Legal Maxim

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An indirect remark / Make a sign to


The word innuendo comes from the Latin phrase innuere meaning ‘make a sign’


An innuendo (pronounced in-yu-EN-do) is when you say something on the surface that’s friendly and harmless that implicitly implies an insult or disrespectful remark, a dirty joke, or even social or political critique. Innuendos are widely used as a socially appropriate means of being critical, rude, sexual, funny, or even flirtatious in daily conversations. Typically, Innuendo applies to a circumstance in which an individual expresses a factual situation and a misinterpretation is extracted from it. An intimation regarding someone or something rendered implicitly or explicitly to imply the implied object. Often when the subject indicated is derogatory or derogative.


The former Mayor is a crook,” and Joe Alabaster is the only living ex-Mayor, thus innuendo Alabaster is the target of the statement.


The aspect of innuendo was brought out best in the case of Lewis Vs. Daily Telegraph Ltd. In that case two newspapers published statements that officers of the City of London Fraud Squad were inquiring into the affairs of R.Co. and its subsidiary companies and that the chairman of the R.Co. was one Lewis who brought actions for libel against each newspaper. The two sets of actions were tried separately. L pleaded an innuendo to the effect that the statement meant that he had been guilty of fraud or was suspected by the police of having been guilty of fraud or dishonesty in connection with R.Co.’s affairs. R. Co. pleaded an analogous innuendo. The plaintiffs did not allege special damage. The defendants admitted that the words were defamatory in their ordinary meaning, but pleaded justification in that the fraud squad were at the time of publication inquiring into the affairs of R.Co

In W. Hay and Ors. v. Aswini Kumar Samanta a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court held that it is well-settled that in a “libel action” the ordinary defamatory words must be set out in the plaint. Where the words are per se or prima facie defamatory only the words need be set out. Wherever the defamatory sense is not apparent on the face of the words, the defamatory meaning, or as it is technically known in law, the innuendo must also be set out and stated in clear and specific terms. Where again the offending words would be defamatory only in the particular context in which they were used, uttered, or published.

This Maxim has been written and submitted by Ms. Agrima during her course of internship at B&B Associates LLP. Ms. Agrima is a third-year law student at Hidayatullah National Law University, Naya Raipur, Chhattisgarh.

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