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What is Defamation? Key Points

Defamation :

A Delhi court has rejected a criminal defamation case filed by a former Union Minister against a journalist over her tweets accusing him of sexual harassment.

  • The Court took into consideration of the systematic abuse at the workplace due to the lack of a mechanism to redress the grievance of sexual harassment at the time of the incident of sexual harassment against the accused journalist took place.
  • It was prior to the issuance of the Vishaka Guidelines by the Supreme Court and enactment of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.


  • In India, defamation can both be a civil wrong and a criminal offence.
  • The difference between the two lies in the objects they seek to achieve.
  • A civil wrong tends to provide for a redress of wrongs by awarding compensation and a criminal law seeks to punish a wrongdoer and send a message to others not to commit such acts.
  • In Indian laws, criminal defamation has been specifically defined as an offence under section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) whereas civil defamation is based on tort law (an area of law that does not rely on statutes to define wrongs but takes from the ever-increasing body of case laws to define what would constitute a wrong).
  • Section 499 states defamation could be through words, spoken or intended to be read, through signs, and also through visible representations.
  • These can either be published or spoken about a person with the intention of damaging the reputation of that person or with the knowledge or reason to believe that the imputation will harm his reputation.
  • Section 500 of IPC, which is on punishment for defamation, reads, “Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
  • Moreover, in a criminal case, defamation has to be established beyond reasonable doubt but in a civil defamation suit, damages can be awarded based on probabilities.