The Delhi High Court’s Landmark Ruling on Retweeting and Criminal Liability in Defamation Cases


In a recent judgment in the case of Arvind Kejriwal Vs. State & Anr., the Delhi High Court made a significant ruling regarding the liability of individuals who retweet defamatory content on social media platforms. This ruling has far-reaching implications for the interpretation and application of criminal defamation laws in the context of online behaviour.


The Issue at Hand:

The central question addressed by the court was whether retweeting a defamatory post constitutes publication, thereby attracting criminal liability. The court’s decision departed from previous interpretations by holding that a retweet indeed amounts to publication and can result in criminal liability.


Distinction Based on Influence:

One of the key aspects of the ruling was the distinction drawn based on the influence and reach of the individual retweeting the content. The court emphasized that the impact on the reputation of the aggrieved party depends on the level of influence and the potential reach of the retweeter. While a retweet by a public figure with a large following can significantly amplify the harm caused by defamatory content, the impact may be less severe when the retweeter has limited influence or followers.


Dichotomy in the Ruling:

This ruling marks the first instance where liability for criminal defamation has been imposed on a person solely for retweeting or republishing defamatory content. The court underscored the varying degrees of impact based on the influence of the retweeter, thereby establishing a nuanced approach to assessing liability in such cases.


Distinction between Platform and Originator:

Another significant aspect highlighted by the judgment, albeit implicitly, was the distinction between the originator of the defamatory content and the platform facilitating its dissemination. Unlike platforms, which may enjoy certain protections, individual originators may be held liable for the content they create and share.


Role of Disclaimers:

The court also addressed the role of disclaimers in mitigating liability for retweeting defamatory content. It held that a disclaimer could serve as a protective shield, provided it clearly indicates the retweeter’s stance on the content and whether they endorse or refute it.


Subjectivity and Uncertainty:

Despite the clarity brought by the judgment, concerns remain regarding the subjective nature of assessing liability based on the number of followers and the perceived impact of the retweet. This subjectivity introduces uncertainty into the regulatory framework and may have a chilling effect on free speech.


The Call for Decriminalization:

In light of these concerns, some legal experts advocate for the decriminalisation of defamation, suggesting that it should be treated as a civil wrong rather than a criminal offence. They argue that this approach would align better with the principles of free speech and mitigate the ambiguity surrounding liability in online contexts.



The Delhi High Court’s ruling in Arvind Kejriwal Vs. State & Anr. represents a significant development in the interpretation of criminal defamation laws in the digital age. While it clarifies certain aspects of liability for retweeting defamatory content, it also raises important questions about the balance between free speech and the protection of reputation in online discourse. As the legal landscape continues to evolve, it is imperative to strike a balance that upholds fundamental rights while addressing the complexities of online communication.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The content may not reflect the most current legal developments and is not guaranteed to be accurate, complete, or up-to-date. Readers should consult a qualified legal professional before taking any action based on the information provided. The authors and publishers disclaim any liability for any loss or damage incurred as a result of reliance on this article. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship.

To Top

Disclaimer & Confirmation

As per the rules of the Bar Council of India, we are not permitted to solicit work and advertise. By clicking on “I Agree” below, the user acknowledges the following:
The user wishes to gain more information about us for his/her own information and use;
There has been no advertisement, solicitation, invitation or inducement of any sort whatsoever from us or any of our members to solicit any work through this website;
The information about us is provided to the user only on his/her specific request and any information obtained or materials downloaded from this website is completely at the user’s volition and any transmission, receipt or use of this site would not create any lawyer-client relationship.
The information provided herein should not be interpreted as legal advice, for which the user must make independent inquiries.
Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this website, JurAce Legal LLP, disclaims all liability arising from reliance placed by the user or any other third party on the information contained or provided under this website.
All disputes, if any, relating to this website are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of courts in New Delhi, India only.