Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 184 of 2014

Defamation as a Criminal Offence

Case Description

This case considers the constitutionality of the criminal offence of defamation under Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC.


In 2014 Dr. Subramanian Swamy, a prominent leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made allegations of corruption against the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalithaa. The state of Tamil Nadu filed several defamation cases against Dr. Swamy in retaliation.

As a response to this, Dr. Swamy challenged the constitutionality of defamation as a criminal offence on the grounds that it was an unconstitutional restriction on the freedom of speech. The case was filed directly in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the constitution. Article 32 allows any person to directly approach the Supreme Court to enforce the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

During the course of the proceedings before the Court, Dr. Swamy was joined by other prominent politicians including Rahul Gandhi of the Congress party and Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Consequently, all the major national political parties of India supported Dr. Swamy in his petition for the decriminalisation of defamation.

Defamation as a criminal offence has a long and chequered history in India. The law was passed during the colonial period and has often been criticised as a tool to stifle political dissent.

Politicians are particularly affected by the application of the defamation law. They contend that rival politicians will file cases against them as a means to discredit them and even to force them to spend time in jail.


The only issue involved in the case was whether defamation should remain a criminal offence.



Latest Hearing

Judgement delivered on 13.05.2016

Final Judgment and Order delivered


  • Concurring
  • Dissenting
  • Recusal/abstention

Thank you for your feedback!