What is the Punishment for Defamation?

Last updated on Jun 8, 2022

If you say or write something to insult the reputation of a person, group of people or a company, a court can punish you for defamation. When the insult is to a group of people, the court should be able to identify this class or group of people.

If you harm the reputation of someone who is dead, the court can still punish you for defamation. The Court will look at whether:

  • you would have harmed the person’s reputation if they were alive, and
  • if you  hurt the feelings of their family or relatives.

The deceased person’s legal representatives or relatives can file the case on their behalf.

The punishment for defamation, in such cases, is jail time up to 2 years and/or a fine.

Printing or engraving something harmful to a person’s reputation and selling or trying to sell printed or engraved defamatory material are also criminal acts. The court can punish you with jail time of up to 2 years and/or with fine.

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What are the Forms of Defamation?

Saying or writing something which is harmful to a person's reputation, is called defamation. It’s against the law to intentionally harm someone’s reputation, cause them to be hated or disgraced through text, image, cartoons, caricatures or effigies.

Are Reviews/Critiques Excluded from Defamation?

If a review or critique of any public material or performance was made in good faith, then it is not considered an act of defamation.

How Can You Prove Defamation?

To prove a defamation case, you have to show that the person defamed you, with published material, and you suffered some injury to your reputation as a result.

What is the Punishment for Printing/Selling Defamatory Material?

Selling or trying to sell printed or engraved material which is defamatory can be punished with jail time of up to 2 years and/or with a fine.

Censorship of Films/Movies

Censorship is when an authority (such as the government) cuts out or stops the release of information. The official stance of the Indian Government is that it does not censor films, it only certifies them.

What does the law say you can/cannot do?

While anything that lowers the authority of the courts can be considered as contempt, there are certain exceptions given in the law. These include innocent publication and distribution of matter, fair and accurate reporting of a judicial proceeding, fair criticism of judicial actions, complaint against presiding officers of subordinate courts and truth.