Does retweeting allegedly defamatory content amount to defamation?

Syllabus: GS-II, Subject: Polity, Topic: Rights Issues, Issue: Defamation and Freedom of speech and expression


  • Defamation involves damaging one’s reputation publicly and communicating defamatory statements to others.
  • Civil defamation encompasses libel (written) or slander (spoken), as per tort law.
  • In criminal cases, defamation must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, as per Section 499 and 500 of IPC.

Relevant case laws:

  • In ‘Subramanian Swamy vs. Union of India’, SC upheld IPC Sections 499 and 500, citing protection of reputation under Article 21.
  • ‘Kaushal Kishore vs Union of India’ emphasised restrictions on free speech must align with Article 19(2).
  • Section 66A of The IT Act, 2000 was invalidated in ‘Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India’ due to ambiguity and violation of Article 19(1)(a).

Retweeting and defamation:

  • Retweets can amplify online abuse, leading to significant harm due to rapid spread.

The Delhi High Court held that retweeting defamatory content can be liable under Section 499 IPC.

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