Monday, December 10, 2012

Defamation


It has been more than three years since I started blogging. And it has been a wonderful journey for me so far. I have had more good experiences than bad ones, I have met more good people than bad ones, I have been praised and ridiculed. But those were the things of the past when I used to blog regularly. I was kind of popular and many people read me. Even when I used to write a pathetic post, or just plain rants, they read me and left comments.

There was one particular incident when someone wrote a post about me bashing me and my blog, my writing, my readers just because I had written some rants and got a few comments. She was shocked to see that and misquoted and misinterpreted me. But she was quite sensible subtle in her post and thus she never mentioned my name - real or pseudo; which happen to be the same. But recently I came across some incidences where other bloggers wrote some defaming posts about their fellow bloggers.

Not only on blogs, these days, people abuse others on various social networking sites like facebook and twitter too. Without knowing about the consequences of such comments. Well they are not entirely unaware about the consequences, for such things go viral pretty easily and quickly. When Bala Saheb passed away and a girl from Palghar posted one negative remark about the bandh due to his death. One of her friends liked the post. The next thing they knew that they were arrested for doing so. Just a facebook status got them arrested. At times we don't take the internet very seriously, but it can put you behind bars. One should be careful about what he/she posts on internet, whether it's defamatory or not - make sure before posting and before it's too late.

Thus this post. It is about defamation - its meaning, what amounts to defamation and what are the legal provisions available when someone posts defamatory content about you or gives a defamatory speech. In India, Defamation has provisions under Civil as well as Criminal law. Defamation is one of the few offences for which our Judicial system has covered most of the loopholes, making sure that the wrong doer doesn't get away with his defaming statement/s about others with the intention to harm their reputation and/or hurt their/others' sentiments.

Defamation - Meaning and Definition: Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said to defame that person. In other words, it means any intentional false communication, either written or spoken, that harms a person's reputation; decreases the respect, regard, or confidence in which a person is held; or induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against a person.

There are, however certain exceptions to the above mentioned definition. Some acts mentioned herein below do not amount to defamation. They are:

1. It is not defamation to impute anything which is true concerning any person, if it is for public good that the imputation should be made or published.

2. It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever regarding the conduct or character of a public servant in discharge of his public function.

3. It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion regarding the conduct or character of any person touching any public question.

4. It is not defamation to publish a substantially true report or result of a Court of Justice of any such proceedings.

5. It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion regarding the merits of any case, which has been decided by a Court of Justice, or the conduct of any person as a party, or the witness or the agent, in such case.

6. It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion regarding the merits of any performance which an author has submitted to the judgement of the public.

7. It is not defamation if a person having any authority over another person, either conferred by law or arising out of a lawful contract, to pass in good faith any censure on the conduct of that other in matters to which such lawful authority relates.

8. It is not defamation to prefer in good faith an accusation against any person to any of those who have lawful authority over that person with respect to the subject matter of accusation.

9. It is not defamation to make an imputation on the character of another person, provided it is made in good faith by person for protection of his or others' interests.

10. It is not defamation to convey a caution, intended for the good of a person to whom conveyed or for public good.

Thus, the articles written published in newspapers, or the reports shown in news do not amount to defamation if they are stating the truth. Newspapers and news channels, i.e. our media has rights to even publish about an ongoing case. They, however cannot publish the likely verdict before it's out. They cannot give their opinion about the likely verdict too. Further, they have to publish the judgment verbatim. If they do not follow any of these rules, it amounts to an offence.

Remedies for defamation are available in Civil as well as Criminal laws. Civil remedies are available under law of torts. In Torts, defamation is of two types: Libel and Slander. Libel is any Defamation that can be seen, such as a writing, printing, effigy, movie, or statue. Slander is any defamation that is spoken and heard. When a suit is filed under Civil laws, there are two reliefs that the person who has been defamed gets - Damages and Injunction. Damages can be for the amount of loss the defamed person suffers due to defamatory statements by someone and/or other damages which are more like a punishment to the person for making defamatory statement/s, the amount of which is decided by the jury after examining the case.
Under Criminal law, remedies are available under section 500 of Indian Penal code. Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both. This is a non-cognizable that is to say a bailable offence.

Section 66A of Information Technology Act, 2000 talks about punishment for defaming someone using computer as the defaming source. Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,

(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or

(b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, persistently makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,

(c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages

shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.

Explanation: For the purposes of this section, terms "Electronic mail" and "Electronic Mail Message" means a message or information created or transmitted or received on a computer, computer system, computer resource or communication device including attachments in text, image, audio, video and any other electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message.
Our laws accept electronic mails as an admissible evidence against a person accused of defamation. Our laws safeguard us. We just have a misconception that our Judiciary is not capable enough and thus we publish any content anywhere without thinking about the consequences. But that is not true. Yes, it takes time to get justice, but with time, if more and more people are aware about their rights and the consequences of their actions, things can improve. 

Phew! Our laws are indeed very extensive. One point has so many provisions, we should know how to put them to use. Rather, to avoid the legal complications. Yes it's a long post, and if you have are reading this, then my efforts were worth. And if you are reading only this, then remember this: I am a lawyer and I will help you if you ever need any legal help. Not for free though. Free material is written above. Laziness costs a lot you know.

8 comments:

  1. Excellent was waiting for a post like this. Will be sharing this across in many communities.
    Cheers
    Sid

    ReplyDelete
  2. I could have never known all this had it not been blogged by you here. Thank you Neha, this was a good eye opener, and very informative.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I could have never known all this in depth. Thank you Neha for posting all this at one place, it was very informative and an eye-opener for many.
    A.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Neha: Thanks for the informative post.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Neha,thanks for sharing information.
    Why do you think there are two separate set of rules..one for print media and one for Social Media?
    Palghar girls were arrested for something news paper has been writing regularly,even after the girls were arrested and released?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good article, Neha. About time too, when things are getting competitive and nasty in blog world. I wasn't able to 'like' it on FB.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Neha,

    Read 2 pending posts. You are right in not publishing their photograph. Contentment comes from within and not by means of money etc. Thanks for this informative post. I think those girls were unfortunate.

    Take care

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the nice write up. I am not a lawyer. I thought defamation means if someone says some false thing about you and because of that your reputation has gone down in other people’s estimation. If no one believes that false information and your reputation is in tact, I wonder where is the defamation.

    ReplyDelete