The Indian Penal Code defines Defamation as "Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person"1. Cyber Defamation, also known as Internet Defamation or Online Defamation, is defamation in the world of Internet and its users. Cyber Defamation is amongst one of the various Cyber Crimes that can take place. Cyber crimes are neither bound by time nor by national boundaries i.e. a person sitting in one corner of the world, can at any time easily cause damage to a person sitting in another corner of the world within a few minutes. Cyber Defamation in Corporate World can take place in various forms for example a disgruntled employee of a Company may post some defamatory remarks about the Company on a popular blog site or may send some slanderous email, defaming the company or any of its important managerial personnel, to the clients of the company across the globe; a competitor may divert the client and/or customers of a Company visiting the website of the Company to any other website which may give some misleading information about the Company. Unlike other form of defamation Cyber defamation can cause huge damage to a Company in a very short span of time owning to a worldwide accessibility of internet and its ever increasing number of users.
LAWS APPLICABLE IN INDIA IN CASES OF CYBER DEFAMATION
In India Cyber Defamation results in Civil as well as Criminal proceedings against the accused. Some the Acts and rules that deals with Cyber Defamation are The Indian Penal Code, 1960, The Information Technology Act, 2000, The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and The Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The Charging Act for prevention of Cyber Crimes in India is the Information Technology Act, 2000. Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 provides punishment for online Defamation. Section 66A can be read as follows
6A. Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc..-
Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,-
(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
(b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, persistently makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device;
(c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages,
shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to tthree years and with fine.
Explanation: For the purposes of this section, terms "Electronic mail" and "Electronic Mail Message" means a message or information created or transmitted or received on a computer, computer system, computer resource or communication device including attachments in text, image, audio, video and any other electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message.
Section 65A and Section 65B of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 provides for Admissibility of electronic records as evidence. Some of the sections of Indian Penal Code, 1960 that deal with Cyber defamation are Section 499, 500 and 503.
SOME OF THE JUDICIAL PRONOUNCEMENTS WITH RESPECT TO CYBER DEFAMATION IN CORPORATE WORLD
SMC Pneumatics (India) Pvt. Ltd. v. Jogesh Kwatra2
In India's first case of cyber defamation, a Court of Delhi assumed jurisdiction over a matter where a corporate's reputation was being defamed through emails and passed an important ex-parte injunction.
In this case, the defendant Jogesh Kwatra being an employ of the plaintiff company started sending derogatory, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, filthy and abusive emails to his employers as also to different subsidiaries of the said company all over the world with the aim to defame the company and its Managing Director Mr. R K Malhotra. The plaintiff filed a suit for permanent injunction restraining the defendant from doing his illegal acts of sending derogatory emails to the plaintiff.
On behalf of the plaintiffs it was contended that the emails sent by the defendant were distinctly obscene, vulgar, abusive, intimidating, humiliating and defamatory in nature.
Counsel further argued that the aim of sending the said emails was to malign the high reputation of the plaintiffs all over India and the world. He further contended that the acts of the defendant in sending the emails had resulted in invasion of legal rights of the plaintiffs. Further the defendant is under a duty not to send the aforesaid emails. It is pertinent to note that after the plaintiff company discovered the said employee could be indulging in the matter of sending abusive emails, the plaintiff terminated the services of the defendant.
After hearing detailed arguments of Counsel for Plaintiff, Hon'ble Judge of the Delhi High Court passed an exparte ad interim injunction observing that a prima facie case had been made out by the plaintiff. Consequently, the Delhi High Court restrained the defendant from sending derogatory, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, humiliating and abusive emails either to the plaintiffs or to its sister subsidiaries all over the world including their Managing Directors and their Sales and Marketing departments. Further, Hon'ble Judge also restrained the defendant from publishing, transmitting or causing to be published any information in the actual world as also in cyberspace which is derogatory or defamatory or abusive of the plaintiffs.
In case of Tata Sons Limited vs Greenpeace International & Anr3, the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi Made the Following Observations:
"It is true that in the modern era defamatory material may be communicated broadly and rapidly via other media as well. The international distribution of newspapers, syndicated wire services, facsimile transmissions, radio and satellite television broadcasting are but some examples. Nevertheless, Internet defamation is distinguished from its less pervasive cousins, in terms of its potential to damage the reputation of individuals and corporations, by the features described above, especially its interactive nature, its potential for being taken at face value, and its absolute and immediate worldwide ubiquity and accessibility. The mode and extent of publication is therefore a particularly significant consideration in assessing damages in Internet defamation cases."
Cyber Defamation in Corporate world can have far reaching effects on the organizations in some cases. However there are laws in place to deal with cyber defamation and with admissibility of electronic records as evidence things have been eased. If the plaintiff is able to prove that defamation has occurred then the onus lies on the defendant to prove that he was innocent. Further there are also Cyber Crime Investigation Cells to deal with Cyber Crimes in India.
1 Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code
2 Paper on Cyber Law & Information Technology by Talwant Singh Addl. Distt. & Sessions Judge, Delhi
3 I.A. No.9089/2010 in CS (OS) 1407/2010
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.