The Supreme Court has upheld constitutional validity of penal laws on defamation as the right to life under Article 21 includes the right to reputation.
Ruling in this regard was given by two-judge SC bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C Pant on combined petitions filed by a number of politicians and public figures.
The petitioners had alleged that the provisions of criminal sanction act as a censoring device thus violate the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution.
Legal Provisions on defamation: Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 make defamation a criminal offence. As per Indian law’s defamation cases are both a civil wrong and a criminal offence. In a criminal wrong a person can invite imprisonment up to two years as per section 500 of IPC, while in a civil wrong a person may be sued for monetary compensation.
Supreme Ruled that
- Freedom of Right to speech and expression enshrined under Article 19 of Constitution does not confer any right to a person to trample the reputation of others.
- Right to free speech is not absolute, so it does not mean freedom to hurt another’s reputation which is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Defaming a person amounts to offence against society and the government is entitled to lodge a case against a person under criminal defamation law.
- Magistrates across the country to observe extreme caution while issuing summons in private defamation complaints.
- Henceforth the interim protection will continue and criminal proceedings will remain stayed before trial court.