Exceptions of Defamation: Sivaranjani S

Exceptions of Defamation

Author: Sivaranjani S

ISSN: 2581-8465


Section 499 states that defamation is of two types libel and slander which consist in its tendency to cause mental pain, with the will to harm or with the knowledge or reason to believe that it would harm the reputation of a person. This Section 499 includes both making or publishing any accusation on any person, such accusation or imputation has to be made by words, either spoken or intended to be read or sign or visible portrayal. Under Article 21 of the constitution, Reputation is the right to life. Though there is some exception, that imputation should be true and published for the public good. For example any good opinion of a public servant about his/her public service, the conduct of any person which could touch any public question, opinion on any public performance, etc. Though Freedom of speech is a fundamental Right that the Right should not be used for harming someone’s reputation publicly. Similarly there might be a true fact, but that may affect the right to privacy which would even threaten the Right to life and there is no use for the public good on publishing any accusation about that person. 



Section 499 says anyone with words,  spoken or meant to be read or by visible portrayal makes or publishes any imputation, which harms the reputation of any person, is said, to defame that person except in the cases hereinafter excepted, to defame that person.

Explanation 1. Imputation concerning anything to the deceased person amounts to defamation. It would have been hurtful to his feeling or to his family or relatives if the deceased person would have been alive. Such imputation amounts to defamation.

Explanation 2. Any imputation concerning a company or collection of people or an association as such amounts to defamation.

Explanation 3. Any alternative form or ironical expression which would impute and defame a person amounts to defamation.

Explanation 4. Any imputation, which lowers the moral or intellectual character, lowers the character by means of calling him, in terms of his caste, lowers the credit of that person, cause to believe disgust body state which is considered disgraceful, amounts to defamation.

For example,  if A says “ B is a true person, and he has not stolen Cs ring”, intending to cause and believed that B did steal Cs ring, or A asked who stole C’s ring?. A points to B, intending to cause it to be believed that B has stolen, or A draws a picture of B as stealing C’s ring, intending it to believe that B has stolen the ring. This is defamation unless it follows one of the exceptions mentioned below.     


1. Any imputation which is true concerning that person does not amount to defamation, If it is for public good then, imputation should be done or should be published. Well, If it for the public good is a question of fact.

2. Any opinion expressed in good faith concerning any public servant about his public service,  or respecting his character does not amount to defamation.

3. Any opinion expressed in good faith respecting the conduct and character of any person touching public question,  as appears in that conduct, and not further does not amount to defamation.

4. Publishing a substantially true report or the result of proceedings of a court of justice does not amount to defamation.

5. Any opinion expressed in good faith respecting the merits of any case either criminal or civil which has been already declared by the court, or respecting agent or witness, or respecting the conduct and character of such person, as appears in that conduct, and no further, does not amount to defamation.

6.Any opinion expresses in good faith respecting the merits of any performance which its author has given to the public for their judgment, or respecting the character of the author as far as his conduct character appears in the performance, and no further does not amount to defamation. 

For example

a. Any person who publishes his book and submits his book for judgment of people, and any person with good faith gives their opinion about his writing, provided he respects his conduct and character as far as it appears in his book, no further does not amount to defamation.

b.A speaker, dancer, singer or magician, who appears on the public stage, submits their performance for the judgment of the public are also under this exception.

7. Any person who has authority over others either by contract law or conferred by law, pass any censure in good faith on the conduct in matters to which lawful authority relates.


A judge or an officer of the court expresses severe disapproval in good faith concerning the conduct of the witness.

A parent censuring their child in presence of other childrens in good faith.

A teacher censuring a student in front of other students in good faith comes under this exception.

8. With respect to the subject matter of accusation anyone who has authority over another person can accuse in good faith, Such accusation does not amount to defamation.

Example If a child accuses his father  in front of a magistrate  in good faith.

9.  Any defamation on the character of a person made in good faith for the protection of another person, or for public good does not amount to defamation.

Example A old man tells to another person do not sell anything to ‘A’ until he pays you ready cash because I have no hope of his honesty. Here the old man is within the exception.

10. Conveying a caution concerning a person to another person for good of the person, or for the public good, such conduct does not amount to defamation.

These are the exception of defamation

K.S.Sundaram VS. S.Viswanathan and Economist Communications Ltd. Printer & Publisher [1], According to the plaintiff, the second defendant is a publication said to be focusing on business and economics and the first defendant is the Editor of the second defendant; the first defendant falsely and maliciously printed and published about the plaintiff, his family, and his profession. According to the plaintiff, the said article purporting to be a comment on the affairs of the company namely., M/s.Addisons Paints & Chemicals Limited, but, in substance it defamed the plaintiff and his family members and it had injured and lowered his reputation and the members of his family.

On the other hand According to the defendants, there is no cause of action for filing the suit; that the plaintiff failed to clarify as to which part of the article was defamatory or injured his reputation. Further, according to the defendants, the plaintiff had not objected as to what the defendants have stated in the article, but his grievance was that the comment ought to have been made against the Board of Directors. According to the defendants, they never attacked the plaintiff personally or caused injury to him, and that the said article is a fair comment on the poor performance of a 50 years old reputed company that pioneered the production of paints in the country. The said article was published only after a thorough investigation made by the defendants. The said article did not attack the capacity or the character of the plaintiff and it only pointed to the management of the lacunae that resulted in poor growth of M/s.Addisons Paints & Chemicals Limited and there was no malicious intent to publish the article. In these circumstances, prayed to dismiss the suit. The learned single Judge, after taking into consideration the oral and documentary evidence of both sides, dismissed the suit.

Thus, if any information published is true and is for the public good cannot be considered as defamation.

Supreme Court in R.Rajagopals Vs State of Tamil Nadu [2], It has been declared that every individual has right to safeguard the privacy of his own, marriage, motherhood, his family, childbearing and education, among other matters, No one can publish anything regarding above matters without their consent. Hence, if any article has to be published regarding the personal life of a public official, the press media has to publish only after their consent with proper and reasonable verification of all facts.

Section 499 IPC comes under the criminal law, Any person who publishes and makes defamatory imputations. Section 499. IPC emphasizes the words “makes or publishes”. The gist of the offense of defamation lies in the spreading of the fact which is harmful imputation. It is both who publish and makes the defamatory statement is liable under section 499 of IPC.

Offense of defamation means one has to communicate a false statement concerning a person to a third person intended to create imputation and unfriendliness.

Therefore, the essentials of defamation is

1. Defamatory words to be used

2. they must  refer to the aggrieved party

3. they must be published maliciously.

Article 21 of consititution says Right to reputation is right to life of a person.

Constitutional validity:

The constitutional validity of section 499 and section 500 of IPC and section 199 of CrPC was assailed in Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India UOI, [3],  Says that Right to freedom of speech and expression is highly valued but with reasonable restrictions, Section 499 and Section 500 of IPC is no restriction on freedom of speech. Whereas the protection of reputation is a fundamental right of a citizen.

The result of defamation offense is mental suffering. Section 500 states that whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine, or with both.

[3] Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India UOI, Ministry of Law, 2016 CrLJ 3214: 2016 SCI 643.


Defamation is a tort resulting in injury to one’s reputation. It is the act of harming the reputation concerning a person by maliciously making a false statement to a third person. The Constitution of India has provided the citizens certain rights, and they should be used within limits so that they do not infringe the rights of others. There is a limit to the right of freedom of speech and expression which is limited by the provisions of defamation. Any information which is true and has to be published for public good does not come under defamation. Even True facts of any person which would infringe right to reputation or right to privacy and has no public good on publishing are also defamation because there is a limit on freedom of the press which should not affect privacy of the person which would intern gives threat to peaceful living in society. All the laws and regulation are made for the wellbeing of citizens and not to infringe anyone’s legal rights which has nothing to do with the public good.

[1]K.S.Sundaram VS. S.Viswanathan and Economist Communications Ltd. Printer & Publisher IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT MADRAS O.S.A.No.181  of 2011 & M.P.No.1 of 2011

[2]R.Rajagopals Vs State of Tamil Nadu.1995   AIR  264,  1994 SCC  (6) 63

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