Normally the malice of an agent would destroy the privilege of his principal and both will be liable. This is especially so in the case of corporations.
A corporation will be liable for the malice of its agent. The proprietor of a newspaper will be liable for the malice of the editor or the correspondent.
But the malice of a mechanical agent such as a typist, messenger, or printer will not impose any liability on his innocent principal.
A lawyer would not be liable for a notice containing defamatory matter issued under the instructions of his client. So also a typist who types a defamatory letter will not be liable.
In the case of a joint publication, which happens to be defamatory, the liability of each will depend upon his personal blameworthiness.
If one of the joint publishers was malicious and the publication was made in circumstances under which privilege can be claimed, the malicious person alone will be held liable and he will not be permitted to claim privilege.
In short, the privilege claimed in the case of joint publication will be destroyed only in the case of those who are malicious, and others would not be liable. Privilege attaches to each individual who published the libel and if he is not malicious, he will not be held liable.
In all action for defamation, if the defendant makes an unconditional apology it would mitigate damages, but it cannot affect his liability.
In England, this recourse has a corresponding statutory provision which recognises its position as a plea in law, but in India, there is no similar enactment.
However, the principles of it relating to an apology, except perhaps excluding that of the deposit of money in court by a defendant, are followed.
An apology should "amount to a full and frank withdrawal of the charges or suggestion conveyed and should contain an expression of regret that such charges or suggestions were ever made.
The apology should not be watered down with qualifications; nor leave any suggestion behind; otherwise, it may defeat its own object and do more harm than good.
Hesitation, lurking insinuation, any attempted perversion of the plain import of the language used, or a substitution of one calumny for another, only aggravate the original offence and show a consciousness of the wrong done without the manliness or magnanimity to repair it".
The unprovoked nature of the attack, the violence of the defendant's language, the mean nature of the imputation conveyed, and the fact that the defamation was deliberate and malicious, or that the defendant was culpably reckless or grossly negligent, will aggravate damages.
The subsequent conduct of the defendant, e.g., that he has refused to listen to the explanation or to retract the charge he made or persisted in his plea of justification already unsustained or has only tardily published an inadequate apology-all these too would aggravate damages.