On April 20, 2020 a defamation notice was sent to Netflix India by Advocates Abhishek Bhardwaj and Hardik Vashisth. The said notice is against the streaming of a comedy show Hasmukh alleged to be defamatory against Lawyers Community.
As mentioned in the notice the episode 4 of Season 1 ‘Bambai Main Bambu’ of the show, the protagonist and writer has allegedly referred to lawyer’s as thief's, scoundrels and goons and have had the indecency to address lawyer’s as rapists also.
As stated in the notice, the statements made in the show are highly defamatory and brings disrepute in the eyes of general public. The statements are towards causing utmost harm to legal profession and impugn the image of lawyers before the viewers.
Hence the lawyers have called upon Netflix to immediately destroy/remove/delete the impugn content.
The lawyers have, in the notice, stated that, the vexatious statements are a constant stigma on the goodwill and unblemished image of lawyers and a constant source of annoyance for the lawyers.
In addition, the notice states “Legal profession has always been an important limb for administration of justice. Without, profession of law, the courts would not be in a position to administer and provide justice efficiently. Such an act of defaming the legal professionals among the general public in India through an online Tv series on web portals is clearly an act falling within the ambit of defamation."
They Advocates further sought an "unconditional apology" from both Netflix, as well as the performer and broadcasters of the show, failing which suitable legal action both in civil and criminal will be initiated against them.
Defamation as Civil Wrong:
Under civil law, defamation is the publication of a statement which tends to lower a person in the estimation of the right-thinking members of the society. To constitute a defamation under civil law, few conditions have to be satisfied:
- The statement made must be defamatory- Defamatory statement is one which tends to injure the reputation of the plaintiff. An imputation which exposes one to disgrace and humiliation, ridicule or contempt is defamatory.
- The said statement must be referred to the plaintiff. It is immaterial that the defendant did not really intend to defame the plaintiff. If the person to whom the statement was published could infer that the statement referred to the plaintiff, the defendant is liable.
- The statement must be published - Publication actually means making the defamatory matter known to some person other than the person defamed, and unless and until that is done, no civil action for defamation lies.
Following are the defenses for defamation:
- Justification of Truth- Truth of the defamatory comment is a complete defence unlike criminal law where it has to be for public good as well.
Fair Comment- Making fair comment on matters of public interest is a defence to an action for defamation. For this defence to be available, the following essentials are required:
a. It must be a comment.
b. The comment must be fair.
c. The matter commented upon must be a matter of public interest.
Defamation under Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC):
- According to section 499 of IPC, 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.
- Section 499 also cites exceptions. These include “imputation of truth” which is required for the “public good” and thus has to be published, on the public conduct of government officials, the conduct of any person touching any public question and merits of the public performance.
- Section 500, which is on punishment for defamation, reads: “Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”