top of page

Right To Bodily Integrity Defamation: Law Of Torts Vis-À-Vis Art.19 (1) (A) And Art, 19 (2) Of The I

Written by: Ishit Todwal


Fundamental rights were deemed vital for both the growth of each individual's personality and the protection of human dignity and were therefore included in the constitution.

Everyone, regardless of color, religion, caste, or sexual orientation, has the right to submit a petition before the Supreme Court and the High Courts to have their basic rights preserved and protected.

Fundamental Rights (FR) are classified into seven categories, with each category protected under Articles 12-35.

Article 19 of the Constitution speaks about the right to freedom of speech and expression. Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution guarantees the right of free speech and expression to all people. Free expression and speech are among the most highly treasured rights a person can have, and they are essential to the functioning of any democratic society. It is the most fundamental condition of liberty and has a significant influence on the development of public opinion.

In the legal world, freedom of speech and expression refers to the right to communicate and express oneself via any medium (words, writing, images, signs, the internet, and so on). Having an opinion and expressing it, as well as the freedom to receive and communicate information, are fundamental rights guaranteed to every person. The term "freedom of speech and expression" has a wide range of interpretations. It includes the freedom to disseminate ideas, as well as the publishing and distribution of such ideas.

As every coin consists of two sides, Article 19 contains the same kind of dark side which puts limitations on the exact right about which subsection 2 of article 19 speaks about.

Aside from the limitation imposed by Section 19(2), the law recognizes that the problem might arise in everyday life and, in order to address it, the subject has been specifically stated in Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, which has been designated as 'Defamation.'


Defamation is damage to a person's reputation caused by a false statement. A man's reputation is recognized as his property, and anyone who causes property damage is responsible under the law; similarly, anybody who damages a person's reputation is equally liable under the law.

Following are the Essentials of Defamation[1]:

1. The statement must be defamatory

2. The statement must refer to the plaintiff

3. The statement must be published

A statement that should be regarded defamatory in nature must be of the sort that would impair the reputation of a particular person; that individual must be the plaintiff, and one of the most crucial components of the statement is that it must be conveyed to a third party. This defamatory statement will be of such a kind that it will impugn the dignity of the plaintiff in the minds of the third person to whom the statement has been communicated.

Types of defamation[2]

Under English law there are two types of defamation:

1. Libel

2. Slander

Libel is a defamatory statement expressed in a persistent and visible manner, such as writing, printing, or broadcasting. Slander, on the other hand, is a remark delivered through spoken words or a transitory form such as body actions, eye contact, or other means.

The case Ram Jethmalani Vs. Subramanian Swamy[3]well depicted the issue of defamation in which the defendant made a statement that the plaintiff was paid by a banned organization to defend the then-CM of Tamil Nadu in the matter of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. It was held by the court that the statement was prima facie derogatory and the defendant was liable for libel. Now coming back to the articles,

Article 19 (2)

According to Article 19 (2), Nothing in sub clause (a) of clause ( 1 ) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence”.[4]

This article states that there are certain restrictions over the right of freedom of speech and expression which is provided by the state to its citizens. When these restrictions are breached, then cases of defamation occur. These cases can be either civil or criminal in nature.


Defamation vis-à-vis Article 19(1) A, 19(2)

Rights are an instrument for peacefully and respectfully living one's life. It is never ethical to use such a right to make someone's life more difficult and unpleasant. In the case, Vijay Kant v. Union of India[5], Sections 499 and 500, according to counsel for the State of Tamil Nadu, cannot be considered to go beyond reasonable limits on free speech because article 19(2) itself imposes such a restriction. There must also be a discussion about the conceptual meaning of the terms 'defamation' in article 19(2) of the Constitution and 'defamation' in section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. It was also noted that freedom of speech and expression must be limited and does not include the notion of defamation as outlined under section 499 in the case Arvind Kejriwal v. Union of India[6]. The bench of Dipak Mishra and Prafulla C. Pant JJ rendered the judgment, confirming the constitutional validity of sections 499 and 500 of the IPC, 1860.

It starts with a conceptual examination of the terms- defamation and reputation, which involves looking up definitions in dictionaries, international instruments, and other related sources.

Following that, it categorizes the various submissions of the petitioner's several counsels as follows:

1. Defamation is primarily a civil action, rather than a criminal process.

2. If defamation is believed to constitute a criminal proceeding, the principle noscitur a sociis must be applied to construe the genuine meaning of Article 19(2) while still protecting the fundamental right under Article 19(1) (a).

3. Article 19 (2) is intended to cover a public law remedy for a grievance rather than an actionable claim against a person.

4. Defamation of a person is an injury to their reputation perpetrated by another person, and it is not a fundamental right. As a result, criminal defamation cannot claim to derive from the term "defamation" as defined in Article 19 (2).


The right to freedom of speech allows one to express one's own opinions as well as the opinions of others. These liberties, however, are subject to a number of limitations. Defamation, contempt of court, decency or morality, the security of the state, cordial relations with foreign states, incitement to an offense, public order, and the preservation of India's sovereignty and integrity are among the restrictions listed in Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.

Clause (2) of Article 19 prohibits anybody from making any comment that disparages the reputation of another person or entity. Defamation is a criminal offense in India, and it is covered under Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code. The right to free expression is not absolute. Nowhere in the constitution does it say that one has the right to harm another's reputation, which is protected by Article 21. Although the truth is considered a justification against defamation, the defense would be effective only if the statement was made "for the public benefit," which is a matter of fact that must be assessed by the court.

Thus, when power is provided, it never means that it can be exercised in any manner as an individual wants, but it always comes with some responsibilities. Freedom of speech and expression provides us the power to present our views and opinions but we should have a thought in the back of our mind that our opinion should not become suffering for others. Reputation is a crucial element to survive in human society. It takes years to build a reputation that should not degrade just because of a false statement of any other person. If the other has the right to speak then the one defamed has also the right to live his life with peace and dignity. So, Defamation as a law is well suitable and crucial for human lives.

[1] DR. J.N. PANDEY, Law of Torts, pg. 177 (10d ed. 2021) [2] DR. J.N. PANDEY, Law of Torts, pg. 173-175 (10d ed. 2021) [3] Ram Jethmalani v. Subramaniam Swamy, AIR 2006 Delhi 300, 126 (2006) DLT 535. [4] INDIA CONST. art.19, cl.2. [5] Vijay Kant v. Union of India [T.P. (Crl) No. 94-101/2015] [6] Arvind Kejriwal v. Union of India [W.P. (Crl) No. 56/2015)].

35 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

bottom of page