Lex Bona Fide – Law Journal



Indian laws have evolved during the last few decades and centuries, several criminal laws were adopted and a few were amended as well. The reason that the evolution has been forced due to the demand of it in the recent past and the importance that law has risen through the years. One of the adopted laws is “Tort Law”. Tort law in India had played a major role in dealing with many uncodified laws in Indian law, one of those is Civil Defamation. In this article, we have discussed how civil defamation cases have risen and why they should be now codified while talking about how uncodified nature in the Indian context is problematic.



Defamation is defined as harm to somebody’s reputation[1]. Civil defamation specifically is defined as the defamation for which compensation is demanded from any civil court for the damage that has been caused to that particular person. Civil defamation’s nature in Indian law is uncodified, which means there are no set rules of law in India. Civil defamation comes under torts law in India. To further understand the meaning of civil defamation and why we should codify it in India, we should analyse our case.



The scope of this article is limited to understanding what civil defamation means in India, how Indian courts deal with it, what it is in the status quo and why we should codify it.

Libel and Slander

Unlike the English, there is no such concept of Libel and Slander in India. Libel is written publishment of the defamatory statement and slander is the verbal publishment of the same. In India, both libel and slander are considered civil and criminal offence. But when it comes to the codified law for both of them, criminal defamation is a criminal offence under Section 499 and 500 of the Indian Panel Code. But on the other hand, as we have earlier discussed as well. For civil defamation, there is no codified law for that in India. The problematic part here is that the generalisation of the happen between libel and slander is quite not justifiable. As the damages for both of them is different. For example, the label is actionable-per-se but for slander, special damages are needed, even though not considering the amount of defamatory statement it was. The damages thing is quite difficult to understand in the context of libel and slander so we will discuss it in detail separately in this article.

Uncodified laws in India as the civil defamation in India is not codified, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Superintendent and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs v. Corporation of Calcutta[2]. And making it more clear in Ganga Bai v. Vijay Kumar[3], the Hon’ble Apex Court referred to this aspect only to clarify the position that it is beyond any trace of doubt “that civil action for which there is no codified law in India, a common-law right can be taken recourse to under Sec. 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 unless there is a specific statutory bar in that regard.” So much reliance on only one section is a barrier for the justice as the jurisdiction of the court to rule over the matters get narrowed down which leads to denial of justice. There is a need for proper codified law in this regard to remove the dependence on a single source. 



General standards of the common law of criticism apply to both defamation and criticism subject to the conditions and qualifications among criticism and slander. Contemplations of a similar kind may influence the proportion of harms for composed maligning, however not simply the privilege of activity. 

Suggested vindictiveness: – Unless it is noxious, criticism can’t be supposed to be noteworthy. Without admirable motivation or pardon, the individual who so distributes the matter gets liable for the normal results of his demonstration. It is known as suggested malevolence. 

What is distribution: – Presumed injury or demonstrated injury to the standing of an individual ought to be the reason for the activity. However, a simple affront can’t be a reason for an activity for maligning. The explanation that underhanded talking can’t be significant on the off chance that it is imparted distinctly to the individual discussed. The word ‘distribution’ implies that this sort of essential element of the unjust demonstration is currently called ‘distribution’. The basic utilization of the word ‘distribution’ is something other than what’s expected. 



Words are not on the substance of them slanderous: – 

In any case, the Court must be fulfilled that they are fit for the disparaging importance attributed to them. Regardless of whether they are so is an issue of law. On the off chance that they are, and if there is some other importance which they are additionally prepared to do, it is an issue of actuality which meaning they passed on under every one of the conditions of the distribution being referred to. An averment by the offended party that words not derogatory in their conventional significance or without an exceptional application was utilized with predefined hostile importance or application is called an insinuation, from the old type of arguing. 

The real significance of the words is sine qua non:- 

An individual who utilizes the language must bound to know the common impact of such language. The aim with which the matter was distributed isn’t measured however the inclination and real importance of the words are fundamental when those words were distributed. It implies that obvious certainty. It is in this manner the slanderous penchant is plausible in law and demonstrated indeed. 

Reiteration and Reports might be slanderous: – 

The distribution is no less the speaker’s or author’s demonstration, and none the less makes him liable, because he just rehashes what he has heard. 

Defamation may comprise in a reasonable report of articulations which were made, and on an event which without even a moment’s pause supported the first speaker in making them; criticize in the reiteration of gossip just as talk, and without communicating any faith in its fact. 

“A man may unfairly and malevolently rehash what someone else may have articulated upon a legitimate event,” and “as extraordinary a physical issue may gather from the illegitimate redundancy as from the main distribution of defamation; the principal utterer may have been an individual crazy or of terrible character. The individual who rehashes it gives more prominent load to the defamation”. Conditions of this sort may include for much in surveying harms, yet they mean nothing towards deciding if the litigant is obligated by any stretch of the imagination.




 The damages or the remedies are quite less when it comes to civil defamation as civil defamation is uncodified and the harm to the reputation and society is not considered a big thing in Indian courts[4]. In the case of Delhi High Court in Ram Jethmalani vs Subramaniam Swamy[5]. Considered the professional standing of the Plaintiff and stated that: “Considering the professional standing of the plaintiff and his stature in social life I award damages in the sum of Rs.5 lacs in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendant.” 

Now imagine how can an average citizen will get damages for the harm to the reputation even if the person with such big professional and social standing is getting the compensation of 5 lakhs. The special damages concept just underestimates the actual damage and presumed damage as well. 




The codification of civil defamation is needed in India only because the light of justice is minimal in Indian law for uncodified offences. Such that the impact of it on the society is we have seen and harm of reputation has been generalised due to this. While analysing the topic we strictly followed the major reasons and how Indian courts are letting civil defamation being a small offence and compensation for it being so little. The analyst is of the view that more exploration is to be accomplished for the codification of the precept of common slander even though the idea of maligning was arranged in India as Criminal wrong under area 499 and 500 of IPC. It is likewise important to take note that all criminal courts in India are over troubled. The majority of Indian individuals doesn’t mindful of cures under the law of misdeeds. A huge number of criminal offences emerging out of rash or careless demonstration of charges (like offences under secs. 337, 338, and 304-An of IPC) are forthcoming in each criminal court in India. On the off chance that this sort of cases is supplanted with satisfactory common laws, we can diminish the pendency of criminal cases in India. Additionally, the offence of criminal trespass, criticism, attack and so forth may likewise be supplanted with sufficient common laws to diminish the pendency of criminal courts. We regularly see all instances of secs. 337and 338 of IPC are being finished with a bargain in Lok Adalat. The pay to the person in question, in Lok Adalat, isn’t at all satisfactory as there is no severe guideline to force pay. The cases that we have mentioned justify our stance that codification of civil defamation. While concluding the whole article what we can say is that we should move forward and codify the civil defamation in India to ensure proper justice to the people of this country and to increase the ambit of Indian law.






[1] Winfield & Jolowicz, Law of Torts, (Edwin Peel, James Goudkamp, 19th ed., 2014.

[2] Superintendent and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs vs. Corporation of Calcutta, 1967 2 SCR 170

[3] Ganga Bai vs. Vijay Kumar, 1974 3 SCR 882

[4] Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, Law of Torts (28th ed., 2019

[5] Ram Jethmalani vs. Subramaniam Swamy, MANU/DE/8034/2006.