Defamation Law in India

Defamation Law in India

What Is Defamation?

  • Defamation is the act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person when observed through the eyes of ordinary man.
  • Any false and unprivileged statement published or spoken deliberately, intentionally, knowingly with the intention to damage someone’s reputation is defamation.
  • It could be written or verbal. Written defamation, printed or typed material or images is called as libel and spoken defamation is called slander.

Defamation Law in India:

    • Article 19 of the Constitution grants various freedoms to its citizens.
    • However, Article 19(2) has imposed reasonable exemption to freedom of speech and expression granted under Article 19(1) (a).
    • Contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offence are some exceptions.
    • Defamation is an offence under both the civil and criminal law.
    • In civil law, defamation is punishable under the Law of Torts by imposing punishment in the form of damages to be awarded to the claimant.
    • Under the Criminal law, Defamation is a bailable, non-cognizable offence and compoundable offence.
    • Hence a policeman may arrest only with an arrest warrant issued by a magistrate.
    • The Indian Penal Code punishes the offence with a simple imprisonment up to two years, or with fine, or both.

Civil Defamation:

    • The statements made need to be false and it must be made without the consent of the alleged defamed person.
    • Monetary compensation can be claimed from the defendant for defamation.

Criminal Defamation:

    • It is nothing but a defamation for which simple imprisonment may be awarded.
    • Under a criminal suit, intention to defame is necessary.
    • The allegation should be made with malice intent to defame another or at least the knowledge that the publication is likely to defame another is essential.
    • It has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt that the act was being done to lower the reputation of another.


  • Persons who make defamatory statements are exempted from punishments if they fall in one of the ten exceptions provided in Section 499.

They are:

  • Attribution of any truth made for public good. Truth is seldom defense unless made for a public good.
  • Any opinion made in good faith regarding the conduct of a public servant in the discharge of his public functions.
  • Any opinion made in good faith respecting the conduct of any person which relates to a public question.
  • Publication of true reports of the proceedings of the Courts or the result of the proceedings is not defamation.
  • Any opinion made in good faith regarding the merits of any civil or criminal case decided by the Court of Justice, or the conduct of any person as a party, witness or agent to that case and no further.
  • Opinions made about the merits of any performance which its author has submitted to the judgement of the public, or about the author is not defamation if made in good faith.
  • Censures passed by persons neither having authority over another either conferred by a law or from a lawful contract in good faith is nor defamation.
  • Censure is formal statement of severe disapproval.
  • Accusation of offence to any person having lawful authority over the alleged person in good faith is an exception to defamation.
  • Complaints about servants to masters and children to parents are examples to the exception.
  • Statements made about the character of character is not defamation if it is made in order to protect the interests of the person making it, or any other person, or for the public good.
  • Cautions conveyed to one person against another are not defamation if it is intended for the good of the conveyed person, or any other, or for public good.
    • Section 500 of the Code punishes defamation if it does not fall within the above said exceptions with simple imprisonment which may extend to two years, or fine, or both.
    • The Indian Penal Code punishes printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory or sale of such printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter about any person in the same manner of punishing defamation.
    • Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 defines what is defamation and its exceptions.
    • Words or signs imputed intending to harm or with the knowledge that such imputation will cause harm.
    • It may amount to defamation if anything is imputed against a deceased person, if such imputation would harm the reputation had the person been alive.
    • The class of persons shall include company or associations.
    • It is no defamation unless the alleged defamatory statement either directly or indirectly lowers the moral or intellectual character or his respect of his caste or his calling in the estimation of others.

Syllabus: Prelims + Mains; GS II – Polity and Governance