintiff who has filed the defamatory petition. He/she has to prove before the court that the statement referred to him or she is defamatory in nature and publicized by the defendant.
Case laws on defamation
Mahendra Ram vs Harnandan Prasad
A later written in Urdu was sent to the plaintiff. Therefore they needed another person to read it to him. It was held in the case that since the defendant knew the plaintiff does not know Urdu and he needs assistance so this act of the defendant amounted to [defamation].
Shreya Singhal vs Union of India
It is a landmark judgement regarding internet [defamation]. It held the unconstitutional section 66A of the informational technology Act, 2000 that punish the accused of sending offences messages through communication services.