How To File Defamation Case in India ?
What Is Defamation?
Defamation is defined as an act of harming one’s reputation in an oral or written statement. The term “reputation” is referred to as an integral and important part of an individual’s dignity. Defamation can be done verbally as well as in a written format. The Constitution of India has introduced defamation laws to protect the reputation of an individual. The objective of this law is to maintain the rights of an individual to their reputation, freedom of speech and expression.
Types Of Defamation
On the basis of the behaviour of the defamation, it has been categorised into two types:
- Libel – When defamation of an individual is in a written format such as print, pictures, cartoon, etc., which is inaccurate and can damage the reputation is known as libel defamation. It is actionable without providing proof of damage as it is in the written form and can be produced as evidence. It shows the intent of grudge and a willful attempt to damage the reputation of someone.
- Slander – When an individual gets accused verbally or through sign language or gestures and gets damage the reputation is described as slander defamation. It is actionable when an offended person provides proof of damage. It may be unintentional and may be due to the provocation of any staged moment.
Defamation in India can be considered as both Civil offences as well as Criminal offences.
- Civil Offence – The remedy for civil offences covered under the Law of Torts. According to the law, an offended person can approach the district or high courts to get the recovery in the form of monetary compensation for the damages from the accused person.
- Criminal Offence – Both libel and slander can be included in criminal offences under section 499 and 500 of Indian Penal Code (IPC). Criminal offence gives the chance to the offended person to file a criminal case against the accused person. The punishment for a guilty person before the criminal court of justice is either simple imprisonment up to 2 years or requires paying fine or both. It is a bailable, non-cognizable and compoundable offence under the criminal law.
Steps In A Defamation Lawsuit
Let us discuss the steps in a defamation lawsuit if the decision is made to sue the defamer for either libel or slander defamation. It would be advisable to consult an attorney before taking any step as they have required knowledge about the subject and they could guide in the right direction. However, we need to know the requirements of the lawsuit process before discussing the steps.
The most important requirement is the copy of a statement. It could be a written statement or online statement. In the statement, the following points must be included for the defamation case.
- A defamatory statement
- The statement must directly/indirectly recognise the victim
- The statement needs to be communicated to a minimum one person other than the victim.
Few points which should not include in the statement for defamation case:
- The honest or true or reliable statement issue or publish or speak in the national or public interest.
- Public opinion
- Conduct on publicly asked questions
- Any kind of publication of court proceedings or trial or judgement made by the court.
The supporting documents are required to provide to an attorney once the statement is ready. The supporting documents depend on the nature of the case. For example, account or bank related documents which show the loss of money needs to be provided in the case of monetary reimbursement.
File a Complaint – A complaint can be filed as soon as the necessary documents get verified by an attorney and finished with the initial investigations. This is the first step to initiate the lawsuit. In such lawsuits, the plaintiff needs to be more patient as this is a very slow-moving process.
Service and Discovery – The defendant gets served after the lawsuit is filed. The defendant gets time to write in response. The court then issues a scheduling order for all the important deadlines. Here the term “Discovery” is introduced. Discovery is the formal investigation undertaken by both the parties of a case. Each party sends the other a list of questions which requires an answer under oath. This process helps both parties to get to know about the opposite.
Depositions – Deposition is the process where the witnesses are interviewed by an attorney of the opposite party under oath. This helps him or her to gauge the strength of the case and witnesses. Sometimes they may question others (other than witnesses) who are related to the case such as a doctor, friends, etc.
Settlement – The settlement negotiation begins after the discovery process. Deposition process gives a better picture and idea about the case to an attorney. The attorney informs and advises the client about the settlement by considering all the gathered information about the case. The case should be settled out of court or go for trial is absolutely the client’s decision. However, the attorney’s advice should be considered as they have enough experience to deal with such cases. The attorney knows how strong or weak the case is. In some cases depending on the situation attorney may advise for settling even if the case is strong. There are certain scenarios that need to be considered while thinking about the settlement. One should trust their attorney however decide on their own whether to settle it or not.