In the context of the ongoing discussion on defamation and the Indian internet space, it may be useful to point out that an act of criticism has ten defences before it can be called defamation and the speaker/writer be sentenced to simple imprisonment for two years.
WHAT AMOUNTS TO DEFAMATION
Defamation may be by words, either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or visible representation. Any person who makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person, knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, to defame that person.
HOWEVER THERE ARE CERTAIN EXCEPTIONS1.
- It is not defamation to impute anything which is true concerning any person, if it is for public good that the imputation should be made or published.
- It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever regarding the conduct or character of a public servant in discharge of his public function.
- It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion regarding the conduct or character of any person touching any public question.
- It is not defamation to publish a substantially true report or result of a Court of Justice of any such proceedings.
- It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion regarding the merits of any case, which has been decided by a Court of Justice, or the conduct of any person as a party, or the witness or the agent, in such case.
- It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion regarding the merits of any performance which an author has submitted to the judgement of the public.
- It is not defamation if a person having any authority over another person, either conferred by law or arising out of a lawful contract, to pass in good faith any censure on the conduct of that other in matters to which such lawful authority relates.
- It is not defamation to prefer in good faith an accusation against any person to any of those who have lawful authority over that person with respect to the subject matter of accusation.
- It is not defamation to make an imputation on the character of another person, provided it is made in good faith by person for protection of his or other’s interests.
- It is not defamation to convey a caution, intended for the good of a person to whom conveyed or for public good.
PUNISHMENT FOR DEFAMATION
Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or fine, or both.