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The offence of defamation is defined in Section 499, IPC, while the penal section is provided for in Section 500,

IPC. The offence of defamation consists of three essential ingredients, namely, (i) making or publishing any imputation concerning any person, (ii) such imputations must have been made by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations and (3) the said imputation must have been made with the intention to harm or with knowledge or having reason to believe that it will harm the reputation of the concerned. Therefore, the intention to cause harm is the sine qua non to prove the offence of Section 499. Ninth Exception Imputation made in good faith by person for protection of his or others interests. It is not defamation to make an amputation on the character of another provided that the imputation be made in good faith for the protection of the interest of the person making it, or of any other person, or for the public good. Exception 9 to Section 499 provides that it is not defamation to make an imputation on the character of another, provided the imputation be made in good faith for the protection of the interest of the making it, or any other person, or for the public good. In other words, the above exception protects, under certain circumstances, imputations concerning the character of another. It relates to communication which a person makes, in good faith, for the protection of his own interests or of any other person, or for the public good.1 What is the standard of proof expected of an accused claiming the protection of Exception 9 to Section 499, IPC and whether strict proof of truth of the allegations made by an accused is necessary to claim protection under this Exception and as to what the requirement of good faith means, came up for consideration before a three-Judge Bench of the Apex Court in Harbhajan Singh v. State of Punjab.2 The relevant observations of the Apex Court are found at paras 18 and 21 of the judgment, which read thus: 18. The proof of truth which is one of the ingredients of the First Exception is not an ingredient of the Ninth Exception. What the Ninth Exception requires an accused person to prove is that he made the statement in good faith. In dealing with the claim of the appellant under the Ninth Exception, it was not necessary, and indeed it was immaterial, to consider whether the appellant had strictly proved the truth of the allegations made by him. "21. Thus, it would be clear that in deciding whether an accused person acted in good faith under the Ninth Exception, it is not possible to lay down any rigid rule or test. It would be a question to be considered on the facts and circumstances of each case - what is the nature of the imputation made; under what circumstances did it come to be made; what is the status of the person who makes the imputation, was there any malice in his mind when be made the said imputation; did he make any enquiry before he made it; are there reasons to accept his story that he acted with due care and attention and was satisfied that the imputation was true ? These and other
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Mustafa Shahidul Islam and Another Vs. Md. Safar Siddique,( Crl. Revn. Petn. No. 116 of 2013). (1965) 2 SCR 235

considerations would be relevant in deciding the plea of good faith by an accused person who claims the benefit of the Ninth Exception." In view of above exposition of law, when the facts of the present case are summated and vetted, there remains no doubt that the words mentioned in the article were not with an intention to defame the complainant or harm her reputation or lower her prestige in estimation of general public and there was total absence of any malice and mens rea.