The form of the plea is that “the words complained of are true in substance and in fact.” If the statement is proved to b substantially true, it does not matter if it is incorrect on some unimportant detail. In Alexander v. N.E. Rly. Co., [(1855) 6 B&S 340], the plaintiff was said to be convicted and sentenced to three weeks’ of imprisonment but in fact, it was only for two weeks.
So the matter was substantially true and it is immaterial whether it was incorrect on some material details. The Court found that there was sufficient justification.
Mere belief in truth of the statement, however, is no defence; for a man attacks the reputation of another at his peril, and mistake, however innocent or inevitable, can be of no help. The plea of justification is indeed a dangerous one, for, if the defendant does not succeed in proving every material part of his statement the fact that the defence was attempted may be treated as an aggravation of the original injury.
In criminal law, the scope of justification by truth is more widened. According to the first exception of Section 499 of the IPC, 1860, if the published defamatory statement was made for public good, then only the defendant can succeed, d can be exempted from damages. In Ashok Kumar v. Rakha K. Pandey, [AIR 1967 Cal. 178], it was held that it has to be proved that the publication of the defamatory statement was in public interest or for public benefit.
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