Author : Amalkrishna A S

Sections 499 to 502 of the code deal with the offences of defamation. Defamation is a crime as well as a tort.

A person’s reputation is considered to be his valuable assest . An injury to the reputation is made punishable under IPC.

A man’s opinion of himself cannot be called his reputation. The reputation of a person is the opinion of other persons about him. An injury to the reputation is the most harmful of all injuries. The law cannot allow it. All the system of jurisprudence have recognized reputation as one of the four cardinal rights of man , the other three are rights relating to person, property and liberty.

Defamation is an offence against reputation. Defamation is an accusation made by one person so as to lower another person in the estimation or opinions of others.

A person is liable for defamation if the following conditions are satisfied

(1) He had made or published any imputation concerning any person .

(2) The imputation should be made or published by words, spoken, written , or by signs or by visible representations.

(3) He should have intended to harm the reputation of another person.

To make an imputation concerning a dead person will be treated as defamation, if that will harm the reputation of the near relatives of the deceased who are alive

To make an imputation concerning a company or an association or collection of persons as such may amount to defamation.

An imputation in the form of an alternative or expressed ironically may also amount to defamation.

Essential ingredients

  a. Intention to defame another person

  b. Making or publishing on imputation about a person

  c. Such imputation should have been made

     i. By words either spoken or written or

     ii. By signs or

     iii. By visible representations

     iv. Intent or knowledge that such imputation will harm the reputation of such person or defame him.

Types of defamation

Defamation may be caused by (a) libel or (b) slander

1. Libel: Libel is a defamatory statement made in a permanent form.

  Eg. Printing, writing, painting etc.

2. Slander: Slander is a statement made in a temporary form.

Eg. Spoken words, gestures, signs etc.

Defamation is civil and criminal wrong. The injured party can file a suit for compensation under civil law and also file a criminal case again with the wrong doer.


(1)A draws a picture of Y running away with B’s watch, intending it to be believed that Y has stolen B’s watch. This is defamation.

(2)A says, Y is an honest man and he has not stolen B’s watch, intending to cause it to believe that Y has stolen B’s watch . This is defamation.


Section 499 provides ten exceptions .When the accused person’s act comes within any one of the ten exceptions, he is not liable for defamation. They are :

(1)If the imputation made is true in substance and in fact , and if, it is made for the public good , the imputation made or published is not defamation and the accused is not liable for any offence.

(2)If the accused had expressed in good faith his opinion about the conduct of public servants in discharge of their public function, he is not liable for defamation .If the imputation is referring to his character it should confine to the character appearing from the conduct and not any further. Thus the imputation should be fair criticism of public servants in good faith.

(3)If the accused expressed in good faith his opinion respecting the conduct of a person touching any question, he is not liable for defamation.


Z canvassed votes for a particular candidate, A made in good faith an opinion about the Z’s conduct. A’s comment being in good faith is not defamation.

(4)If a person publishes a true report of the proceedings of the court or of the result of such proceedings, he is not liable for defamation. The publication should be substantially true report.

(5)If a person expresses in good faith, any opinion on the merits of case decided in court or on the conduct of a witness, he is not liable for defamation.


X gave evidence in the court as a witness. Y expresses an opinion that X has made contradictory statements and he must be stupid and dishonest. Y is not liable for defamation, if he has expressed the opinion in good faith.

(6)If a person has expressed in good faith opinion on the merits of any performance of an author, he is not liable for defamation ,if the author has submitted  his  performance to the  judgment of the public


X published a book. Y expressed in good faith an opinion that X’s book is indecent and thus he must be a man of impure mind. Y is not liable for defamation.

(7)If a person has passed censure in good faith, he is not liable for defamation where the person who passed censure had lawful authority over the other


A judge censuring in good faith the conduct of the witness or of an officer of the court  is not liable for defamation.

(8) If a person has preferred an accusation in good faith against another to an authorized person, he is not liable for defamation.


A in good faith made a complaint against z before a magistrate. A is not liable for defamation.

(9) If a person has made an imputation in good faith for the protection of his interest or another’s interest, he is not liable for the defamation.


A is a shopkeeper. He says to B who manages his business sell nothing to Z unless he pays ready money for I have no opinion of his honesty. A is not liable for defamation since his statement is to protect his interest.

(10) If a person had conveyed a caution to another person for the good of that other person or for the public good , he is not liable for defamation.


The punishment for defamation is simple imprisonment upto two years or fine or both.

Case Laws

1.Muppala Ranganayakamma v. K. Venugopala Rao and Yandamoori Veerendra nath 1987 Cri. LJ 2000 A.P, Muppala Ranganayakamma criticized a novel called tulasi dalam written by Yandamoori Veerendra nath a famous novel written in telugu . The evidence shown that she lacked good faith and criticized with malice. It has been held that the accused was guilty of defamation.

2. S.P.Sinha v. R.S. Rathi , 1997 Cri. LJ 212 (SC), the accused the publisher of the stardust magazine published defamatory statements about Matwari community in an interview . The complainant stated that the statement outraged the religious feelings too. It has been observed that a reading of the complaint does not reveal any of the allegations constituting the offence of defamation since, any of the allegations were not made in the complaint was dismissed.

3. Radhanath Rath v.Birja Prasad Ray 1992 Cri.LJ938, the accused the publisher of a newspaper published a defamatory matter against the complainant. He then published his apology and regrets for such publication in the next issue and also informed the complainant that it was published without his knowledge and he had no ill will against the complainant. The complainant filed a defamation case against the accused under section 500,501and 502. The High court of Orissa held that the publisher could not made liable.