Centre has asked law commission regarding decriminalisation of defamation

In a matter Supreme Court has asked the centre to file a response regarding defamation to be decriminalised and the Centre has requested a report from the Law Commission regarding decriminalisation of defamation.

On this subject matter law commission has had consultation and has put in its report on the website wherein it has stated that the respondent have stated their dissatisfaction with regard to the defamation law that is existing today.

It has cited and said that criminal defamation law goes against freedom of speech and also violates international norms on it. Committee of UN Human rights has also explained that laws relating to defamation should be made with utmost care and that it should not go against freedom of expression of people.

Law Panel is agreeing to move ahead and recommend to decriminalise defamation laws since such laws are infringing freedom of speech.  Supreme Court also held that under Indian Penal Code defamation is an offence but it must be seen if it bars Article 19(2) of the Constitution and puts in restriction on freedom of speech and expression. This was observed when the apex court asked the centre to file a response regarding the same. Section 499 and Section 500 of IPC was also questioned by the Supreme Court which make the defamation an offence under law and it bars on fundamental right directly i.e. on freedom of speech.

The law of torts deals with civil defamation and criminal defamation is an offence under IPC Section 499. Under defamation law a journalist has no special status in India. Eventhough there is freedom of speech and expression for press which is stated in Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution but Article 19(2) restricts this freedom under the ground of defamation.

Previously Editors’ Guild had made demands to decriminalise the defamation law especially regarding the laws that regulate media. Laws relating to contempt of court has also been considered to review by the Law Panel. Although defamation is a good basis for putting restrictions to freedom but it is misused by many people under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

by Sushma Javare.