• Defamation: Civil & Criminal

  • Defamation is a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone's reputation, and the same being published and/ or spoken deliberately, intentionally, knowingly, with an ulterior motives and malice. Any intentional false communication, either written or spoken that harms a person’s reputation and decreases the respect, regard or confidence in which a person is held is called defamation. In nutshell, defamation occurs when your character or business reputation is called into question by the publication of a statement about you. Defamation could be written and/ or verbal. Written defamation, typed material/ printed material/ images, is called Libel, and a spoken defamation is called slander. In India, a defamation case can be filed under either criminal law or civil law. Under criminal jurisprudence, the offence is compoundable. If the victim and the Accused settle their disputes out of the Court, the Court drops the case after recording their statement to that effect.

    Court & Fora

    [In Hierarchical Order]

    • Supreme Court Of India
    • High Courts Of Various States
    • District & Sessions Judge [D&SJ] 
    • Metropolitan Magistrates [MM]
    • Judicial Magistrates [JM] 
    • Senior Civil Judges 
    • Civil Judges

    Related Legal Provisions Under The Indian Penal Code, 1860

    CHAPTER XXI : OF DEFAMATION

    Section-499. Defamation.- 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 expected, to defame that person.

    Explanation 1.--It may amount to defamation to impute anything to a deceased person, if the imputation would harm the reputation of that person if living, and is intended to be hurtful to the feelings of his family or other near relatives.

    Explanation 2.--It may amount to defamation to make an imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such.

    Explanation 3.--An imputation in the form of an alternative or expressed ironically, may amount to defamation.

    Explanation 4.--No imputation is said to harm a person's reputation, unless that imputation directly or indirectly, in the estimation of others, lowers the moral or intellectual character of that person, or lowers the character of that person in respect of his caste or of his calling, or lowers the credit of that person, or causes it to be believed that the body of that person is in a loathsome state, or in a state generally considered as disgraceful.

    Illustrations

    (a) A says--"Z is an honest man; he never stole B's watch"; intending to cause it to be believed that Z did steal B's watch. This is defamation, unless it fall within one of the exceptions.

    (b) A is asked who stole B's watch. A points to Z, intending to cause it to be believed that Z stole B's watch. This is defamation unless it fall within one of the exceptions.

    (c) A draws a picture of Z running away with B's watch, intending it to be believed that Z stole B's watch. This is defamation, unless it fall within one of the exceptions.

    First Exception.--Imputation of truth which public good requires to be made or published It is not defamation to impute anything which is true concerning any person, if it be for the public good that the imputation should be made or published. Whether or not it is for the public good is a question of fad.

    Second Exception.--Public conduct of public servants It is not defamation to express in a good faith any opinion whatever respecting the conduct of a public servant in the discharge of his public functions, or respecting his character, so far as his character appears in that conduct, and no further.

    Third Exception.--Conduct of any person touching any public question It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever respecting the conduct of any person touching any public question, and respecting his character, so far as his character appears in that conduct, and no further.

    Illustration

    It is not defamation in A to express in good faith any opinion whatever respecting Z's conduct in petitioning Government on a public question, in signing a requisition for a meeting on a public question, in presiding or attending a such meeting, in forming or joining any society which invites the public support, in voting or canvassing for a particular candidate for any situation in the efficient discharges of the duties of which the public is interested.

    Fourth Exception.--Publication of reports of proceedings of Courts It is not defamation to publish substantially true report of the proceedings of a Court of Justice, or of the result of any such proceedings.

    Explanation.--A Justice of the Peace or other officer holding an inquiry in open Court preliminary to a trial in a Court of Justice, is a Court within the meaning of the above section.

    Fifth Exception.--Merits of case decided in Court or conduct of witnesses and others concerned It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever respecting the merits of any case, civil or criminal, which has been decided by a Court of Justice, or respecting the conduct of any person as a partly, witness or agent, in any such case, or respecting the character of such person, as far as his character appears in that conduct, and no further.

    Illustrations

    (a) A says--"I think Z's evidence on that trial is so contradictory that he must be stupid or dishonest". A is within this exception if he says this is in good faith, in as much as the opinion which he expresses respects Z's character as it appears in Z's conduct as a witness, and no further.

    (b) But if A says--"I do not believe what Z asserted at that trial because I know him to be a man without veracity"; A is not within this exception, in as much as the opinion which he express of Z's character, is an opinion not founded on Z's conduct as a witness.

    Sixth Exception.--Merits of public performance It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion respecting the merits of any performance which its author has submitted to the judgment of the public, or respecting the character of the author so far as his character appears in such performance, and no further.

    Explanation.--A performance may he substituted to the judgment of the public expressly or by acts on the pan of the author which imply such submission 10 the judgment of the public.

    Illustrations

    (a) A person who publishes a book, submits that book to the judgment of the public.

    (b) A person who makes a speech in public, submits that speech to the judgment of the public.

    (c) An actor or singer who appears on a public stage, submits his acting or signing in the judgment of the public.

    (d) A says of a book published by Z--"Z's book is foolish; Z must be a weak man. Z's book is indecent; Z must be a man of impure mind". A is within the exception, if he says this in good faith, in as much as the opinion which he expresses of Z respects Z's character only so far as it appears in Z's book, and no further.

    (e) But if A says--"I am not surprised that Z's book is foolish and indecent, for he is a weak man and a libertine". A is not within this exception, in as much as the opinion which he expresses of Z's character is an opinion not founded on Z's book.

    Seventh Exception.--Censure passed in good faith by person having lawful authority over another It is not defamation in a person having over another any authority, either conferred by law or arising out of a lawful contract made with mat other, to pass in good faith any censure on the conduct of that other in matters to which such lawful authority relates.

    Illustration

    A Judge censuring in good faith the conduct of a witness, or of an officer of the Court; a head of a department censuring in good faith those who are under his orders; a parent censuring in good faith a child in the presence of other children; a school-master, whose authority is derived from a parent, censuring in good faith a pupil in the presence of other pupils; a master censuring a servant in good faith for remissness in service; a banker censuring in good faith the cashier of his bank for the conduct of such cashier as such cashier--are within the exception.

    Eight Exception.--Accusation preferred in good faith to authorised person It is not defamation to prefer in good faith an accusation against any person to any of those who have lawful authority over that person with respect to the subject-matter of accusation.

    Illustration

    If A in good faith accuse Z before a Magistrate; if A in good faith complains of the conduct of Z, a servant, to Z's master; if ,4 in good faith complains of the conduct of Z, and child, to Z's father--A is within this exception.

    Ninth Exception.--Imputation made in good faith by person for protection of his or other's interests It is not defamation to make an imputation on the character of another provided that the imputation be made in good faith for the protection of the interests of the person making it, or of any other person, or for the public good.

    Illustrations

    (a) A, a shopkeeper, says to B, who manages his business--"Sell nothing to Z unless he pays you ready money, for I have no opinion of his honestly". A is within the exception, if he has made this imputation on Z in good faith for the protection of his own interests.

    (b) A, a Magistrate, in making a report of his own superior officer, casts an imputation on the character of Z. Here, if the imputation is made in good faith, and for the public good, A is within the exception.

    Tenth Exception.--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, provided that such caution be intended for the good of the person to whom it is conveyed, or of some person in whom that person is interested, or for the public good.

    Section-500. Punishment for defamation.- Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

    Section-501. Printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory.- Whoever prints or engraves any matter, knowing or having good reason to believe that such matter is defamatory of any person, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

    Section-502. Sale of printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter.- Whoever sells or offers for sale any printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter, knowing that it contains such matter, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

    Related Legal Provisions Under The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973

    Section-199. Prosecution for defamation.- (1) No Court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under Chapter XXI of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) except upon a complaint made by some person aggrieved by the offence:
    Provided that where such person is under the age of eighteen years, or is an idiot or a lunatic, or is from sickness or infirmity unable to make a complaint, or is a woman who, according to the local customs and manners, ought not to be compelled to appear in public, some other person may, with the leave of the Court, make a complaint on his or her behalf.

    (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Code, when any offence falling under Chapter XXI of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) is alleged to have been committed against a person who, at the time of such commission, is the President of India, the Vice-President of India, the Government of a State, the Administrator of a Union territory or a Minister of the Union or of a State or of a Union territory, or any other public servant employed in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State in respect of his conduct in the discharge of his public functions a Court of Session may take cognizance of such offence, without the case being committed to it, upon a complaint in writing made by the Public Prosecutor.

    (3) Every complaint referred to in sub-section (2) shall set forth the facts which constitute the offence alleged, the nature of such offence and such other particulars as are reasonably sufficient to give notice to the accused of the offence alleged to have been committed by him.

    (4) No complaint under sub-section (2) shall be made by the Public Prosecutor except with the previous sanction—

    (a) of the State Government, in the case of a person who is or has been the Governor of that State or a Minister of that Government;

    (b) of the State Government, in the case of any other public servant employed in connection with the affairs of the State;

    (c) of the Central Government, in any other case.

    (5) No Court of Session shall take cognizance of an offence under sub-section (2) unless the complaint is made within six months from the date on which the offence is alleged to have been committed.

    (6) Nothing in this section shall affect the right of the person against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed, to make a complaint in respect of that offence before a Magistrate having jurisdiction or the power of such Magistrate to take cognizance of the offence upon such complaint.

    Section-203. Dismissal of complaint.- If, after considering the statements on oath (if any) of the complainant and of the witnesses and the result of the inquiry or investigation (if any) under section 202, the Magistrate is of opinion that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding, he shall dismiss the complaint, and in every such case he shall briefly record his reasons for so doing.

    Section-204. Issue of process.- (1) If in the opinion of a Magistrate taking cognizance of an offence there is sufficient ground for proceeding, and the case appears to be—

    (a) a summons-case, he shall issue his summons for the attendance of the accused, or

    (b) a warrant-case, he may issue a warrant, or, if he thinks fit, a summons, for causing the accused to be brought or to appear at a certain time before such Magistrate or (if he has no jurisdiction himself) some other Magistrate having jurisdiction.

    (2) No summons or warrant shall be issued against the accused under sub-section (1) until a list of the prosecution witnesses has been filed.

    (3) In a proceeding instituted upon a complaint made in writing, every summons or warrant issued under sub-section (1) shall be accompanied by a copy of such complaint.

    (4) When by any law for the time being in force any process-fees or other fees are payable, no process shall be issued until the fees are paid and, if such fees are not paid within a reasonable time, the Magistrate may dismiss the complaint.

    (5) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to affect the provisions of section 87.

    Section-205. Magistrate may dispense with personal attendance of accused.- (1) Whenever a Magistrate issues a summons, he may, if he sees reason so to do, dispense with the personal attendance of the accused and permit him to appear by his pleader.
    (2) But the Magistrate inquiring into or trying the case may, in his discretion, at any stage of the proceedings, direct the personal attendance of the accused, and, if necessary, enforce such attendance in the manner hereinbefore provided.

    Section-207. Supply to the accused of copy of police report and other documents.- In any case where the proceeding has been instituted on a police report, the Magistrate shall without delay furnish to the accused, free of cost, a copy of each of the following:—

    (i) the police report;

    (ii) the first information report recorded under section 154;

    (iii) the statements recorded under sub-section (3) of section 161 of all persons whom the prosecution proposes to examine as its witnesses, excluding therefrom any part in regard to which a request for such exclusion has been made by the police officer under sub-section (6) of section 173;

    (iv) the confessions and statements, if any, recorded under section 164;

    (v) any other document or relevant extract thereof forwarded to the Magistrate with the police report under sub-section (5) of section 173:

    Provided that the Magistrate may, after perusing any such pan of a statement as is referred to in clause (iii) and considering the reasons given by the police officer for the request, direct that a copy of that part of the statement or of such portion thereof as the Magistrate thinks proper, shall be furnished to the accused:

    Provided further that if the Magistrate is satisfied that any document referred to in clause (v) is voluminous, he shall, instead of furnishing the accused with a copy thereof, direct that he will only be allowed to inspect it either personally or through pleader in Court.

    Kindly CLICK HERE or e-mail us at office@hellocounsel.com if you are facing any Legal Issue and want to have Legal Consultations with the empanelled Lawyers at Hello Counsel.

Live2Support.com
All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove