We have seen in the news how people or brands receive legal defamation notices, but have you ever wondered what you should do if you find yourself in a similar situation?
This is a defamatory conduct intended to diminish or hurt the reputation of another individual. Due to the frequent occurrence of cases being filed linked to it, it is currently the subject of heated controversy. A defamer launches a defamation case in order to obtain compensation for the damage or harm they have caused.
This action has been taken for the sole reason that a person’s “dignity and reputation” are extremely important and shouldn’t ever be compromised. Additionally, a case for defamation has been developed in order to safeguard a person’s dignity.
Now, whether a certain act qualifies as a defamatory act or not will entirely depend on the great judgement of the honourable judicial system.
Defamation is related to the “Freedom of Speech and Expression” that our Constitution guarantees. This Fundamental Right has several limitations that must be strictly adhered to and is not absolute.
There is even a famous case, Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India, 2006 SCC OnLine Del 14, where it was argued that sections 499 and 500 of the IPC should be repealed because they breached article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
This argument was dismissed by the court, which concluded that the aforementioned parts did not contradict article 19 (1) (a), which must be interpreted in light of the limitations set forth in article 19(2) of the Constitution.
Defamation is divided into civil and criminal offences in India.
The following conditions must be met for a claim of civil defamation to be made:
- Spreading information about someone to someone else that could potentially reduce their dignity in their social, personal, or professional lives;
- The plaintiff must establish harm in order for the defamation to be considered, regardless of the defendant’s intent;
- The derogatory statement about the plaintiff must be made public to another person;
- The assertion made regarding the plaintiff must be untrue.
The Indian Penal Code’s Section 499 provides an example of what would be considered criminal defamation. This is what happens:
Any speech, visual representation, sign, or publication made by a person with the aim to defame that person—either knowing that doing so will injure or harm the person in question, or that doing so has the potential to harm their reputation—is considered to be defamation. In this particular section, there are several examples that are also mentioned through explanations.
Justification 1: If any of the aforementioned acts are committed against a deceased person and if they had been committed against a living person, their reputation would have been damaged, it would constitute defamation. It would also qualify as defamation if it was done with the intention of offending the family or other close relations.
Justification 2: Defamation occurs when the reputation of a group of people, an association, or a firm is damaged.
Justification 3: Defamation would also result if harm is inflicted as a satirical or substitute exclamation.
Justification 4: A person’s reputation won’t be damaged by any accusations unless and until they lessen the person’s moral and intellectual character, character in relation to his caste or calling, or credit, or they lead others to believe that the person’s physical appearance is infirm or otherwise not respectable.
There are some situations where a case for criminal defamation won’t be brought up in relation to criminal defamation, and such situations include:-
- if a truthful statement is made in the interest of the general public;
- if public officials behave in a respectable manner;
- if a statement regarding a case that was resolved on the merits is made in good faith;
- if any judgement of a public performance is made in good sincerity and without bias;
- if someone is in a position of legal power over someone else, that person’s censure;
- if any authorised person is sincerely accused;
- charges produced in order to further the interests of a select few;
- warning with sincere concern for the welfare of the general people.
The Section 500 of the IPC discusses the penalty for libel, which is two years of simple imprisonment, a fine, or both.
Legal Notification of Defamation: Anyone who believes they have been defamed should issue a legal notice to the offender via their lawyers. The precise circumstances that have resulted in libel are described in this legal notification. The person is then urged to retract the remarks or publications, or even to make amends for the harm done to their reputation and sense of dignity. This notice essentially serves as a warning to the other party that a legal case will be filed against them if the conditions are not met.
Benefits: Sending a legal notice has the advantage of making it known that the sender is prepared to suit in court if the dispute cannot be resolved amicably or the requirements set out are not met. In order to prevent further problems, this also obliges the other party to respond to the defamation notice.
How to File a Defamation Case:
- A civil case will be launched in accordance with Order 7 Rule 1 of the CPC, whereas a criminal case will be filed in accordance with Section 499 of the IPC.
- According to section 200 of the CrPC, a defamation complaint must be prepared.
- The appropriate courts will receive both civil and criminal cases.
Documents: The plaintiff must include a copy of the text that gave rise to the alleged defamation as part of the filing of documents. This material may have come from any newspaper, magazine, or electronic source.
Response to Defamation Legal Notice:
- One should read the legal notice after obtaining it and then reflect on whether the issues highlighted have truly occurred or not.
- It is always advised to create a response to such a legal notice with the assistance of some expert legal counsel in the event that the recipient of the notice is not happy with the points presented.
- It is important to mention the precise occurrences that occurred and refute the claims made in the defamation notice draught when responding to the legal notice.