Discuss defamation and its exceptions as per section 499 of the Indian penal code.

Indian Penal Code 1860 Section 499 Defamation:

Whoever by words spoken or intended to be read or by visible forms makes or publishes any imputation about any person with the intention of damaging the reputation of the person by such imputation, or knowing or having reason to believe holds or publishes that such expression would cause harm to the reputation of the person, except in the cases hereinafter except in the exceptional cases that he is said to defame that person.

 In general terms;

Whoever hurts the reputation of any person on the basis of untrue facts with intent to honor it is called defamation.

Section 499 essential element is to impose or publish any imputation on any person.

Such a statement – A spoken by words with the intention that it should be read

b – by sign

c – by visual forms

intention to inflict damage

Type 1

Spoken Divergence – By Word Signal Sound

2 . Writing – Inscription – Label – Written, Printed, Image by Photo

Section 499 gives 4 explanations which show what does not amount to defamation.

Explanation 1. The imposition of any imputation on a deceased person may amount to defamation if, while the person is alive, it would harm the reputation of the person and cause hurt to the feelings of his family or near relatives.

Explanation 2. Making any imputation in relation to any company, association or group of persons may amount to defamation.

Explanation 3. Any innocent statement if it is sarcastic can amount to defamation.

Explanation 4. An imputation can amount to defamation only when it directly or indirectly lowers a person in the assessment of another.

illustration

A, intending to believe that Z must have stolen B’s watch, says that Z is an honest person, he never stole B’s watch.

It is defamation unless it is covered by one of the exceptions.

Exceptions to section 499

10 exceptions have been given in section 499, if any of these exceptions comes, it will not amount to defamation.

The first exception – the truth which is required to be imposed or published for the public good.

Impersonating anything which is true of any person is not defamation if it is imputed or published for the public good.

The second exception – public conduct of public servants –

The conduct of a public servant in the performance of his duty is not defamation if any criticism is made on his conduct in good faith.

Third Exception – Conduct of any person in relation to any public question – It is not defamation if there is a question relating to a public public and any criticism of the conduct of any person in relation thereto

Fourth exception – Publication of the report of the proceedings of the court – It is not defamation to publish the entire report of a court.

Note – Not exempt in respect of proceedings of Legislature or Parliament

Fifth Exception – Merits of case decided in court or conduct of other persons with witnesses

It is not defamation to criticize in good faith with respect to the merits of cases decided by a court, whether civil, or criminal, or the conduct in evidence.

Sixth Exception – It is not defamation to criticize in good faith the merits of a work as to the merits of a work which its creator has put up for judgment or as to the conduct of its performer.

It also includes criticisms of published books on subjects like literature, painting, speech given in public, acting, singing etc.

Seventh Exception – A blasphemy made by a person having lawful authority over another person is not defamation if any person has lawful authority over another person and someone condemns him

Eighth Exception – Prosecution in good faith before authorized person

Defamation is not if an allegation is made in good faith before an authorized person

If A accuses Z in good faith before a magistrate, A is covered by this exception

Ninth exception—A pretext made in good faith by any person to defend himself or the interests of others is not defamation

Note- The interest of the applicant should be genuine and legal.

illustration

A, a shopkeeper, tells B, who manages his business, not to sell Z anything unless he pays the cash, because I am not of the opinion of his honesty.

A is covered by this exception if A in good faith applied it to protect the interests of

A, giving a report to a magistrate superior police officer, imputes the conduct of Z. If those allegations are made in good faith or for public good, A is covered by

Tenth exception- caution given for the good of this person or intended for the public good

Cautioning one person in good faith against another is not defamation

if it is not done for the good of that person or for the public welfare.

case laws

Ashok Kumar Jain Vs Maharashtra State 1986 CrLj. Bombay

If a defamatory statement against any person is published in the newspaper, the editor, printer publisher of that newspaper will be liable.

S Khushbu Vs Kanti Ammal & Ors. 2010 CrLj 2228 SC.

. The suit was filed that the statement given by the accused in a news magazine caused defamation.

It was held that the statement of the accused was given in the newspaper which was expected to be accepted by the society for premarital sex.

He did not comment on the reputation of any particular person, that does not constitute an offense under section 499 and the complainant is not an aggrieved person, so the complaint is held to be dismissed.

N.L. Shah v. Patel, Magan Bhai and others, 1984,

for the appointment of the Chief Minister, the movement of advocates was addressed with the word Kajiya Dalal, this word was not considered a derogatory term by the court as it refers to the entire community of advocates.

Indian Penal Code 500 Punishment for defamation

 Whoever defames any other person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

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