Defence to Defamation

There are five major defence to defamation


Defamation occurs when the defendant makes a defamatory statement of and concerning the plaintiff with
publication to a third party. There can be oral or written defamation knowns as slander and libel respectively.

Defamation is both a criminal as well as a civil wrong. Section 500 of IPC provides simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with a fine, or with both, for defaming someone.


There is five major defence of defamation

  1. Truth: Always a defense in matters of private concern. For matters of public concern, the plaintiff has the burden to prove falsity as an element of the claim.
  2. Consent: A defense in all defamation matters. If the defendant has permission to make the defamatory statements, the plaintiff cannot support a valid claim.
  3. Humor: There is a first amendment defense related to humor if the defendant can prove that the audience believed the statements were made in jest.
  4. Absolute privilege: Applies in very limited circumstances. In general, absolute privilege exempts persons from liability for potentially defamatory statements made:
    • during judicial proceeding
    • by high government officials
    • legislators during legislative debates
    • during political broadcasts or speeches, and
    • in between spouses
  5. Qualified privilege: Other types of communications are subject to what is called a qualified privilege, meaning that the person making the allegedly defamatory statement may have had some right to make that statement.

If a qualified privilege applies to a statement, it means that the person suing for defamation must prove that
the person who made the defamatory statement acted intentionally, recklessly, or with malice, hatred,
spite, ill will, or resentment, depending on your state’s law.

Just some of the statements for which a qualified privilege applies are:

  •  statements made in governmental reports of official proceedings
  •  statements made by lower government officials such as members of town or local boards
  •  citizen testimony during legislative proceedings
  •  statements made in self-defense or to warn others about harm or danger
  •  certain types of statements made by a former employer to a potential employer regarding the
  • employee, and
  •  published book or film reviews that constitute fair criticism.

The employer review of qualified privilege is particularly noteworthy. In order to avoid defamation claims,
some employers these days refuse to confirm any details about former employees other than their dates of
employment. But certain types of negative statements might fit in under the qualified privilege category, If,
for example, the employer fired the employee for theft, a statement about that to a potential employer
might qualify as a statement made to warn others about harm or danger (i.e., the danger of hiring
someone who might steal from you).

Also Read: These Are General Defences In Law Of Torts


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