Thursday, May 23, 2024

How effective are defamation cases

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There is an increasing trend of filing defamation cases against opponents


The “DMK Files” released by Tamil Nadu BJP chief Annamalai recently — a compendium of corruption allegations against the M K Stalin-led party — has roiled the political circle in the state, with the ruling party sending the BJP leader a legal notice and seeking Rs.500 crore in damages. The DMK has accused Annamalai of making “constant attempts to defame, scandalise and tarnish the reputation” of Chief Minister M K Stalin and other leaders of the party with “vile, defamatory, scandalous and motivated statements”.

Interestingly Annamalai has demanded compensation of Rs.500 crore and Re 1 from DMK’s Organising Secretary R S Bharathi for levelling baseless allegations against him and his party. If any person communicates false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person when observed through the eyes of an ordinary man, it will amount to defamation. Any false and unprivileged statement published or spoken deliberately, intentionally, or knowingly intending to damage someone’s reputation is defamation. Defamation can be treated as an offence under the civil as well as criminal law. Under civil law, punishment in the form of damages will be awarded to the claimant. Under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, defamation is a bailable, non-cognizable offence and compoundable offence.

Ingredients for defamation
There should be a presence of a defamatory statement. The statement should have been made to injure the reputation of a person or a class of persons by exposing them to hatred, contempt or ridicule. It will be looked into from the eyes of a common man to decide whether it damages reputation.

The statement should be specific to a person or a class of persons. General statements like ‘all ministers are corrupt’ can’t be taken as defamatory. The statement may be in oral or written form and should be available to a third person.

Defendant’s rights
l He can plead that he has made only a true statement
l He can plead that he has made fair comments with public interest
l Persons who are holding some positions are privileged to make statements even if they are defamatory.

Defamation under Criminal law
Defamation is a punishable offence under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code 1860. Here the intention to defame is necessary. The allegation should be made with malice intent to defame another or at least the knowledge that the publication is likely to defame another is essential. Section 499 also provides various exceptions.

l Imputation of truth which public good requires to be made
l Public conduct of public servants
l Conduct of any person touching any public question
l Publication of reports of proceedings of courts.
l Merits of a case decided in Court or conduct of witnesses
l Merits of public performance
l Censure is passed in good faith by a person with lawful authority.
l Accusations preferred in good faith to authorised persons.
l Imputationby a person for the protection of his or other’s interests.
l Caution intended for the good of the person to whom conveyed
Difficult to prove
It is difficult to prove the charges. It is also possible in the end, the accused may apologize, which may be accepted by the court. So, in the end nothing happens.In a study in the year 2018, it was found that out of all the judgements delivered about Section 499 of IPC, only 14.29 per cent resulted in the defendant being found guilty of defamation.

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