LIBEL AND SLANDER

INTRODUCTON:

Defamation refers to any oral or written statement made by any person that harms the reputation of another. False and malicious statements made by one person injuring the reputation and character of the other person for whom it is said or written. There are two types of defamation, libel and slander. 

LIBEL: 

A false and malicious written statement published by one person injuring the reputation of another is called Libel. Thus, libel is the publication of false, defamatory statements about another person without any lawful justification. Such publication is in the permanent form that tends to harm the reputation of the other person.

In libel, the plaintiff does not have to prove the actual loss of reputation. The plaintiff only has to prove that the defamatory statement made by the defendant could harm his reputation.

ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF LIBEL:

In order to take action for libel, the following essential elements of libel must be proved-

1.       False statement– The defamatory statement made by the defendant about the plaintiff has to be a false statement. However, for taking any action for libel the plaintiff does not have to prove that the defamatory statement made by the defendant is false. The falsity of the charge is assumed in the favour of the plaintiff.

2.       Permanent form of a statement– The defamatory statement made by the defendant against the plaintiff must be in permanent form. Thus, the statement may be in written form, or printed or conveyed by way of representations like caricatures, effigy, statues.

3.       Defamatory statement– The defamatory statement by the defendant must expose the plaintiff to hatred, contempt, ridicule of the people thereby tending to harm him in his profession or business. This must cause him to be avoided or shunned away by society.

4.       Publication of defamatory statement– Legally, communicating the defamatory statement in writing to any person other than the plaintiff to whom it is referred is the publication of that defamatory statement.  However, if the defendant sends the written defamatory statement directly to the plaintiff then there is no publication of that statement. This only injures the self-respect of the plaintiff to whom it is sent.

Case law-

Monsoon v. Tussauds- In this case, a wax effigy of a person tried for murder acquitted later on was kept with the effigy of criminals in an exhibition. This may be considered defamatory as it shows that the acquitted person was a criminal in reality.

SLANDER:

When a defamatory statement is made by spoken words and not in writing it is called Slander. Thus, slander is making any oral or verbal false and defamatory statement about another person without any lawful justification. Slander is in transitory form and not in permanent form. It must be noted that slander is not actionable per se. It is actionable on proving any special damage to the plaintiff.

ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF SLANDER:

   In order to take action for slander, the following essential elements of slander must be proved-

1.       Defamatory statement– The statement made by the defendant about the plaintiff must be defamatory. Thus, it must cause the plaintiff to be shunned away by his neighbours or lowers his reputation in the eyes of others.  Such a defamatory statement by the defendant exposes the plaintiff to hatred, ridicule, contempt and tends to harm him in his profession or trade.

2.       Defamatory statement must not be privileged or a bonafide comment– The defamatory statement made by the defendant must be false. Further, such a  false statement must not be privileged. Moreover, such a defamatory statement must not be a fair and bonafide comment on the matter of public interest.

3.       Defamatory statement must refer to the plaintiff– The defamatory statement must be such that any person hearing it from the defendant can make out that the statement is referring to the plaintiff.

4.       Proof of special damage required– The defamatory statement made by the defendant is not actionable per se. It must cause special damage to the plaintiff. This special damage must be the natural result of the defamatory word spoken by the defendant.

SLANDER ACTIONABLE PER SE:

Slander is not actionable per se. It is actionable only on proving any special damage done to the plaintiff because of the defamatory statement said about him by the defendant.

 In the following five exceptional cases special damage to the plaintiff need not be required to be proved.

a.       Accusing plaintiff of criminal offence– Slander becomes actionable per se if the verbal words used by the defendant about the plaintiff accuse the plaintiff of committing any criminal offence that is punishable corporally and not only by fine.

b.      Accusing plaintiff of having any contagious disease– If the words said by the defendant accused the plaintiff of having any contagious disease or infection then slander becomes actionable per se as it causes the plaintiff to be shunned away by society.

c.       Imputation against profession– The defamatory words said by the defendant about the plaintiff adversely affects the plaintiff in his profession, trade, office. The plaintiff has to show that when the defendant spoke those defamatory words the plaintiff held such profession or office or trade.

d.      Unchastity– Earlier imputing chastity to a woman was not actionable per se. This was abolished by the slander of woman Act, 1891. However, it must be noted that English Act does not extend to India. The Indian High courts in such matters have held different views in different cases.

e.      Aspersion on caste– Calling a high caste Indian woman to be belonging to a lower caste is considered defamatory. This is considered defamatory not only to the woman but also to her husband as he gets defamed because of marrying a lower caste woman.

DISTINCTION BETWEEN LIBEL AND SLANDER:

                   LIBEL                             SLANDER
   
1.Libel is a false defamatory statement made in writing.Slander is a false defamatory statement spoken orally.  
2.Libel is in permanent form addressed to the eye.Slander is in the transient form of either audibly spoken words or visible gestures.
3.Libel is actionable per seSlander is not actionable per se except in the five cases discussed above.
4.In England, libel is a civil wrong and a crimeSlander is merely a tort and not a crime. In India slander is also a crime
5.In England, the limitation period for libel is 6 years and 1 year in India.In England, the limitation period for Slander is 2 years and 1 year in India.
6.Libel is mostly published deliberately as it is in the form of a written statement.Libel may not be deliberately published as it is spoken word which may be said in a heated argument or on provocation.
7.Libel shows greater deliberation as it is planned.Slander shows lesser deliberation as it is not planned.
8.Examples of libel are writing, printing, pictures, statues, effigy caricatures etc addressed to the eye.Examples of slander are defamatory spoken words addressed to the ears.

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