NEW DELHI: The Law Commission of India has recommended that defamation should be retained as a criminal offence within the framework of criminal laws in India. The recommendation is in line with the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, which replaced the Indian Penal Code (IPC), as it has retained criminal defamation but added community service as one of the punishments.
The Law Commission’s report, which was published on Friday, said the right to reputation flows from Article 21 of the Constitution. “Reputation being an integral facet of Article 2l, it cannot be allowed to be jeopardised just because an individual has to enjoy his freedom of speech at the expense of hurting the sentiment of another. It is to be understood that the restriction is not completely on one’s thoughts and ideas. It is a protection that one can avail in a situation where his reputation is hurt,” said the report.
The panel headed by Justice Ritu Raj Awasthy, reviewed all laws relating to criminal defamation in the light of the existing criminal laws, including the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 and the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023, as well as all judgments on the matter, said the report. The law panel was mandated to reform the defamation law by the Union law ministry in August 2017, stating that existing laws neither serve the interests of the aggrieved person nor the principle of free speech.
No absolute right
According to the Law Commission’s report, “there is no absoluteness in any of the rights and both have to be harmoniously construed in its spirit to make the society peaceful and liveable.”