Section 499, Indian Penal Code IV

The Fourth Chapter is intriguingly titled ‘Bloodless Murder: Defamation‘.

Senior Advocate Pinky Anand and her daughter Gauri Goburdhun have stood by Sections 499 & 500, IPC in Trials of Truth: India’s Landmark Criminal Cases, (Shobhaa Dé Books, Penguin, 2017).

Here is brief excerpt from pp. 61 to pp. 79:

The origin of defamation can be traced to the idea of scandal magnatum – ‘the slander of great men’ – a concept invoked to protect the carefully built and nurtured reputations of aristocrats. The IPC, however, derives the law of defamation from more humble backgrounds, which many argue was a direct result of the need to protect the interests of the British Raj in colonial India… Despite having a less-than-nobel beginning, the law of defamation was given a place in our newly free nation post independence. However, it gave rise to a new question: When the interests of the new republic were not in conflict with the interest of its citizens, did the law of defamation still require to be criminalized? 

If the law has become an instrument of oppression and a tool to harass freethinkers, why does the Indian Legislature continue to provide criminal genesis to it? The answer to the question lies in the recent Judgment of Subramanian Swamy, (2016) 7 SCC 221…

I am of the personal opinion that the Judgment, though subjected to criticism on various public platforms, has sound legal principles at its core. In a country where reputation is often considered more valuable than life, the decriminalization of defamation would dilute the seriousness of the harm it has the ability to cause. As the base of this lies the idea that honor cannot be recompensed monetarily and that is a collective thought of the majority of the society. Legislature has excercized its wisdom to uphold this idea by retaining defamation as a crime.”