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बेसिक इंग्लिश का दूसरा सत्र (कक्षा प्रारंभ : 22 अक्तूबर, शाम 3:30 से 5:30)
Q. Defamation law: In the backdrop of recent ruling of Supreme Court on constitutional validity of criminal defamation, discuss the issue in detail.
May 16, 2016 Related to : GS-Paper-2

Ans :


The defamation is oral or written statement that hurts someone's reputation. Laws which are aimed to protect the reputation of an individual against any defamation are referred as defamation laws.

Defamation laws in India-

According to the Constitution of India, the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression is subjected to reasonable restrictions. In India the defamation laws were drafted in British era (i.e before our constitution came into force) by creating section 499 and 500 in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860. Section 499 of the IPC defines the term defamation and section 500 provides the punishment for defamation.


Defamation is a criminal offence in India, hence many observers feels that criminalisation for defamation dilutes the fundamental right of free speech. Hence there is need to decriminalise penal provision for offence of defamation. But recently the Supreme Court of India has upheld the constitutional validity of penal provisions on defamation law, observing that the right to freedom of speech is not an absolute right.

Analysis of the judgement-

Supreme Courts observation-

  • The free speech guaranteed by the constitution is not an absolute right and it has reasonable restrictions which were defined by constitution itself. Freedom of speech cannot mean that a citizen can defame the other.

  • Reputation of a person was intrinsic to most precious right to life guaranteed under Article 21. Protection of reputation is a fundamental right and also a human right. Cumulatively, it serves social interest and each individual is entitled with dignity and reputation. Hence nobody has a right to denigrate others reputation.

  • A person’s right to freedom of speech has to be balanced with the other person’s right to reputation. Hence criminal defamation as a tool to redress hurt caused to the reputation of a complainant.

Arguments against –

  • The law which was drafted by colonial regime to serve their interest is against the fundamental right of free speech and it does disservice to the modern India.

  • Though protection of reputations is a reasonable goal, in practice, the law is misused by people to settle political scores with their rivals and also used as tool for harassment and intimidation.

  • In the judgement court elevated reputation to the level of a fundamental right and its prevalence over free speech also created uncertainty over the issue. Many argue that it does not have any basis in the structure of the Constitution.

  • The law on criminal defamation is also problematic because the crime is broadly defined and they are vague in nature. It created more confusion and misuse of criminal defamation provisions and hence many argue for decriminalisation of defamation provisions.


There are many instances where many politicians have made it a hobby to accuse adversaries without supporting their charges with even a shred of evidence. Hence in such cases to protect the reputation of individuals the apex court’s ruling on constitutional validity of criminal defamation is welcome move. But vague definition of the term should be defined properly. Misuse of the provisions should be addressed effectively. So that it should not affect fundamental right of free speech.

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