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TOPIC- DEFAMATION

FACULTY OF LAW, JAMIA MILLIA ISLAMIA

SUBJECT- LAW OF CRIME

ASSIGNMENT TOPIC- DEFAMATION

SUBMITTED BY- DEEPANSHU SHAKARGAYE

SUBMITTED TO- AQUIB SIR

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TOPIC- DEFAMATION

Table of Contents

Introduction

Section 499

Ingredients

Section 500

Section 501

Section 502

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Introduction

An act of communication that causes someone to be shamed, ridiculed, held


in contempt, lowered in the estimation of the community, or to lose employment
status or earnings or otherwise suffer a damaged reputation. Such defamation is
couched in 'defamatory language'. A person who is aggrieved by the defamatory
words of a person can seek redressal both in public and private law, i.e., liability of
the offender arises in law of torts as well as in law of crimes.

Defamation has been defined under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code.
Section 500 of the Code prescribes punishment for the offence of defamation. Other
sections related to the offence of defamation are S. 501 and S. 502. However, every
statement or action made by a person, lessening the repute of another cannot said to
be defamatory if it falls within any of the ten exceptions to s. 499 of the IPC.

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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, of 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.

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(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 fact.

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 to 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

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canvassing for a particular candidate for any situation in the efficient discharge 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 party, 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 in good faith, inasmuch as the
opinion which he express 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, inasmuch as the
opinion which he express of Z's character, is an opinion not founded on Z's conduct
as a witness.

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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 be substituted to the judgment of the public


expressly or by acts on the part of the author which imply such submission to 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 express 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, inasmuch 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 that other, to
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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 to 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 authorized 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 a 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.

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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 honesty". 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.

Ingredients:

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 signs, or visible representations.
3. Such imputation was made with the intention of harming or with knowledge
or reason to believe that it will harm the reputation of the person concerning
to whom it is made.

Makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person.- every such person
who is engaged in composing, dictating, writing or in any way contributing to the

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making of libel is the maker of the libel. In N. L. Shah v. Patel Maganbhai Revabhai
and another 1 , an interesting situation arose for decision. There was agitation of
lawyers in Gujarat in connection with appointment and transfer of Chief Justices of
High Courts. An editorial in a newspaper criticized this agitation. The lawyers were
inter alia described as “Kajia Dalal” i.e. dispute broker, in the editorial. In a suit for
defamation against editor, the Gujarat High Court held that the editorial did not refer
to the complainant personally or to any other individual but referred to the lawyers
as a class and at the most the lawyers of Gujarat. The words Kajia Dalal was held
to be used in relation to the lawyers as a class and is not referable to a determinate
section of lawyers, namely, the lawyers who were participating in the agitation.
Hence no defamation was done by the editor.

In Ashok Kumar Jain and Others v State of Maharashtra2, it was held that
where a defamatory statement against a person is published in a newspaper, the
editor, printer and publisher who has made declaration and is shown in paper as such
is liable. Where it is alleged that the Chairman of Board of Directors of Company
and its General Manager took part in selling out newspaper, it is indicative of the
fact that they had prior knowledge of defamatory matter in paper which they could
have prevented but they did not, they would be guilty of the offence.

In Shahrukh Khan v. State of Rajasthan and ors.3 under the direction of Mr.
Rajiv Mehra, a Hindi film Ram Jaane was released for public viewing after due
certification by the Central Board of Certification ('the Board', for short). The
Petitioner played the role of the protagonist in the film. In the later part of the film,
the hero is tried for triple murders. In the courtroom scene, the defense lawyer gets

1
1984 Cr. L.J. 1790 (Guj.)
2
1986 Cr. L.J. 1987 (Bom.)
3
RLW 2008 (1) Raj 809

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up to defend the hero who is, however, bent upon confessing his crime. He, therefore,
questions the conduct of the lawyer and says:

(This lawyer well knows that I have killed the three persons, yet he tries to save me.
Why? For the sake of money, no? For the sake of money, he sells his morals. He
sells the laws. By selling the laws, you people have turned life into a misery.)
(English translation of the Hindi dialogue)

The respondents filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Shah Rukh Khan (the
Petitioner), Mr. Rajiv Mehra (the director), Mr. Pravesh Mehra (the producer), Mr.
ShriKant Sharma (the co-scriptwriter), Ms. Juhi Chawla (the heroine), and M/s
Vinayak Film Industries (the distributors in Rajasthan), and M/s Unkown
Distributors (distributors for India) alleging defamation and criminal conspiracy,
offences Under Section s 500,501 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code.

It was held by the Rajasthan High Court that the law requires that the
defamatory statement, in order to be actionable, be made against a definite and an
identifiable group. The remark made by the petitioner was applicable to the lawyers
as a community. Thus, a group of lawyers could not file a complaint against the
petitioner for offence Under Section s 499 and 500 IPC. Therefore, the complaint is
not maintainable.

Imputation should have been made by words either spoken or intended to be


read by signs or by visible representation.- In India a person can be defamed not
only by writings, but also by spoken words. Here at this point Indian law differs from
English law of defamation. Under English Law only writing, printing, engraving or
some other process only can constitute defamation. In Indian Penal Code word

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defamation has been used to denote what is known as libel and slander in England.
The words visible representation will include every possible form of defamation
which ingenuity can devise. Thus a statue, an effigy, chalk marks on wall, signs or
pictures may constitute a libel, in addition to words spoken.

Intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation


will harm- There must be an intention to harm the reputation of the complainant or
the knowledge that the imputation will harm the reputation of such person. It is not
necessary that actual harm should result.

By harm is meant imputation on a man’s character made and expressed to


others so as to lower him in their estimation. Anything which lowers him in his own
estimation does not constitute defamation.

Exception 1- the requirement of this exception are:

1. That the impugned statement must be shown to be true.


2. That its publication must be shown to be for public good.

This exception and exception 4 requires that the imputation should be true.
The remaining exceptions require that it should be made in good faith. It is also
necessary that truth when set up as a defence must extend to the entire defamation
and not only to a part of it.

Where the imputation is good but it is not published for public good but only
for a community such a publication cannot held to be good.

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In Jawaharlal Darda v. Manoharrao Ganapatrao4, the respondent filed a complaint


alleging that by publishing a news item concerning misappropriation of government
funds in news paper Dainik Lokmath, J.L. Darda along with others have committed
offence of defamation.

The Supreme Court in this case observed that-“ what the accused had
published was an accurate and true report of the proceedings of the Assembly.
Involvement of the respondent was disclosed by the preliminary inquiry made by the
Government. If the accused bona fide believing the version of the Minister to be true
published the report in good faith it cannot be said that they intended to harm the
reputation of the complainant.”

Exception 2- Any person occupying a public position renders himself open to


criticism for his actions while discharging his functions from the position he
occupies. Such a criticism must be made in good faith and it must relate to actions
of public servants.

It was held In re Arundhati Roy5, that a person claiming the benefit of second
exception to section 499 IPC is required to shoe that the opinion expressed by him
was in good faith which related to the conduct of a public servant in discharge of his
public functions or respecting his character appears in that conduct.

Exception 3- the conduct of publicists who take part in politics or other matters
concerning the public can be commented in good faith. In construing a document the
courts are not concerned with what the parties intended but with language actually
employed.

4
AIR 1998 SC 2117
5
2002 Cr. L.J. 1792 (SC)

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Exception 4- this exception requires that the report of the proceedings of a court of
justice should be without malice. It should be fair and accurate report of what took
place before tribunal. This exception does not require good faith. It is not confined
to judgment and orders but also covers pleadings whether relevant or not.

In T. Satish Pai v. Narayan Nayak 6 , it was held that once FIR is lodged
alleging commission of offences under IPC and public authorities take cognizance
of the same initiating necessary legal action, report published in newspaper of any
of the proceedings relating to crime giving contents of FIR would not amount to
defamation. Publication of such news item will squarely fall within fourth exception
of Section 499, IPC and proceedings against journalist is not sustainable.

Exception 5- the administration of justice is a matter of universal interest to the


whole public. Therefore, a free comment on judgments of the court, the verdict of
the jury, the conduct of the parties and of witnesses is necessary. The criticism must
not intentionally assail the character of others or impute criminality ti them. A
journalist is supposed to discharge his duties fairly and if his comments are fair no
one will be permitted to complain.

Exception 6- this exception deals with literary criticism of public performance


submitted to its judgment. It covers criticism of book published on literature, art,
painting speeches made in public, acting, singing, etc. The criticism must be fair and
made in good faith.

Exception 7- this exception allows a person under whose authority others have been
placed either by their consent or by law to censure in good faith, those who are so
placed under his authority so far as regard matters to which that authority relates. A

6
2002 Cri. L.J. 4416 (Karnataka)

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Municipal engineer reported to the Municipality that stock of meal was taken away
by the contractor. It was held that the if the report being made was in good faith this
exception will apply 7 . Statements made by a person during police investigation
merely expressing suspicion as to complicity of certain person in crime will not
amount to defamation.

Exception 8- this exception will be attracted if it is proved-

1. That the person to whom the complaint was made had lawful authority over
the officer complained against
2. That the accusation was made in good faith

It is necessary for the application of this exception that the complaint is bona fide
and not made with the intention to injure anyone. A complaint to a police constable
is not privileged and will not fall under this exception.

Exception 9- where a defamatory statement is made in good faith for the protection
of the interest of the person making it, this exception will come into operation.
Interest of the person has to be real and legitimate, e.g. where a notice was issued on
behalf of a Hindu widow, charging with criminal breach of trust and the reply of the
accused was that the widow was living an immoral life, it was held that the exception
applied.

Exception 10- for attracting this exception it must be proved that the accused
intended in good faith to convey a caution to one person against another, intending
for the good of the person to whom the caution was conveyed or to some person in

7
J.N. Mukherjee, AIR 1934 Pat. 548

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whom the person is interested or for public good. The caution is intended to be given
to the person to whom it is intended. The imputation must be made in good faith.

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.

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References:

 Indian Penal Code, S.N. Mishra


 Law of Crimes, K.D. Gaur
 www.indiankanoon.com
 www.judis.nic.in

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