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Cyber Defamation

Defamation is defined as an injury to a person’s reputation by a third party. The injury can be through oral or written means or signs or by visual representation. Cyber Defamation is when the injury to a person’s reputation is done through the means of internet or web. The impact of Cyber Defamation is just as harmful as defamation. It’s just that the defamation happens on social networking apps like Twitter, Facebook etc. rather than on newspapers, magazines or TVs. Cyber defamation has grown a lot in the past few years as the internet has become easily reachable and accessible to everyone, and these platforms are used to defame each other.

Provisions governing Cyber Defamation in India

Under Indian Penal Code, 1860

  1. Section 499 states that whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter excepted, to defame that person.
  2. Section 469 states that whoever commits forgery, intending that the document or electronic record forged shall harm the reputation of any party, or knowing that it is likely to be used for that purpose shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
  3. Section 500 states the punishment for defamation i.e. whoever defames another party shall be imprisoned for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine, or with both.

Under Information Technology Act, 2000

Section 66A states that any person who sends by means of a computer resource or a communication device:-

  • any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
  • any content information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, persistently makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,                                            
  • any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.

Judicial Decisions on Cyber Defamation

  1. In the case of SMC Pneumatics (India) Pvt. Ltd. v. Jogesh Kwatra, the employee from the plaintiff company used to send vulgar, derogatory, obscene e-mails to its employers with an aim to defame the respondent. The Delhi court restrained the respondent to send such vulgar, derogatory, obscene emails to its employees.
  2. In the case of state of Tamil Nadu vs. Suhas Katti, obscene, defamatory messages were sent on a group about a divorcee woman. This all led to annoying phone calls to the lady. The charge sheet was filled under sec. 67 of IT Act, 2000 and 469 and 509 of IPC. The accused was convicted for a period of 5 years with a fine of Rs. 5000.

This article is edited by Rupreet Kaur Dhariwal.

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