Defamation is a procedure for check and balance on the Right to freedom of speech and expression (Article 19). It is a procedure to ensure that nobody harms the reputation of any person or tend to create a wrong opinion of the person who is defamed, in the eyes of the public.
To make you understand what it really is, suppose there are two party members, Meera and Subodh standing for election. Subodh says, “Meera is a corrupt person, I have seen her taking bribes in the past, so do not give her vote”. This statement is untrue and harms the reputation of Meera, as no one in the public will give the vote to a corrupt person. This will directly hamper Meera’s winning in the election.
ANALYSIS OF THE OFFENCE OF DEFAMATION
Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code talks about defamation. Any person who by spoken or written words, signs or visible gestures creates or publishes any imputation on any person with an intention to harm the reputation of that person. The person making such imputation should have the knowledge or a reason to believe that such imputation will ruin the reputation of the person.
However, there are many exceptions included in this Section. We will discuss them in the approaching topic.
To sue any person it is necessary to establish that real damage or harm has occurred to the reputation of the person. Only speaking or writing the words, picturing or gesturing does not amount to defamation until the reputation of the person has been harmed. Harm to reputation is the only negative consequence that can arise from the act of defamation.
It could prove harmful to your professional career as well. For example, if someone pointing out to a shopkeeper says that you should not buy groceries from him as he sells low-grade things at a high rate. In this case, if the statement is found to be untrue then the reputation of the shopkeeper is being harmed as this will lead to the shortage of customers coming to his shop.
For a person to be sued for defamation, it is required that the publication of the words he spoke or wrote must have happened. What does it mean?
It means that damage to the reputation of the person happens when the defamatory words have reached to any third person. Publication means that the third person has read, heard or seen the written, spoken, gestured or pictured defamatory words.
If it has not happened then there is no ground to sue for defamation.
DIRECT COMMUNICATION TO THE DEFAMED
If any defamation is made directly to the defamed and is not heard by anybody else, then it is not defamation. It is necessary that any third party hears it through which the reputation of the defamed goes down.
PUBLICATION BY REPETITION
There is a limited period to sue for defamation. It is maintainable till one year since the act of defamation took place. For a single publication, an action for libel can arise but for repetitive or multiple publications, the action can arise every time the libel is published.
The Limitation Act, 1968 makes the limitation period of the libel on the internet to 1 year. After every publication on the internet, this period will get renewed.