Understanding Civil and Criminal Defamation
By Team Legistify / 2016-03-30
Defamation is a catch-all term for any statement that hurts someone's reputation. Written defamation is called "libel," and spoken defamation is called "slander." Defamation is not a crime, but it is a "tort" (a civil wrong, rather than a criminal wrong).

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In India, defamation can both be a civil wrong and a criminal offence. The difference between the two lies in the objects they seek to achieve. While a civil wrong tends to provide for a redressal of wrongs by awarding compensation, a criminal law seeks to punish a wrongdoer and send a message to others not to commit such acts. In Indian laws, criminal defamation has been specifically defined as an offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) whereas the civil defamation is based on tort law – an area of law which does not rely on statutes to define wrongs but takes from the ever-increasing body of case laws to define what would constitute a wrong. Moreover, in a criminal case, defamation has to be established beyond a reasonable doubt but in a civil defamation suit, damages can be awarded based on probabilities.

Laws relating to Criminal Defamation

Section 499 of the IPC defines what amounts to criminal defamation and few subsequent provisions specify what the punishment for having committed defamation would be. Section 499 states defamation could be through words-  spoken or intended to be read, through signs, and also through visible representations. These can either be published or spoken about a person with the intention of a damaging reputation of that person or with the knowledge or reason to believe that the imputation will harm his reputation.

Section 500 stipulates an imprisonment of up to two years, with or without fine, for someone held guilty of criminal defamation. However, criminal defamation is a compoundable offence and parties can seek a closure of the case by reaching a compromise. You can talk to a criminal lawyer in India to know more about criminal defamation.

What is the procedural requirement for filing a criminal defamation case and how is the law set into motion?

Defamation is a catch-all term for any statement that hurts someone's reputation. Written defamation is called "libel," and spoken defamation is called "slander." Defamation is not a crime, but it is a "tort" (a civil wrong, rather than a criminal wrong).

Have a Legal Issue?

Get connected to the Best Lawyers and Chartered Accountants Near You!


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