Offence of Defamation on Internet

06 Mar 2018


Section 499 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 defines the offence of defamation, it may be committed by two ways firstly by speech and secondly by writing. The English law defines former as Slander and the latter as Libel. There are four essentials of offence of defamation which are as follows;
-  There must be defamatory statement.
-  That statement must be understood by reasonable persons.  
-  There must be a publication of such defamatory statements.
-  That publication must be in circulation.[1]
The Supreme Court held that the constitutional validity of criminal defamation law, saying the right to freedom of speech is not an absolute right. This means individuals and media organizations, including social media platforms, can be prosecuted for defaming someone[2].

Defamation on Internet:

When a publication is made on internet, anybody at remote place in the country, at the stroke of his button, may come across the statement and form opinion against the person for whom such statements are made[3], thus constitutes the offence of defamation punishable under section 500 of the IPC, 1860. 


The most important difficulty which the law is facing over the Globe is where to file a complaint for the offence of defamation committed on internet as the circulation of such offence is in more than one jurisdiction. Thus to solve this ambiguity the Hon’ble Court held that the defamatory act’s consequences ensue the places of circulation and hence a prosecution for such statement, if defamatory, can be launched in the Courts exercising its jurisdiction over any one place wherein such circulation is made.[4] Therefore, if the publication of defamatory statements is made on internet and the Court on whose jurisdiction such circulation is made and also having the consequences than the Court on whose jurisdiction such consequences has taken place will have the jurisdiction to try the offence.  


Internet is a wider platform which provides people with the opportunity to express their views and opinions. But the people are using this as opportunity to disrepute someone and misusing the fundamental right of speech and expression. But the Supreme Court has finally decided in the case of Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India[5] the Hon’ble Court held that Section 499 and 500 of IPC cannot to be alleged to be meant to subserve rights inter se of private individuals only and not any public interest or purpose. Defamation under Sec. 499 and 500 of IPC is a crime against the society as it affects the social order and there is nothing in Section 499 and 500 which is inconsistent with any of the provisions of Constitution.

[1] Bannet Coleman & Co. Ltd. v. K. Sarat Chandra, 2016(5) ALT 174

[2] Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India  (2016  7 )SCC 221

[3] P.R. Shivkumar Subhiksha Trading Services Ltd. v. Azim H. Premji 2011 0 CrLJ 2769

[4] (supra)

[5] (2016 ) 7 SCC 221

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