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DEFAMATION: HARM TO REPUTATION

Rashmi Chauhan (1)

INTRODUCTION

Defamation is harmful to another person’s reputation it can be an oral or written false statement that can affect the person’s image adversely. It usually comes under tort or crime.

According to English law, the actions for defamation is divided into two:-

  1. LIBEL–it is action in defamation, where one person expresses permanently like writing, pictures, printing, effigy[1] or any physical form that is injurious to the reputation his/her professional life, spreads hatred to any person. Example: case Youssoupoff v. M.G.M pictures Ltd.
  2. SLANDER- it is a form of an oral defamation action, where a person spreads false statements or facts about another person leading to injury to that person’s reputation.

In English Criminal Law a difference is made between libel and slander, their libel is a crime but slander is not. Slander is only civil law, but in India, there’s no such difference between libel and slander, both are criminal offenses under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. According to English Law Libel is actionable per se and but with Slander proof or evidence of special damage is required.

ESSENTIALS OF DEFAMATION

  1. The statement about another person must be false and Defamatory-

False statements or defamatory actions can injure one person’s reputation. One person may defame another without even thinking about the consequences but those statements can make other people suffer a lot, such defamatory statements spread hate towards that person, may affect the surrounding people/here, expose them to humiliation and disgrace. [2]Defamation can be written, oral, published, physical gesture, etc.

The statement of fact said about a person is defamatory or not can be determined by how normal people of rational thinking take it in society. if the statement is likely to cause any injury to that person’s then he/she cannot escape it by saying it was not intended.

In the case D.P CHOUDHARY V. MANJULATA[3] a statement was published in a local daily in Jodhpur on 18.12.77, it said that a girl Manjula went out of her house at night giving an excuse of a class and ran away with a boy named Kamlesh. She was a young lady of 17 years of age and also from a well-educated family. This publication was false, and they didn’t verify it with them also, such publication resulted in disrespect and affected her marriage, the statement was defamatory and the defendants were held liable.

Normal abusive words are spoken out of anger or frustration, or any vulgar slang which does not do any harm to the hearer’s reputation would not be actionable. Even so, those words are likely to cause humiliation and disgrace to a person, they are actionable.

In the case of RAMDHARA V. PHULWATI held that the accusation by the defendant side that the plaintiff, a 45-year widow is a keep of the maternal uncle of the plaintiff’s daughter-in-law is not just a vulgar abuse it questions her character, and thus it is defamation.

  1. The defamatory statement must refer to the plaintiff-

The plaintiff has to prove that the defamatory statement which is said is referred to him/her.  The intention of defamation does not matter, in other words, the defendant cannot plead that the defamatory statement was unintentional. if the person for whom the publication was made could conclude or prove that it is referred to him then the defendant is liable.

In the case of T.V RamasubhaIyer V. A.M.A Mohindeen[4], it was held that the defendant was liable for publishing the statement to defamation though there was no intention to defame intention does not matter here, the false publication referred to plaintiff says that the plaintiff is carrying a business of agarbathis to Ceylon has been arrested for smuggling. Unfortunately, the plaintiff was in a similar business and this defamatory publication leads to a serious loss in the business.

In the case of RitnandBalved Education Foundation v. Alok Kumar[5], the defendant was an attorney of the plaintiff. After retiring he got the job in service of London Firm, he supplied the confidential document and information obtained by fraudulent means to the opposite solicitors, which were used by them in the case against the plaintiff, these illegal acts of the defendant caused severe loss to the plaintiff and the reputation of the institution also, so here also the defendant was held liable for defamation.

  1. The Statement Must Be Published somewhere

A publication should be known to some people other than just the defamed person, no action can be taken without the recognization of people in society. defamation is about a person’s reputation and reputation itself consists of what people think about you and your position in society so communication with the plaintiff is not enough, statements from other people concluding plays an important role here.

In the case, Mahendra Ram v. Harnandan Prasad[6]defendant sent a defamatory letter to the plaintiff which was written in Urdu. Plaintiff did not know Urdu so asked the third person to read it for him, here it was held that the defendant was not liable unless it was proved that at the time of writing the letter in Urdu, the defendant knew that the plaintiff cannot read Urdu and he would ask the third person to read it.

In the case of ArumugaMudaliar v. Annamalai Mudaliar[7], it was held that if the two-person wrote a defamatory letter jointly to the plaintiff and sent it by post to him, then it won’t be known as defamation but if the same letter is read by the third person and in a way, it injures the reputation of the plaintiff then those are liable for defamation.

Author (s) Name: Rashmi Chauhan (Amity University Rajasthan, Jaipur)

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[1]Monson v. Tussands Ltd,(1894)

[2]Sim v.Stretch,1936

[3]A.I.R 1997Raj.170

[4]A.I.R 1972 Mad.398 1972

[5]A.I.R 2007 Del.9

[6]A.I.R 1958 PAT.445

[7]1996 2 M.L.J 223