In democracy, every individual has the freedom of expression as his fundamental right. That, however, should not be interpreted as the right to malign the reputation of other people by spreading false information about them. Regardless of whether it is done deliberately or it happens by mistake, defamation can never be justified.
Basically, there are two forms of defamation - slander, which deals with verbal defamation, and libel, which is more often associated with published information. Considering that the two concepts are a lot similar, it can get confusing at times, and basic knowledge about them can be of some help.
What is Slander?
A form of defamation, slander is the act of spreading false information, which results in damage to the reputation of the individual or entity, and may result in financial loss at times. Though slander is more associated with verbal accusations, sometimes body gestures or spread of information on the Internet also amounts to the same.
How Does it Differ from Libel?
Slander is a lot different from the other form of defamation, libel, wherein the false information about a particular individual or entity is published - and not spread by word of mouth. While libel can be proved easily in the court of law, it requires some efforts on the behalf of the complainant to prove slander.
This, in turn, makes the process of suing a bit tedious, and that is exactly why people prefer to opt for out of court settlement in such cases.
On What Grounds Can a Person be Sued for Slander?
The moment you realize that some slanderous information about you, is being circulated, your first reaction is to try to stop it. But that is not as easy as it seems. At times, the only option you are left with is to sue the individual for defamation.
An individual can be sued for slander even when the false accusations started by him are being spread by other people. In all likelihood, you are likely to have a tough time dealing with the legalities of the matter, and a wise thing to do would be to hire an attorney to carry out the legal proceedings on your behalf.
In case of libel, evidence exists in form of published work, which makes it relatively easy to prove that defamation occurred. That, however, is not the case with slander, as the accusations are verbal, and proving that the accused said them is difficult owing to the lack of evidence.
The testimony of an eyewitness (like a colleague or friend who overheard the conversation) does play a crucial role in determining whether slander occurred, but such cases are very rare.
You as the complainant also have to prove that the slander damaged your reputation to a significant extent. If financial aspect is involved, proving it in court becomes relatively easy. Let's say you are in talks with the head of a particular firm (Mr. Z) for a business deal.
At the very last moment, some individual (Mr. X) spreads some negative remarks about you, and Mr. Z promptly decides to call off the talks; as a result of which you end up losing the contract. In such circumstances, you can sue Mr. X for slander, provided you can prove that you lost the contract because of him.
A defamation lawsuit can be filed against the person who has made slanderous statements, even if his act didn't result in any financial loss for you.
In order to prove that the slanderous statements caused a significant damage to your image, you also need to prove that the statements made by the accused were false. If an individual, for instance, alleges that you are suffering from a particular ailment, you can provide medical records that refute his allegation.
If the slanderous statements were made online, screenshots of the webpage containing the 'said' posts or comments act as evidence in course of legal proceedings. The number of comments following the slanderous statements may also act as further evidence.
Even if the posts were deleted before you could take the screenshots, you can contact the administrator for the particular website, and make a formal request to furnish you with the records.
What After You File the Lawsuit?
Once you file a lawsuit against the accused, he will have to file an answer for the same. The accused may either deny coming up with any false accusation or accept the charges, but argue that he shouldn't me made to pay for any damages.
In the first case, you will have to use the evidence you collected, in form eyewitness testimony or hard copy of records, to prove that the statements made by the accused caused harm to your reputation.
In the second case, you will have to provide a detailed record of the financial loss you suffered as a result of the damage caused to your reputation. Based on this evidence, the judge will give the ruling, and direct the accused to pay for the damage/s.
The biggest hindrance in this process is to prove that the accused said something which led to defamation, and that makes many people opt for an out of court settlement - instead of going ahead with defamation lawsuit for the same.