This article has been written by Akshay Pradeep during his internship.

The term ‘Cyber Defamation’ means publishing of falsehood about a private in cyberspace which will injure or demean the reputation of that individual. In India, defamation is taken under account as both civil and criminal offence, and thus legal remedies are given to the victims by the Indian judiciary system. The growth and development of technology have brought a drastic change within the world. The web has made many things far easier for all folks through various social networking sites. Whether its communication or access to information, this stuff became a bit of cake for all folks. But these facilities may sometimes cause misuse also. As users can publish and disseminate information through these social networking sites, Defamation has become a topic of concern. With the rise of so-called trends of sharing or posting information or pictures on certain social networking sites and commenting on them have increased the danger of ‘Cyber Defamation’.

What is Defamation?
Defamation are often understood because the wrongful and intentional publication of something either within the written or oral form a few person to harm his reputation within the society. For a press release to be considered as defamatory, the subsequent essential elements must be fulfilled.
• There must be the publication of the defamatory statement, which suggests coming to the knowledge of a 3rd party.
• The statement must be to the plaintiff
• The statement must be defamatory in nature.

Types of Defamation
Defamation is often bifurcated into two categories that are –
• Libel – A statement that’s defamatory and is published during a written form.
• Slander – A defamatory statement spoken meaning a verbal sort of defamation.
Thus, the elemental distinction between both the kinds is that the medium during which they’re expressed that’s, one is expressed during a written form while the opposite in oral form.

Cyber Defamation
The widely used social media brought a revolution not only within the Indian sphere but also all across the planet. The remarkable growth of the web has provided people with a platform to precise their opinions, thoughts, and feelings through various sorts of publications. Nonetheless, the convenience of accessibility and publication during this online world has created several risks as these digital platforms are susceptible to be exploited by unscrupulous Internet users within the name of freedom of speech and expression. Thus this has led to huge number of cases on “Cyber Defamation”. Cyber defamation may be a new concept but the normal definition of defamation is injury caused to the reputation of an individual within the eyes of a 3rd person, and this injury are often done by verbal or written language or through signs and visual representations. The statement must ask the plaintiff, and therefore the intention must be to lower the reputation of the person against whom the statement has been made. On the opposite hand, Cyber defamation involves defaming an individual through a replacement and much simpler method like the utilization of recent Electronic devices. It refers to the publishing of defamatory material against a person in cyberspace or with the assistance of computers or the web. If an individual publishes any quite defamatory statement against the other person on an internet site or sends E-mails containing defamatory material thereto person to whom the statement has been made would tantamount to Cyber defamation.

Liability in Cyber Defamation
A person are often made responsible for defamation both under civil and legal code

  1. Indian Penal Code
    Section 499 of IPC says that “Whoever by words either spoken or intended to be written or by signs and visual representations makes or publishes any imputation concerning a person meaning to harm or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm the reputation of such person is claimed, except within the cases hereinafter expected to defame that person.”
    Section 500 of Indian Penal Code provides for punishment wherein “any people held liable under section 499 are going to be punishable with imprisonment of two years or fine or both.”
    Section 469 deals with forgery. If anyone creates a false document or fake account by which it harms the reputation of an individual. The punishment of this offence can extend up to three years and fine.
    Section 503 of IPC deals with the offence of criminal intimidation by use of electronic means to wreck one’s reputation in society.
  2. Information Technology Act, 2000
    Section 66A, Information Technology Act, 2000
    – This law has been struck down by Supreme Court within the year 2015. This section defined punishment for sending ‘fault’ messages through a computer, or any device. Since the govt didn’t clarify the word ‘offensive’. The govt started using it as a tool to repress freedom of speech. In 2015, the entire section was quashed by the Supreme Court. If a private has been defamed in cyberspace, he can make a complaint to the cybercrime investigation cell. It’s a unit of the Crime Investigation Department..

What sort of defamatory publications are admissible by courts in India?

According to section 65A and 65B of the Indian Evidence Act –

  1. Any electronic proof or record printed on a paper or recorded or copied in optical or magnetic media shall be considered as a document and shall be admissible by court.
  2. Online chats also are admissible.
  3. Electronic mails also are admissible

What are you able to do if someone defames you on social media?

Mostly people plan to ignore negative comments by the name of trolling. But ignoring might not be a suitable option always. you’ll plan to file a lawsuit against the defamer posing for damages and takedown of the falsehood from the platform otherwise you also can formally write to the social media platform on which the statement was published and ask them to require down the false content. Face book, Instagram and Twitter are wealthy companies, and may easily buy your damages. If the concerned matter is extremely serious a branch of Crime Investigation Department called Cyber Crime Investigation cell is where you’ll file a complaint. These cells are opened in various cities and affect serious cyber crimes done through internet and social media websites.

Judiciary on Cyber Defamation
In its first ever case on Cyber Defamation in SMC Pneumatics (India) Pvt. Ltd. v. JogeshKwatra, wherein a disgruntled employee sent derogatory, defamatory, vulgar and abusive emails to the corporate ’s fellow employers and to its subsidiaries everywhere the planet with an intent to defame the corporate in conjunction with its director , the supreme court of Delhi granted ex-parte ad interim injunction restraining the defendant from defaming the Plaintiff in both the physical and within the cyber space.
Further, within the case of KalandiCharanLenka v. State of Odisha, the Petitioner was stalked online and a fake account was created in her name. Additionally, obscene messages were sent to the buddies by the culprit with an intention to defame the Petitioner. The supreme court of Orissa held that the said act of the accused falls under the offence of cyber defamation and thus the accused is liable for his offences of defamation through the means of faux obscene images and texts. In another case, M/S Spentex Industries Ltd. &Anr. vs. Pulak Chowdhary, the petitioner had filed for a compulsory and prohibitory injunction alongside the recovery of Rs. 50, 00,000/¬ as damages for loss of reputation and business thanks to defamatory e-mails sent by the defendant to the International Finance Corporation, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, President of Republic of Uzbekistan and UZEREPORT (a news website portal and publisher of monthly news reports).
The case was filed within the year 2006 and was concluded in 2019 wherein the Hon’ble Delhi District Court decreed that the Plaintiffs be awarded 1/10th of the worth (Rs. 5,00,000/-) also because the value of the suit to be borne by the defendants. Further it decreed that the defendant is restrained from making false and defamatory statements, whether written or oral.

Where and when to lodge a complaint
Any person aggrieved of cyber defamation can file a complaint to the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell at the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal. However, it’s pertinent to notice that lodging a cyber defamation complaint against an individual is one among a significant nature, since the act of filing a complaint also brings the reputation of the accused within the line of fireside. Further, the burden of proving that he / she has been defamed lies entirely with the complainant and if he / she is unable to undertake to to so, the defendant may have right to sue for defamation, false and pointless complain, and damages thereto

Case Laws

• KalandiCharanLenka Vs. State of Odisha –In this, the petitioner was being stalked continuously by the culprits , and a fake account of her was later created and vulgar messages were sent to the buddies by the culprit. A morphed naked picture was also posted on the walls of the hostel where the victim resided. The court held the culprit responsible for his offence.
• Rajiv Dinesh Gadkari through P.A. Depamala Gadkari vs Smt. Nilangi Rajiv Gadkari – during this case, after receiving a divorce letter from her husband, the wife filed a suit against the husband for harassing her continuously and by uploading obscene photographs and defaming her. The offence has been registered and maintenance of Rs. 75,000 per month has been claimed by the respondent.

The present trend of legislation and also the judicial approach to such offences appears to be such these offences are treated lightly and therefore the punishments aren’t adequate having reference to the gravity of such offences. Defamation laws should be sufficiently flexible to use to all or any media. A balance will always get to be struck between freedom of expression and reputation. The problem is that the defamation laws world over were principally framed at a time when most defamatory publications were either spoken or the merchandise of unsophisticated printing. Hence it’s not practical to use the principles derived from 18th and 19th century cases to the problems which will arise on the web within the 21st century. The last word aim of legislation world-wide should be to scale back the prices of world trade by issuing out inconsistencies and uncertainties resulting from differences in national laws.

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