Criminal Defamation Law Constitutionally Valid; Right To Free Speech Does Not Mean Right To Defame Others.

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The Apex Court while upholding the constitutional validity of section 499 and 500 IPC and Section 199(1) to (4) Cr.P.C, observed that it is difficult to come to a conclusion that existence of criminal defamation is absolutely obnoxious to freedom of speech and expression. The court after making careful perusal of provisions of section 499 IPC held that they are neither unreasonable nor arbitrary nor vague. The court further opined that criminal defamation is not a restriction on right to freedom of speech and expression. It also observed that right to free speech does not mean that a citizen can defame the other as protection of reputation is not only a fundamental right but also a human right.

With regard to section 199 Cr.P.C the court held that public servant constitute a different class as public function stands on a different footing than the private activities of a public servant. The provision gives them protection for their official acts and there cannot be any defamatory attacks on them because of the discharge of their due functions. However, the court clarified that criticism is different than defamation. (Subramanian Swamy v. Union of India, W.P (Crl.) No. 184/2014).

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