What is Criminal Defamation?

In India, criminal defamation falls under section 499 of the IPC. Defamation is defined as the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual person, group, product, business, government, religion, or nation.

Section 500 punishes the criminal defamation. The person who commits the crime can be punished with the imprisonment for a term up to two years, or fine, or both.

Section 499 of IPC also mentions exceptions to criminal defamation. The exception includes “imputation of truth” required for the “public good” and has to be published.

The Supreme Court of India, in the Subramanian Swamy vs Union of India, 2014, upheld the constitutional validity of the IPC (Section 499 and 500). The court mentioned the fundamental right to live with dignity and reputation “cannot be ruined solely because another person can have his freedom”.

Difference Between Civil and Criminal Defamation:
Criminal DefamationCivil Defamation
It is specifically defined as an offence under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)It is not defined specifically, and it is based on tort law (A wrongful act, that can be remedied in civil court, usually through compensation)
Objective: It aims to punish a wrongdoer and also send a strong message to others not to commit such acts.Objective: It aims to provide compensation to redress the wrong-doing.
The defamation has to be established beyond a reasonable doubt to punish him/her under Section 499.Defamation can be awarded based on probabilities (the preponderance of the evidence).


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