Defamation in law of tort ,its types and defences including remedies.

BY : NEHA YADAV

INTRODUCTION-

Defamation is nothing but the attack on a person’s reputation. It refers to an intentional attempt by somebody to harm a person’s reputation. The most important requirement of it is that the defamatory statement must be false, if statement is true it will not be considered as wrong.

Any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s reputation or decreases the respect, is called as defamation.

Scrutton LJ defined a defamatory statement as: a false statement about a man to his discredit.

Depending on the manner in which one makes a false statement, defamation may be either libel or slander. Libel means defamation in permanent form or in written form. On other hand, slander means a defamatory statement in a transient form.

CRIMINAL AND CIVIL DEFAMATION-

Criminal defamation is the act of defaming a person by committing a crime or offence. But civil defamation involves no criminal offence, but on account of this kind of wrong , you could sue the person to get a legal compensation.

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ESSENTIALS OF DEFAMATION-

There are mainly three essentials which are as follows:

1.The statement must be published-

It is the publication of such statement which tends to lower a person in the estimation of right-thinking member of society.

2.The statement must refer to the plaintiff-

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

3.Statement must be published –

Publication means making defamatory statement known to the third person other than the person  who is defamed and unless that is done, no civil action for it lies.

These three essentials as above stated are important to be present for making a statement defamatory statement. Absence of any above three essential elements will not make statement defamatory statement.

LIBEL AND SLANDER-

There are two types , that is libel which is in written and other is slander which is usually spoken. Differences between both has been laid down as below:

    LIBEL-

  • Written or published defamatory statements addressed to the eye.
  • It is in permanent form.
  • It is both civil and criminal wrong.
  • It is actionable per se.

   SLANDER-

  • It is a spoken defamation addressed to ear.
  • It is in transitory form.
  • It is a civil wrong only.
  • It is not actionable per se unless there is special damage.

REMEDY AGAINST DEFAMATION-

Defamation is both an offence and a civil wrong. This means that a person who is suffering it can opt for both remedies.

He can file a complaint under section 499 of Indian Penal Code, which defines defamation. Conviction under this provision of Indian Penal Code attract punishment of imprisonment unto 2 years or fine or both.

He can also file a civil suit claiming damages. The extent of defamation depends on factors like the nature of the statement made, the amount of loss suffered, etc.

DEFENCES AGAINST DEFAMATION-

There are certain defences a person can take to escape or avoid liability of compensation for defamation. The following are some such defences:

  • TRUTH-

Truth is the most important defence for the defamation. This is so because only false statement against a person considered to be defamation.

Hence, if the person making the statement proves them to be true, he can escape the liability.

But this defence might not apply in criminal proceedings for defamation.

The burden lies on the defendant alone to prove the truthfulness of the statement.

  • FAIR AND BONA FIDE COMMENT-

The defendant who is claimed for it can take the defence of making a fair and bona fide comment.

Thus, making a fair and reasonable criticism without any malicious intention does not amount to defamation.

The defendant, in this case, needs to prove that he did not possess male fine intentions.

  • PRIVILEGES-

The law sometimes grantscertain privileges to particular persons in some situation. Any statements by a person enjoying such privileges cannot amount to defamation.

For example- a member of Parliament has an absolute privilege for any statement he makes in Parliament.

  • APOLOGY-

If a person who makes a defamatory remark but later issues an apology, he can escape liability of compensation. For this defence, the person suffering the tort of defamation must accept the apology.

  • AMENDS-

Under English Law, amends are justifiable defences for defamation. Amends mean correction or retraction of the defamatory statements by the defendant.

For example, a newspaper making a false statement against a person may further issue a clarification.

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