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Extortion (IPC)

Updated: May 12


Extortion (IPC)
Extortion (IPC)

Content:-



Sec. 383. Extortion  


Whoever, intentionally puts any person in fear of any injury to that person, or to any other, and thereby dishonestly induces the person so put in fear to deliver to any person any property or valuable security, or anything signed or sealed which may be converted into a valuable security, commits “extortion.” 



Illustrations

  • A threatens to publish a defamatory libel concerning Z unless Z gives him money. He thus induces Z to give him money. A has committed extortion.


  • A threatens Z that he will keep Z’s child in wrongful confinement unless Z will sign and deliver to A a promissory note binding Z to pay certain monies to A. Z signs and delivers the note. A has committed extortion. 


  • A threatens to send club-men to plough up Z’s field unless Z will sign and deliver to B a bond binding Z under a penalty to deliver certain produce to B, and thereby induces Z to sign and deliver the bond. A has committed extortion.


  • A, by putting Z in fear of grievous hurt, dishonestly induces Z to sign or affix his seal to a blank paper and deliver it to A. Z signs and delivers the paper to A. Here, as the paper so signed may be converted into a valuable security, A has committed extortion. 

 
 

Essential Ingredients of Extortion 


Extortion, akin to blackmail, involves dishonestly obtaining payments or benefits from someone by instilling fear through threats. It occupies a middle ground between theft and robbery. The key components of extortion include intentionally inducing fear in a person and dishonestly persuading them, under that fear, to surrender property or valuable assets to another individual.



  • Puts any person in fear of injury - To qualify as fear under extortion, it must be of such intensity as to disrupt the person's mental composure and deprive them of free consent. For instance, in a case where an accused threatened to expose a clergyman's indiscretions, causing fear of reputation damage, it constituted extortion.



In extortion cases, the validity of the accusation is irrelevant; the mere threat of harm, whether physical or reputational, constitutes an offence.


The term "injury" encompasses harm to body, mind, reputation, or property, as per Section 44 of the IPC. However, the accused must have the capability to inflict or cause the injury.



Fear must precede the surrender of property for extortion to occur. Wrongfully retaining property obtained without threat does not constitute extortion, even if threats are later employed to maintain possession.



For example, a police officer demanding money for bail under threat of continued detention commits extortion. For an act to constitute extortion, there must be a threat to perform or omit a legally binding action in the future.


Mere promises to undertake non-binding actions, coupled with threats of non-compliance, do not constitute extortion, as demonstrated in the case of A.R. Antulay v R.S. Nayak.



Extortion can also involve threats to a person's modesty or privacy. For instance, when a headmaster coerced a teacher into signing blank papers by threatening her modesty, it was considered extortion. Similarly, extorting money by threatening to publish compromising photographs or initiating legal action also falls under extortion.



  • Dishonest inducement - The crucial aspect of extortion lies in the dishonest inducement. Mere causing of wrongful loss is insufficient; there must be an intention on the part of the individual instilling fear to cause wrongful loss or gain.



If the aim is solely to recover legitimately owed debts, extortion cannot be established as there is no evidence of dishonesty.


For instance, in Ujagar Singh v Emperor, where the accused forcefully reclaimed property he believed belonged to him, without dishonest intent, extortion charges were dismissed.



Similarly, if the accused genuinely believes that the complainant has wrongfully taken money belonging to them, any attempt to recover it cannot be deemed extortion, as demonstrated in Mahadeo v State, where the accused acted in good faith to reclaim their money.



  • Delivery of property or valuable security by the person put in fear to any person - For extortion to occur, there must be inducement through threat of injury, compelling the victim to surrender property to the perpetrator. This fear-induced surrender is essential for the offence. Additionally, it's noteworthy that even if one person issues the threat and another receives the property, both are liable for extortion.



The term "valuable security" refers to documents affecting legal rights, including acknowledgments of legal liabilities. "Anything signed or sealed" encompasses incomplete documents susceptible to extortion, as per Section 383 of the IPC.


If a person, out of fear, offers no resistance to property being taken but doesn't physically hand it over, it's not extortion but robbery under Section 390. Robbery, a heightened form of theft or extortion, requires actual delivery of property to be considered extortion.


However, if fear of violence is present during extortion and the offender is there at the time, it may escalate to robbery.



Similarly, theft can escalate to robbery if injury or threat of injury accompanies the act of stealing. For instance, tying up a victim while stealing their jewellery constitutes robbery. It's crucial to note that injury in robbery must occur during the theft or while carrying away stolen property.


In contrast, injury caused solely to evade capture by a thief doesn't elevate theft to robbery. For example, throwing stones at pursuers to avoid capture constitutes theft, not robbery.



Sec. 384. Punishment for extortion  


Whoever commits extortion shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine or with both.



Acts Not Amounting to Extortion


These scenarios do not amount to extortion:


  • Obtaining a bond under the threat of withholding legal services as a lawyer


  • Refusing to perform a marriage ceremony and record the marriage unless a payment of Rs. 5 is made.


  • Refusing to allow individuals to take firewood from a government forest without paying the required fees.


  • Collecting payment from owners of trespassing cattle under the threat of impounding the cattle if payment is refused.


In the case of Dhananjay v State of Bihar (2007) 14 SCC 768, the accused demanded payment of money from the informant, which was admittedly owed. However, there was no allegation that the money was paid due to fear of injury. Therefore, the act did not constitute extortion.




Leading Case Laws 


  • JADUNANDA SINGH v EMPEROR  (AIR 1941 Pat 129) - In a case where the accused forcibly took thumb impressions from two individuals, the High Court considered whether the offence under Sec. 383, IPC was established. The court noted that Sec. 383 requires proof that the victims were induced to deliver papers containing their thumb impressions out of fear of injury. However, the prosecution failed to provide evidence beyond the forcible taking of thumb impressions. 



The distinction between "giving" and "taking" thumb impressions is crucial. If the victim's thumb is forcibly seized and applied to the paper, it's not extortion but simply physical compulsion. However, if the victim is coerced into giving their thumb impression by fear of injury, it constitutes extortion.



Since the prosecution only proved forcible taking without establishing inducement through fear, the offence of extortion wasn't established. The act didn't amount to theft or robbery as the papers weren't taken from the victims' possession, constituting no more than criminal force or assault punishable under Sec. 352, IPC.



  • STATE OF KARNATAKA v BASAVEGOWDA  [(1997) Cr.L.J. 4386 (Karnt.)]: In this case, the accused husband took his wife to a forest under false pretences and threatened to kill her unless she handed over all her ornaments. The wife, fearing for her life, complied. The accused then assaulted her and took the jewellery. The defence argued that it's normal for a husband to possess his wife's ornaments, but the court disagreed. While a husband may hold his wife's jewellery for safekeeping, forcibly taking them against her will constitutes a criminal offence. The court clarified that the wife's personal property belongs to her, and taking it without her consent is unlawful. Therefore, extorting the ornaments from her under threat and subsequently possessing them makes the husband liable for extortion under Sec. 386, IPC, as the ornaments were taken under the threat of death.

 
 

Sec. 385. Putting a person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion

 

“Whoever, in order to the act of extortion, puts any person in fear, or attempts to put any person in fear of any injury, shall be punished with imprisonment.... to two years, or with fine, or with both.”



Under Section 384, a person commits "extortion" when they induce someone to give up property by instilling fear of harm. This section penalises the act of inducing fear for such purposes.



In a case where a cloth-seller was threatened with a fine for selling foreign cloth and subsequently experienced picketing of his shop, resulting in loss of business and payment of the fine, the individual responsible for the picketing was found guilty under both Section 384 and Section 385 [Chaturbhuj (1922) 45 All 137].



In another instance, a mukhtar in a criminal case threatened to ask irrelevant, scandalous, and indecent questions to prosecution witnesses with the intent to extort money. He was deemed guilty under Section 385 [Fazlur Rahman (1929) 9 Pat 725].



Similarly, when a police officer abetted accused individuals of extorting money from a shopkeeper by threatening arrest, he was held guilty under Section 385 (Chand Ahuja v Gautam Huda, 1987 CrLJ 1328 P&H).



Differences between Extortion and Theft


Extortion occupies a unique position between theft and robbery, delineating a distinct legal realm. In English law, the concept of 'Black Mail' closely aligns with extortion as defined in Indian law. While both theft and extortion involve the dishonest acquisition of property, they diverge in crucial aspects.



A pivotal case, Dhananjay v State of Bihar (2007) 14 SSC 768, elucidated the disparities between theft and extortion. Extortion hinges on overpowering the will of the owner, compelling them to part with their property against their volition. Conversely, theft entails the intentional appropriation of property without the owner's consent.


This distinction underscores the nuanced nature of criminal conduct, highlighting how the mode of acquisition and the psychological impact on the victim differentiate these offences. Extortion, with its coercion and manipulation, stands apart from the covert act of theft, shedding light on the subtleties within the spectrum of criminal behaviour



Here are the key differences between extortion and theft:



Extortion

Theft

Method of Acquisition

In extortion, the perpetrator acquires property by overpowering the will of the owner through coercion, threats, or intimidation. The victim is compelled to part with their property against their consent due to fear of harm or other consequences.

In theft, the offender obtains property without the consent of the owner. This is typically achieved through stealth, deception, or other means that do not involve directly coercing the victim.

Consent of the Owner

The victim's consent to part with their property is obtained under duress. They give up their property not out of free will but due to the fear of harm or other negative repercussions.

The victim's consent is entirely absent in theft. The perpetrator takes the property without the owner's permission or knowledge.

Intent

The primary intent in extortion is to obtain property or some other benefit from the victim by instilling fear or intimidation. The focus is on coercing the victim into compliance.

 The main intent in theft is to acquire the property itself without regard for the victim's response. The perpetrator aims to take possession of the property discreetly or by overcoming any security measures without the owner's knowledge.


Use of Force or Threats

Extortion often involves the use of threats, coercion, or intimidation to induce the victim to part with their property. This may include threats of violence, harm to reputation, or other adverse actions.

Theft typically does not involve direct confrontation or coercion of the victim. The perpetrator may employ stealth, deception, or other non-confrontational means to take the property without the victim's knowledge.






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