Navigating the Minefield: Balancing Online Defamation and Free Speech in India

  • Soubhagyalaxmi Patra
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  • Soubhagyalaxmi Patra

    Student at KIIT School of Law, India

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The internet age has revolutionized India's media landscape, democratized expression but also unleashing a torrent of online content rife with defamation and abuse. This article delves into the intricate web of India's legal framework surrounding online defamation, scrutinizing its attempts to safeguard individual reputations while protecting the fundamental right to free speech enshrined in the Constitution. We begin by examining the evolution of India's defamation laws, from pre-internet statutes like the Indian Penal Code to the Information Technology Act, 2000, and its subsequent amendments. The article meticulously unpacks the legal definitions of defamation in the digital realm, highlighting the challenges posed by anonymity, virality, and the permanence of online content. Central to the discussion is the ongoing tension between curbing online defamation and upholding free speech. We analyse landmark judicial pronouncements that have attempted to strike a balance, such as the Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India case, which recognized the "chilling effect" of overbroad defamation laws. The article delves into ongoing debates regarding intermediary liability, hate speech, and the need for nuanced legal frameworks to address the specificities of online communication. Furthermore, the article critically examines the practical implications of enforcing online defamation laws in India . In this article we will also explore the complexities of investigating cybercrimes, the lengthy judicial processes, and the uneven access to legal recourse. The article also acknowledges the role of civil society and technology companies in promoting responsible online discourse and fostering digital literacy.




International Journal of Law Management and Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 1, Page 1039 - 1049


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