Defamation, Slander and Libel in Pakistan
Defamation in Pakistan
Defamation in Pakistan is considered to be any act made to ruin or lower the respect and reputation of a person/association/group/company. This includes (but is not limited to) Gossiping, spreading rumors, making false allegations, malicious prosecution, using abusive language, insulting someone, backbiting or “backstabbing” someone, degrading and humiliating their intellectual capacity, whether it’s someone directly, their family, their company, their friends or their caste.
In this article on Defamation in Pakistan, we will guide you through the legalities and uses of the Laws in Pakistan on Defamation and will discuss how they can be implemented. We will see their punishments and consequences, as well as their likelihood of success. If you would like further information, feel free to reach out to us.
Islamic Principles of Defamation
As Pakistan is the Islamic State of Pakistan, the underpinning principles of defamation can be sourced from the religion, and from Direct Quotes from the Holy Quran it is made clear that mocking ones honor, using nicknames that the other person doesn’t like, making fun of someone and to speak ill and backbite against someone are all Sins.
Unlike western countries, in cases of Defamation in Pakistan, the Plaintiff (Applicant / Victim) does not need to necessarily first prove that they initially had the respect that they claim has now been lost. In other countries, a person filing for defamation would first prove they were respectable, which in itself could become a torturous affair, as the defense and their attorneys/lawyers/advocates would then counter their arguments, which is an embarrassing process.
The laws of Defamation in Pakistan
In 2002, via the Gazette of Pakistan, The Defamation Ordinance 2002 was released, which covered the legalities of Defamation in Pakistan. It gave importance to the rise of online bullying and cybercrime and gave effective remedies and guidelines on enforcement and punishments.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan also ruled that “In Islam right to honor is declared a sacred right, which means not only the violation of such right is punishable and to be compensated but violation is also to be prevented and thus on one hand protection is to be provided to the victim and on the other hand, one who violates such right is made accountable” (Citation: 2008 SCMR 1118).
Section 499 of the Pakistan Penal Code defines defamation as “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 [them], or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said [….] to defame that person”.
Who can file a case of Defamation in Pakistan?
Whether you are in Pakistan or are from Out of Pakistan (an Overseas Pakistani Legal Service) you can file a case in Pakistan. Providing that the person/entity you are filing a complaint against resides in Pakistan. Even if you are a relative of a deceased person who is being defamed, you may file a case of Defamation in Pakistan.
If you are from out of Pakistan, you would need to file a case through a Power Of Attorney, Special Power of Attorney or by Power of Attorney for Overseas Pakistanis. Once the document is attested and notarized from the relevant government bodies, it would then be ready to begin the case.
Common Defenses for Defamation in Pakistan
When facing allegations in court for Defamation, the following defenses we have observed are usually that
- the persons the allegations are being levied on were not the author/editor/publisher or printers of the defamatory material.
- The statement was true and was made for the Publics Good.
- The comments made were fair (as well as in good faith), and in the Public interest, and was an expression of opinion and not an assertion of facts.
- The Plaintiff / Victim had given consent for the release of such statements.
- The information was under special privilege or privileged communication.
- An offer to apologize and to print such an apology in the press was made and was refused.
Punishments for Defamation in Pakistan.
Depending on the individual case, its merits and circumstances, the following sections of the Pakistan Penal Code may be relevant to Defamation cases in Pakistan: –
- Section 499 Pakistan Penal Code – Defamation
- Section 469 Pakistan Penal Code – Forgery for purpose of harming reputation
- Section 500 Pakistan Penal Code – Punishment for defamation
- Section 501 Pakistan Penal Code – Printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory
- Section 502 Pakistan Penal Code – Sale of Printed or Engraved substance containing defamatory matter
- Section 502A Pakistan Penal Code – Trial of offences
- Section 503 Pakistan Penal Code – Criminal Intimidation
- Section 504 Pakistan Penal Code – Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace
- Section 505 Pakistan Penal Code – Statement conducing to public mischief
- Section 506 Pakistan Penal Code – Punishment of Criminal intimidation
- Section 507 Pakistan Penal Code – Criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication
Section 500 of the Pakistan Penal Code deals with the Punishment for Defamation as “Whoever defames another shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or both”.
This specific sections continues to state that “provided that the originator (the initiator of a defamatory imputation) of the defamatory imputation shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall be less than 5 years, or with a fine that shall not be less than PKR 1,00,000 (One lakh), or both”.
Difference Between Libel and Slander
Defamation ordinarily takes two separate forms; written information (Libel) and Orally transmitted information (Slander). The defamatory material (either libelous or slanderous) must target the victim (by mentioning them or directing the defamatory material to them), it should be heard or viewed to more than one person (other than the victim) and must be defamatory in nature (Citation 2013 CLD 2284 and PLD 2014 Lah. 177)
As per Pakistani Case Law, “Defamation by the printed word is ‘libel’ and defamation by spoken words is ‘slander’”. (Citation: 2000 PCr.LJ 1847). In both instances, the Claimant / Plaintiff / Victim must prove that the statement was false, it referred to the Claimant / Plaintiff / Victim, that it was communicated to at least one person other than the Claimant / Plaintiff / Victim, and that the statement was false.
Libel in Pakistan
Libel in Pakistan is considered to be a publication of false and/or defamatory statements tending to injure the reputation of another person without lawful justification or reasoning. The factors of why such a statement was written, who saw it, the intention behind it and how many people saw it would all be considered when deciding such a case in Pakistan.
For a case to be considered Libel in Pakistan the statement must be expressed in some permanent and/or visible form, such as writing, printing, in a photo, on a comments section online, pictures, statues, Facebook / Instagram / LinkedIn / Youtube / Twitter post and newsfeed (which may include online publications, therefore a cybercrime).
Slander in Pakistan
A Slander in Pakistan is considered to be a false and defamatory statement by spoken words or gestures tending to injure the reputation of its victim. It is an oral statement made, but It is considered a criminal offense. The important difference to note here is that someone who publishes a Libel in good faith (For example, if someone writes “X said …… about Y) they may not be liable for prosecution.
In 2006 the Civil Law Cases (440) reported about slander, stating “Slander is defamation by words or in some transitory or fugitive form. Slander is actionable where the matter is calculated to disparage the plaintiff in regards to his office, profession, etc. without proof of special damage” (Citation: PLD 1961 SC 237)
How to report a Defamatory Matter in Pakistan?
As Defamation is mentioned in the Pakistan Penal code, the aggrieved person can submit a complaint to their local police station through an FIR, file a complaint to the FIA Cybercrime Department, or (if they are abroad) Submit a complaint via Pakistan’s Citizens Portal or through the Overseas Pakistanis Commission. If defamation happened in court (during court proceedings) then the case of defamation would be filed in the court where the incident happened.
Once a report is submitted, the matter would be investigated by the relevant department who would proceed with the criminal aspects of the investigation. The Police, FIA or other Federal Agencies would not prosecute on your behalf with regards to damages, for that you would need legal representation, which is where we can assist you.