Criminal defamation provisions are read in conjunction with the procedural requirements laid down in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). The offence has been categorised as non-cognisable and bailable and hence a mere filing of a police complaint by an aggrieved person does not entail arrest of an alleged offender. Therefore, a complaint can be filed with the help of a criminal law advocate in India against the person who makes any such statement. The complainant needs to record his statement to convince the magistrate that the case warrants summons to the accused and their arrest. Once summoned, the prosecution is set into motion and at this stage, it becomes imperative for the accused to move for bail before the magistrate. If the complainant succeeds in establishing a prima facie case, the trial proceeds, otherwise the accused are discharged without being sent for a full-fledged trial.
How does defamation as a civil wrong work?
Here, defamation can take two forms- libel (by writings) and slander (by spoken words). In order to establish that a particular statement – written or spoken – is defamatory, it must be proved that it is false, defamatory and published and lowered the reputation of a specific person or an identifiable set of people in the eyes of the general public.
A civil suit can be filed before a district court or a high court, depending on the quantum of damages being sought by the complainant. After perusing the plaint, if a judge is satisfied that there is a case to seek replies from the parties from whom the damages have been demanded, notices are issued to them. Later, based on documentary and oral evidence, a decision is reached on whether the complainant deserves a compensation for being wronged. A person, while instituting a civil suit, may also demand a prohibition against further publication of the allegedly defamatory material. In addition to this, a person apprehensive of being defamed in a publication may seek a court’s order to grant an injunction to restrain such publication. However, pre-publication injunctions are rarely granted by courts in India.
What are the valid legal arguments to ward off defamation charges?
‘Truth’ is generally considered to be a defence against defamation as a civil offence but under criminal law, a truth is a defence only in a limited number of circumstances. Besides the statement or writing being demonstrably true, it also requires being proved that the imputation was made for public good. Accusations, censure or imputation made in good faith by persons having lawful authority are also a few exceptions to a charge of criminal defamation.
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