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Law relating to Defamation

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Section 499 of Indian Penal Code provides that "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, except in the cases hereinafter excepted, do defame that person".

Explanation 1: It may amount to defamation to impute anything to a deceased person, if the imputation would harm the reputation of that person if living, and is intended to be hurtful to the feelings of his family or other near relatives.
Explanation 2: It may amount to defamation to make an imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such.
Explanation 3: An imputation in the form of an alternative or expressed ironically, may amount to defamation.
Explanation 4: No imputation is said to harm a person's reputations, unless that imputation directly or indirectly, in the estimation of others, lowers the moral or intellectual character of that person, or lowers the character of that person in respect of his caste or of his calling, or lowers the credit of that person, or causes it to be believed that the body of that person is in a loathsome state, or in a state generally considered as disgraceful.

Illustrations:
1. A says: "Z is an honest man; he never stole B's watch"; intending to cause it to be believed that Z did steal B's watch. This is defamation unless it falls within one of the exceptions.
2. A is asked who stole B's watch. A points to Z, intending to cause it to be believed that Z stole B's watch. This is defamation, unless it falls within one of the exceptions.
3. A draws a picture of Z running away with B's watch, intending it to be believed that Z stole B's watch. This is defamation, unless it falls within one of the exceptions.

Exceptions:
Imputation of truth public which good requires be making or publishing:
It is not defamation to impute anything, which is true concerning any person, if it be for the public good that the imputation should be made or published. Whether or not it is for the public good is a question of fact.

Public conduct of public servants:
It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever respecting the conduct of a public servant in the discharge of his public functions, or respecting his character, so far as his character appears in that conduct, and no further.

Conduct of any person touching any public question:
It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever respecting the conduct of any person touching any public question, and respecting his character, so far as his character appears in that conduct, and no further.

Publication of reports of proceedings of Courts:
It is not defamation to publish a substantially true report of the proceedings of a Court of Justice, or of the result of any such proceedings. A Justice of the Peace or other officer holding an enquiry in open Court preliminary to a trial in a Court of Justice is a Court within the meaning of the above section.

Merits of case decided in Court or conduct of witnesses and others concerned:
It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever respecting the merits of any case, civil or criminal, which has been decided by a Court of Justice, or respecting the conduct of any person as a party, witness or agent, in any such case, or respecting the character of such person, as far as his character appears in that, and no further.

1. A says, "I think Z's evidence on that trial is so contradictory that he must be stupid or dishonest." A is within this exception if he says this in good faith, in as much as the opinion which he expresses respects Z's character as it appears in Z's conduct as a witness, and no further.
2. But if A says, "I do not believe what Z asserted at that trial because I know him to be man without veracity;" A is not within this exception, inasmuch as the opinion which he expresses of Z's character, is an opinion not founded on Z's conduct as a witness.

to be continued...



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