It is the damage done to the reputation or the goodwill of a person by expressing an opinion or passing of derogatory information.
Essentials of Defamation
- The statement made must be defamatory in nature.
- It must refer to the plaintiff,
- It must be published, which means that it must be communicated to a person other than the plaintiff.
A defamatory statement must be made to harm or damage the reputation of the plaintiff in the mind of a third person.
If defamation is done orally, by the spoken word, it will be said to fall under slander.
Eg: A told B that C got suspended from college on account of cheating in an exam. The statement made is slanderous in nature.
If the defamation is done in a permanent form like writing, it is said to fall under libel.
Eg: Daily Times publishes a false story about the private life of XYZ who is an actress. This publication qualifies for libel.
In the event of the statement prima facie not being defamatory, the plaintiff must prove that there is a secondary meaning to the statement and that it leads to defamation by innuendo.
Defences Against Defamation
- Justification: When the statement made is true in nature, the defendant is not held liable for defamation.
Eg: If A told B that C who is a civil engineer was caught taking a bribe and the statement is a true fact, then A would not be held liable for defamation.
- Fair Comment: If a statement is a fair comment made on matters dealing with the public interest, them such a statement will not be defamatory in nature.
Eg: If a Judge makes a statement about the polity and economics of the country, then it will be counted as fair comment.
- Privilege: Sometimes protection in the form of privilege is given to the makes of a statement against complete freedom of speech is given to a person and no statement made by him will be accounted for defamation.
Another type of privilege is that of qualified privilege where the maker of the defamatory statement is protected only if he acted with honesty and without any malice.
Eg: Statements made while filing a report in a police station or during judicial or parliamentary proceedings are privileged statements.
Defamation as a Crime
Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code makes Defamation a crime. Defamation accounting for both Libel and Slander is punishable under this section of IPC.