In a democracy, every individual has the fundamental right to express himself or herself. This right 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 similar, it can get confusing at times, and basic knowledge regarding the differences can be helpful.
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What is Slander?
A form of defamation, slander is basically the act of spreading false information about an individual or entity, which results in damage to the reputation of the said individual or entity, and may result in financial loss at times. Though slander is more often 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 proving your case a little more difficult.
On What Grounds Can a Person be Sued for Slander?
The moment you realize that 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 proving your case, and a wise thing to do is 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 easier 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. 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 monetary damages can be established, it may be easier to prove your case. 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.