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Defamation Law in India

Defamation is any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person's reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person.

Types of Defamation – Libel & Slander
Slander involves the oral "publication" of a defamatory remark that is heard by another, which injures the subject's reputation or character.  Slander can occur through the use of a hand gesture or verbal communication that is not recorded.  Libel, on the other hand, is the written "publication" of a defamatory remark that has the tendency to injure another's reputation or character. Libel also includes a publication on radio, audio or video.  Even though this would be considered oral, or verbal, communication to someone it is actually considered to be libel because it is published in a transfixed form.

The tort of defamation in India has largely followed the approach taken by the UK. Indian courts have endorsed the defences of absolute and qualified privilege, fair comment and justification. In UK, if the defendant is only successful in proving the truth of some of the several charges against him, the defence of justification might still be available if the charges not proved do not materially injure the reputation. While there is no such provision in India, the law is possibly the same. Recently, incidents of defamation in relation to public figures are highlighted. However, in India, the weight of the authorities is for discarding between libel and slander and making both of them actionable per se. In UK, only libel and certain types of slander is actionable per se. Criminal libel in UK was abolished in 2010, while both slander and libel remain criminal offences in India, making people liable not just to the extent of damages but also undergoing imprisonment. An injunction may also be granted to stop further publication of defamatory material.

Defamation under Indian Penal Code, 1860
Defamation is both a Civil wrong as well as Crime. It is open to the person defamed to take the recourse of civil as well as criminal remedy. Defamation is defined by section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. According to this section whoever by ---
 I) words , spoken or intended to be read , or
ii) signs , or
iii) 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 subject to the exceptions to defame that person.

Explanations  to section 499 says that it may amount to defamation to impute anything –
1) to a deceased person , if the imputation –
i. would harm the reputation of that person , if living , and
ii. is intended to be hurtful to  the feeling of his family or near  relatives :
2) concerning a company or association or collection of persons as such :
3) in the form of an alternative , or expressed ironically.
4) it 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 .
Essential ingredients of the offence of defamation are as follows:-
1) making or publishing any imputation concerning any person ,
2) such imputation must have been made by words either spoken or intended to be read , or by signs , or by visible representations , and
3) such imputation must have been made with the intent to harm , or with knowledge or belief that it will harm the reputation of the person concerned .

Exceptions to defamation :--
Section 499 says about ten exceptions to the offence of defamation. An accused charged with the offence of defamation may take the resort of any of these ten exceptions as defense. These are the privileged occasions. These privileged occasions exempt a person from criminal liability. These exceptions are as follows:-
1) Public good: - Imputation of truth made or published for public good.
2) Public conduct of public servants: - Any opinion made in good faith with respect to the conduct or character of a public servant in the discharge of his public functions, so far his character appears in that conduct, and no further.
3) Conduct of any person touching any public question: - Any opinion expressed in good faith with respect to the conduct or character of a person touching any public question, so far his character appears in that conduct, and no further.
4) Reports of proceedings of Courts: - Publication of substantially true report of the proceedings of a Court of Justice or result of any such proceedings.
5) Merits of a case or conduct of witnesses: - Expression of opinion in good faith regarding merits of a case decided in Court or conduct of witnesses, parties or agent or with respect to the character of those persons, appears in that conduct, and no further.
6) Merits of public performances: - Expression of opinion in good faith regarding the merits of any performance which it’s author has submitted to the judgment of the public or with respect to the character of the author, so far as his character appears in that performance, and no further.
7) Bona fide censure: - Censure passed in good faith by person having lawful authority.
8) Bona fide accusation:- Accusation preferred in good faith to authorized person .
9) Bona fide imputation: - Imputation made in good faith by person for protection of his or other’s interests.
10) Conveying caution: - Caution intended for good of person to whom conveyed or for public good.

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