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Defamation under Law of Torts

Defamation under the Law of Torts involves tarnishing someone's reputation. It is defined under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860. When a person makes or publishes any imputation concerning another person with the intent to harm or knowing that it could harm, it constitutes defamation.

Types of Defamation

  • Libel: A defamatory statement published in written form falls under libel. Two conditions must be met: the defendant published the statement about the plaintiff, and other people were exposed to it.
  • Slander: Refers to defamatory statements in spoken form. It can be challenging to prove. There are two types: slander where the plaintiff must prove the statement was heard by another person causing special damage, and slander per se which is inherently damaging to the plaintiff.

Essentials of Defamation

  • The statement must be published and should lower the reputation of the person in society.
  • The statement must refer to the plaintiff directly for liability to apply.
  • The defamatory statement must be known to others besides the plaintiff and defendant to constitute defamation.

Examples and Court Cases

  • In the case of Ram Jethmalani v. Subramaniam Swamy, a statement made in a press conference was found defamatory as it lowered the reputation of the plaintiff.
  • In Newstead v. London Express Newspaper Ltd., a newspaper article led to defamation as it was understood to refer to the plaintiff.
  • In Mahender Ram v. Harnandan Prasad, a defamatory letter written in Urdu script was considered defamation as the defendant was aware the plaintiff did not understand Urdu.

Question for Concept of Defamation under Law of Torts
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What is the difference between libel and slander?
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Defenses available in Defamation under the Law of Torts

  • Justification of Truth: In the context of defamation under civil law, proving that a statement is true serves as a defense. It's essential to demonstrate that the statement made is factually accurate. For instance, if an individual is accused of theft and it can be proven with substantial evidence that the accusation is true, this could be a defense against defamation.
  • Fair Comment: This defense involves expressing an opinion rather than stating a fact. The comment must be fair, without malice, and should relate to a matter of public interest. For example, providing a critical review of a public figure's performance in office would typically fall under fair comment.
  • Privilege: In certain circumstances where freedom of speech is paramount, the law recognizes privileged occasions. There are two types of privilege:
    (i) Absolute Privilege: This type of privilege offers complete immunity against defamation claims, even if the statement is false or made maliciously. Instances where absolute privilege applies include parliamentary proceedings, judicial communications, and state communications.
    (ii) Qualified Privilege: This privilege requires that the statement is made without malice and on a necessary occasion. The defendant must prove that the statement was made fairly on a privileged occasion. An example of qualified privilege could be a reference given by an employer about a former employee's performance, as long as it is done without malice and with fairness.

Question for Concept of Defamation under Law of Torts
Try yourself:
Which defense in defamation involves expressing an opinion rather than stating a fact?
View Solution

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FAQs on Concept of Defamation under Law of Torts - Civil Law for Judiciary Exams

1. What is defamation under the Law of Torts?
Ans. Defamation under the Law of Torts refers to the act of making false statements about someone that harm their reputation. This can be done through spoken (slander) or written (libel) communication.
2. What are some common defenses available in defamation cases under the Law of Torts?
Ans. Some common defenses in defamation cases include truth (if the statement is proven to be true), privilege (such as statements made in court or by government officials), and fair comment (if the statement is an opinion based on true facts).
3. How does the concept of defamation under the Law of Torts apply in legal internships and job opportunities?
Ans. Legal interns may encounter defamation cases while working on litigation matters, and understanding the elements of defamation and available defenses is crucial for providing legal advice to clients. Job opportunities in law firms may also involve handling defamation cases for clients.
4. What are some key considerations for handling defamation cases in judiciary exams?
Ans. When preparing for judiciary exams, it is important to understand the legal principles of defamation, including the elements that need to be proven, the defenses available, and relevant case law. Practicing answering hypothetical defamation scenarios can also help in exam preparation.
5. What are some frequently asked questions related to defamation under the Law of Torts that may be encountered in legal internships or job interviews?
Ans. Some common FAQs related to defamation may include how to differentiate between defamation and free speech, the importance of conducting thorough investigations before filing a defamation lawsuit, and the potential damages that can be claimed in a defamation case.
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