Every person has a ‘right to reputation’. Defamation means injuring the reputation of a person without lawful justification.
A defamatory statement is one which injures the reputation of another by exposing him to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or which tends to lower him in the esteem of right-thinking members of society.
Kinds of Defamation:
Publication of a defamatory statement made in a transient form i.e., spoken words or gestures. For example, defamation by a parrot, defamation by gossip or rumours amounts to slander.
Publication of a defamatory statement made in some permanent form, i.e., writing or other similar forms. For example, drawing a cartoon, taking a picture or writing amounts to libel,
Publication of a statement which prima facie appears innocent but it carries a secondary or latent meaning which is defamatory. For example, making a statement that a lady has given birth to a child when she is unmarried amounts to an innuendo.
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- The words or representation (e.g., painting, writing) must be false and defamatory
- The words must refer to the plaintiff
- The words must be published
Defenses to Defamation:
When the defendant is sued for defamation, he can take following defenses to avoid his liability:
Truth of the defamatory matter is a complete defence. The plaintiff cannot claim injury to reputation for something which is true. In such cases, the defendant is not at fault even if he has made the defamatory statement out of malice or spite.
2. Fair comment:
To comment means to make an observation upon critical analysis of the existing facts. ‘Fair comment’ thus means an observation made honestly upon relevant.
3. Privilege – absolute or qualified:
No action lies against the defendant for defamation if made on certain occasions that enjoy absolute privilege. These occasions include Parliamentary proceedings, judicial proceedings, and communications between organs of States. Even if the statement is false or made maliciously, the defendant is excused.