What is the Law of Defamation in India?

What is the Law of Defamation in India?


What is the Law of Defamation in India? Defamation is the injury to the reputation of a person by false statements of facts. Defamation is when a person makes or publishes any imputation by word, either spoken or intention to publish or by signs or by visible representation. And such imputation concerning any person intending to harm the reputation of such person.


  1. It may amount to defamation if the imputation against decease person. And that imputation would harm the reputation of that person if he is alive. Or the imputation would hurt the feelings of his family or other relatives.
  2. It may amount to defamation if imputation is against company, association or collective of persons.
  3. If imputation in the form of alternative or express ironically, that may amount to defamation.
  4. An imputation may harm the reputation if it is made directly or indirectly in respect of the moral or intellectual character of that person, in respect of his caste or his calling, etc.

What is the Law of Defamation in India?

Following are ten exceptions to the defamation

First Exception

True Imputation which is necessary to publish – There would not defamation if the imputation is about anything true concerning any person. If it is for the public good, it shall necessary to make or publish. It is for public good nor not that is the question of fact.

Second Exception

Conduct of public servant – It would not defamation, if a person expresses the conduct of public servant in discharge of public function or respect the character.

Third Exception

It would not defamation if a person expresses the conduct of any other person which touches any public question and his character appears in that conduct.

Fourth Exception

Report of court proceeding – It would not defamation if any person publishes the substantially true report of court proceedings or order of any such proceeding.

Fifth Exception

Merit of the court case and conduct of witness – There is not defamation if a person expresses opinions of the merit of any court case whether civil or criminal, respecting the conduct of any party, witness or character of such person.

Sixth Exception

Public performance – If any person expresses the merit of any public performance which its author has submitted to the public, it is not defamation.

Seventh Exception

Passing of censure in good faith by a person having legal authority over another.

Eight Exception

Eight exception is that if a person makes any accusation against any person to any of those who have law authority over others.

Ninth Exception

If any imputation has made in good faith for the protection of his or other’s interest. It is not defamation if imputation on the character of another person provided that imputation shall be in good faith for the protection of the interest of the person making it or any other person for the public good.

Tenth Exception

It would not defamation if it convey a caution to one person against another. Such caution must be for the good of the person to whom it has conveyed or interested persons or for the public good.

Section 499 of Indian Penal Code

What is Libel and Slander in the law of defamation in India?

The concept of Defamation is very old and there is no distinction between written and spoken defamation. Libel and Slander, both are part of term defamation. Libel defamation statements may include some visible forms such as writing, printing, pictures. And Slander defamation statement includes spoken words or other transitory forms whether visible or audible such as gestures.

Essentials of Defamation (What is the Law of Defamation in India?)

  1. Making or publishing any imputation concerning any person
  2. Imputation must be made by words either spoken or intended to read or by sign or visible representation.
  3. Such imputation must be made to harm the reputation of such persons concern.

Punishment in Defamation

Any person found guilty for the defamation, he shall punish for imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine or both. The offence is not cognizable and it is bailable.

What amounts to publication (What is the Law of Defamation in India?)

Some allegations that the accused has made a defamatory statement against the complainant in a written statement. Accused has taken defence that he signed the statement without knowing the contents. Court has considered that written statement taken as publish. Such a statement is defamatory or not, that will decide only after the trial. Hence, Petition dismissed. (M.K. Prabhakaran Vs T.E. Gangadharan)

Imputation (What is the Law of Defamation in India?)

Imputation means accusation against a person. It also implies allegation of fact and not merely an abuse. (Premlal Singh Vs Mohanlal)

Responsibility of press (defamation)

The person responsible for publishing anything in the newspaper must take proper care before publishing anything which shall harm the reputation of any person. In the case of Sahib Sing Vs State of UP, it has observed that when a newspaper article contains a defamatory statement against the public prosecutor. And that article does not indicate anything public good. Also, no evidence shows good faith behind the publication of the defamatory word. And the case does not stand in any exception of section 499. Therefore, Conviction u/s 500 proper.

Publication of Defamatory matter

In another case, there are allegations in the newspaper against the then chief minister’s son. It had alleged that he was involved in smuggling activities across the border. And from time to time newspapers were publishing the article. Then the government published a press note and denied the allegation and challenged the management of the newspaper.

The accused thereafter publish that one S, the son of the then chief minister of Punjab was the author of misdeeds. High Court convicted accused. But, the Supreme court acquitted the accused. Supreme Court observed that it is not defamation. As, it has come under exception 9 of section 499 of IPC. (Harbhajan Singh Vs State of Punjab)

Not entitled for protection of exception

In another M.P. case i.e. Ramakant Vs. Devilal Sharma, there was a newspaper report in which there is the imputation that one gets votes by paying money to voters. Court held that such imputation is not defamatory. And the accused has not entitled to protection of exception.

A prosecution for defamation of deceased person may maintainable, but it has ruled that no suit for damages will lie in such a case. Where, therefore, a suit has filed by a near relative of the deceased person for defamatory words spoken of such deceased person. But alleged to have caused damage to the plaintiff as a member of the same family. Therefore, it has held that suit is not maintainable.


Bombay High Court has held that statements made in written statements filed by accused are not privileged but are governed by provisions of this section.

Evidence of reputation (What is the Law of Defamation in India?)

In a defamation case, the accused has entitled to rebut the complainant’s case that the alleged imputation was likely to harm his reputation. So, he can do that by showing that the complainant’s reputation was, because of a certain act of omission or commission. (Mullalal vs D.P. Singh)


If the offence under section 500 is made out then cognizance must be taken within three years from the date of occurrence. Thus, where the date of offence is identified, the starting point of limitation would be the date of complaint given to the police. And not the date on which evidence was given by the party before the magistrate. (P.M. Kathiresan vs Shanmugham)

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