Monday, 18 July 2022



“Every man has right to have his reputation preserved   inviolate”  -Blackstones


The tort of defamation is aimed at protecting the character of individuals against attempts to discredit their standing in the eyes of the community. A statement or other published material is therefore regarded as defamatory if it lowers the reputation of the plaintiff in the eyes of others in the community.

Definitions given by different scholars:

  1. Blackstones -This right of reputation is acknowledged as an inherent personal right of every person as part of the right of personal security.

  2. Winfield- “Defamation is the publication of a statement which tends to lower a person in the estimation of right-thinking member of the society generally.”

  3. Salmond- “Defamation is the publication of a false and defamatory statement concerning another person without lawful justification”

  4. Bhagwat Gita-” For a man of honor, defamation is worse than death.”

Defamation in English Law

Mainly because of historical reasons, English law divides the action for defamation into

    (a)  Libel

    (b) Slander

  • Libel is a representation made in some permanent form e.g., writing, printing, picture or statues.

  • Slander is a publication of defamatory statement in a transient form. Example of it may be spoken by words or by gestures.

Defamation in Indian Law

  • It has been noted above that under English criminal law, a distinction is made between libel and slander. There, libel is a crime but slander is not. Slander is only a civil wrong in England.

  •  Criminal law in India does not make any such distinction between libel and slander.  Both libel and slander are criminal offences under section 499 of IPC

  • In India libel and slander both are actionable per se, according to the rule established by various judgments.


  1. The Statement must be defamatory

  • Statement which tends to injure the reputation of plaintiff.

  • Imputation which exposes one to disgrace and humiliation.

  •  Such statement may be-

  • Oral

  • In writing

  • Printed

  • Picture

  • By some conduct

  1.  The said statement must refer to the plaintiff

In an action for the defamation, the plaintiff has to prove that the statement of which he complains referred to him.

It is immaterial that the defendant did not intend to defame the plaintiff

If the person to whom the statement was published could reasonably infer that the statement referred to the plaintiff, the defendant is nevertheless liable. 

  1.  The statement must be published 

Publication means making the defamatory matter known to some person other than the person defamed, and unless that is done, no civil action for defamation lies.

Communication to plaintiff himself is not enough because defamation is a injury to the reputation and reputation consists in the estimation in which others hold him and not a man’s own opinion of himself.

 e.g.-   Dictating a letter to one's typest is enough publication.

 Sending a defamatory letter to a plaintiff in a language not known to him may amount to defamation, if he gives that letter to someone versed with the language to read for him.

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