EXTORTION

extortion

INTRODUCTION

Extortion is defined in Section 383 of the Indian Penal Code according to which 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”.

The essential ingredients are as follows:

  1. Intentionally putting a person in fear of injury,
  2. The purpose of which is to dishonestly induce the person put in fear,
  3. To deliver property or valuable security.

In other words, The offense of extortion is an intermediary between the offense of theft and robbery. Extortion becomes robbery if the offender at the time of committing the offense puts the person in fear and commits the extortion by causing fear of instant death, hurt or wrongful restraint. However, in the robbery, the property can be removed by force without the person delivering the property.

Before a person can be said to put any person in fear of any injury to that person, it must appear that he held out some threat to do or omit to do what he is legally bound to do a thing which he is not legally bound to do and says that if money is not paid to him, he would not do that thing, such act would not amount to an offence of extortion.

The fear of injury contemplated under Section 383 need not necessarily be bodily harm or hurt. It will include injuries to mind, reputation or property of the person. The fear must be of such a nature and extent as to unsettle the mind of the person on whom it operates and takes away from his acts that element of free voluntary action which alone constitutes consent.

The ‘fear’ must be of such a nature and extent as to unsettle the mind of the person on whom it operates, and takes away from his acts, that element of free voluntary action which alone constitutes consent.

The word ‘injury’ is defined in Section 44 of IPC as denoting ‘any harm whatever illegally caused to any person, in body, mind, reputation or property. The injury contemplated must be one which the accused himself can inflict or cause to be inflicted and the threat of divine punishment will not come under it.

The essence of Section 383 is dishonest inducement and obtaining delivery of property in consequence of such inducement. Therefore, an intention to cause wrongful loss or gain is essential; merely causing wrongful loss would not be sufficient.

For an offense under Section 384 actual delivery of property by the person put in fear of injury is essential. Where a person through fear offers no resistance to the carrying off of his property but does not deliver any of the property to those who carry it away, the offense committed is not extortion but robbery. The offense of extortion is not complete until delivery of property by the person put in fear.

It is not necessary that the threat should be used, and the property received, by one and the same person. The threat may be used by one person and the property must be delivered in consequence of such a threat, i.e., the delivery of property to the person who puts in fear of injury to the one who delivers that property is not necessary, it may be delivered to any person at the insistence of the former and in consequence of the threat used. All those persons who use threat and to whom property is delivered will be liable for the offense of extortion.

The thing delivered under Section 383 may be any property or valuable security, or anything signed or sealed with may be converted into a valuable security. Valuable security is defined in Section 30 of the Code thus: “The words ‘valuable security’ denote a document which is, or purports to be, a document whereby any legal right is created, extended, transferred, restricted, extinguished or released, or whereby any person acknowledges that he lies under legal liabilities, or has not a certain legal right.

For example, A writes his name on the back of a bill of exchange and the effect of this endorsement is to transfer the right to the bill any person who may become the lawful holder of it, the endorsement is a ‘valuable security’.

The expression ‘anything signed or sealed’ denotes that even incomplete deeds may be the subject of extortion. If a minor boy is beaten and forced to execute a promote, the person using such force would be liable under Section 283, but the forcible taking of thumb impression on a piece of paper which can be converted into a valuable security does not amount to extortion but to an offence under Section 352 of the Code.

But incomplete deeds may be the subject of extortion. For instance, A signs his name to a promissory note in which date and amount etc. are not filled up and delivers it to B, the offense of extortion is committed because a promissory note can be completed and used as valuable security.

It can be further explained with the help of the following 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’ child in wrongful confinement unless Z will sign and deliver to A and promissory note binding Z to pay certain monies to A to Z signs and delivers the note. A has committed extortion.

 

PUNISHMENT FOR EXTORTION

Punishment for extortion is defined under section 384 of the Indian Penal Code according to which Whoever commits extortion shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

Classification u/schedule 1 CrPC
Offence Punishment
Extortion 3 Years or Fine or Both

 

Cognizance Bail Triable By
Cognizable Non-Bailable Any Magistrate

 

Composition u/s 320 CrPC
Offense is NOT listed under Compoundable Offences

 

The offense under Section 384 is cognizable but warrant should ordinarily issue in the first instance. It is non-bailable but not compoundable and is triable by any Magistrate.

In State v. Basavegowada[1], the accused husband took his wife to a forest and obtained her ornaments under threat to kill her. The ornaments were subsequently recovered from him. He was held guilty of the offense of extortion, not robbery.

In Chander Kala v. Ram Kishan[2] , the head­master of a school called a lady teacher to a place where he was alone and induced her to sign three blank papers by threatening an attack on her modesty, the Supreme Court held that it amounted to an offense under Section 384.

In R.S. Nayak v. A.R. Antulay and another[3], Chief Minister A.R. Antulay asked the Sugar Cooperatives, whose cases were pending before the government for consideration, to make donations and promised to look into their cases. It was held by the Supreme Court that these facts do not constitute the offense of extortion as there was no evidence at all that the managements of the sugar cooperatives had been put in any fear and the contributions had been paid in response to threats.

In Ramesh Chandra Arora v. State[4], the accused had written letters to a person, enclosing the photograph of his daughter in the nude and were of a character, which if made public, would undoubtedly compromise the reputation of the girl as well as her father. The accused demanded ‘hush money’ from him and threatened him stating that he would circulate the photographs to the relatives of the girl if the money was not paid. He was convicted as he was guilty of extortion.

In Jadunandan Singh and another v. Emperor[5], Narain Dusadh and Shenandoah Singh were returning after the inspection of some fields when the two petitioners and others assaulted them. The petitioner gave a blow to Narain on his right leg, and then other people assaulted Sheonandan. Jadunanda, after this, forcibly took the thumb impression of Narain on one piece of blank paper, and of Sheonandan on three blank papers. On these findings, the two petitioners and two others were convicted of extortion under Section 384 of IPC.

PUTTING PERSON IN FEAR OF INJURY IN ORDER TO COMMIT EXTORTION

It is defined under section 385 of the Indian Penal Code according to which Whoever, in order to the committing of extortion, puts any person in fear, or attempts to put any person in fear, of any injury, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

In simple words, Putting or attempting to put a person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion has been penalized under this section. The section states that whoever either put or attempt to put any person in fear of injury in order to the committing of extortion, shall be punished with simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term extending up to two years, or with fine, or with both. Putting in fear and attempting to put in fear of any injury both have been treated at par, and it is not necessary that extortion must take place because the language used is ‘in order to the committing of extortion’.

Where in a criminal case a mukhtyar, with the intention of extorting money, threatened to put scandalous, indecent and irrelevant questions intended to annoy and insult the prosecution witnesses, he was held guilty under this section. Where a police officer was charged with having abetted the accused to extort money from the Complainant, it could not be held that he had done the same in his official capacity, and, therefore, necessary sanction under Section 197, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for his prosecution was not needed.

The offense under section 385 is cognizable, bailable and non-compoundable, and is triable by any magistrate.

Classification u/schedule 1 CrPC
Offence Punishment
Putting or attempting to put in fear of injury, in order to commit extortion 2 Years or Fine or Both

 

Cognizance Bail Triable By
Cognizable Bailable Any Magistrate

 

Composition u/s 320 CrPC
Offense is NOT listed under Compoundable Offences

Important cases and landmark judgments on Section 385 of IPC:

  • Bani Singh & Ors vs State Of U.P[6]
  • M. L. Sethi vs R. P. Kapur & Anr[7]
  • R. M. Malkani vs State Of Maharashtra[8]
  • The State Of Punjab vs Brij Lal Palta[9]
  • R. P. Kapur vs Pratap Singh Kairon & Others[10]  

 

EXTORTION BY PUTTING A PERSON IN FEAR OF DEATH OR GRIEVOUS HURT

It is defined under section 386 of the Indian Penal Code according to which Whoever commits extortion by putting any person in fear of death or of grievous hurt to that person or to any other, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Commission of extortion is necessary under this section because the word used is ‘commits’, unlike the preceding section where the words used are ‘in order to the committing of. Kidnapping and abduction, for ransom, have been held to be punishable under this section where the ransom money is paid under threat of death or grievous hurt of the person kidnapped or abducted. It is a serious offense as is shown by the quantum of punishment prescribed.

The offense under this section is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable, and is triable by the magistrate of the first class.

Classification u/schedule 1 CrPC
Offence Punishment
extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt 10 Years + Fine

 

Cognizance Bail Triable By
Cognizable Non-Bailable Magistrate First Class

 

Composition u/s 320 CrPC
Offense is NOT listed under Compoundable Offences
 

Important cases and landmark judgments on Section 386 of IPC:

·         Bani Singh & Ors vs State Of U.P[11]

·         Govind Ramji Jadhav vs The State Of Maharashtra[12]

The · State Of U.P vs Abhai Raj Singh & Anr[13]

·         Radha Ballabh And Ors. vs the State Of U.P.[14]

 

PUTTING PERSON IN FEAR OF DEATH OR OF GRIEVOUS HURT, IN ORDER TO COMMIT EXTORTION

It is defined under section 387 of the Indian Penal Code according to which Whoever in order to the committing of extortion, puts or attempts to put any person in fear of death or of grievous hurt to that person or to any other, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

The use of the words ‘in order to the committing of extortion’ show that commission of extortion is not necessary. The offender must put or attempt to put any person in fear of death or of grievous hurt to that person or to any other person. This offense is different from the offense of attempted robbery under section 393. Under section 387 the fear is of death or of grievous hurt while in section 393 the fear is of instant death or instant hurt or instant wrongful restraint under which the thing extorted must be delivered then and there.

Thus where the accused wrote a threatening letter to the complainant that to save his own life and the life of his child he must pay a ransom money amounting to sixteen thousand rupees, it was held that the accused had committed an offense under section 387. In another case, it was ruled that feigning of an attempt to commit suicide in order to extort money would be an offense under this section.

The offense under section 387 is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable, and is triable by the magistrate of the first class.

Classification u/schedule 1 CrPC
Offence Punishment
Putting or attempting to put a person in fear of death or grievous hurt in order to commit extortion 7 Years + Fine

 

Cognizance Bail Triable By
Cognizable Non-Bailable Magistrate First Class

 

Composition u/s 320 CrPC
Offense is NOT listed under Compoundable Offences

 

Important cases and landmark judgments on Section 387 of IPC:

  • Henry Wertmuller Roberts, Etc. … vs State Of Assam & Ors. Etc[15]
  • Thakur Ram vs The State Of Bihar[16]
  • Mohan Singh vs State Of Bihar[17]

 

EXTORTION BY THREAT OF ACCUSATION OF AN OFFENCE PUNISHABLE WITH DEATH OR IMPRISONMENT FOR LIFE, ETC

It is defined under section 388 of the Indian Penal Code according to which Whoever commits extortion by putting any person in fear of an accusation against that person or any other, of having committed or attempted to commit any offence punishable with death, or with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, or of having attempted to induce any other person to commit such offence, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine; and, if the offence be one punishable under section 377 of this Code, may be punished with imprisonment for life.
It is an aggravated form of extortion. According to this extortion must have been, committed by the offender after putting the person extorted or any other person of an accusation that he had committed, or had made an attempt to commit, any offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term up to ten years, or he had made an attempt to induce any other person to commit such offence. The punishment may be imprisonment for life where extortion is committed by putting any person in fear of an accusation that he had committed an unnatural offense.

The offense under this section is cognizable, bailable and non-compoundable, and is triable by the magistrate of the first class.

It is read along with section 377 of the Indian Penal Code according to which Unnatural offences.—Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Classification u/schedule 1 CrPC
 

Cognizance Bail Triable By
1.      Cognizable

2.      Cognizable

1.      Bailable

2.      Bailable

1.      Magistrate First Class

2.      Magistrate First Class

Offence Punishment
1.      Extortion by threat of accusation of an offense punishable by death, imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for 10 Years.

2.      If the offense threatened to be an unnatural offence

1.      10 Years + Fine.

2.      Imprisonment for Life

 

Composition u/s 320 CrPC
Offense is NOT listed under Compoundable Offences

 

PUTTING PERSON IN FEAR OR ACCUSATION OF OFFENCE, IN ORDER TO COMMIT EXTORTION

 It is defined under section 389 of the Indian Penal Code according to which Whoever, in order to the committing of extortion, puts or attempts to put any person in fear of an accusation, against that person or any other, of having committed, or attempted to commit, an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine; and, if the offence be punishable under section 377 of this Code, may be punished with imprisonment for life.
The use of the words ‘in order to the committing of extortion’ shows that extortion may not be committed. But in order to its committing the offender puts or attempts to put any person in fear of an accusation whether against that person or any person. The accusation must be that he had committed or attempted to commit any such offense as is punishable with death, or imprisonment for life, or imprisonment up to ten years. If the accusation is that he had committed an unnatural offense the punishment will be severe and may extend to imprisonment for life.

The offense under this section is cognizable, bailable and non-compoundable, and is triable by the magistrate of the first class.

 

 

Classification u/schedule 1 CrPC
Offence Punishment
1.      Putting a person in fear of accusation of an offense punishable by death, imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for 10 Years in order to commit extortion.

2.      If the offense be an unnatural offence

1.      10 Years + Fine

2.      Imprisonment for Life

 

Cognizance Bail Triable By
1.      Cognizable

2.      Cognizable

1.      Bailable

2.      Bailable

1.      Magistrate First Class

2.      Magistrate First Class

 

Composition u/s 320 CrPC
Offense is NOT listed under Compoundable Offences

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EXTORTION AND THEFT

Section 383 states: 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 deliver to any person any property or valuable security or anything signed or sealed which may be converted into a valuable security, commits extortion.

As To Consent:
In extortion, consent is obtained by putting the person in possession of a property in fear of property in fear of injury to himself or any other person.
In theft, the offender’s intention is to take the property without the owner’s consent.
There is no element of force in the theft.
Property:
In Extortion, both moveable and immoveable property may be the subject of the offense. In theft, it is limited only to moveable property.

Element Of Force:
There is an element of force in the offense of extortion as the property is obtained by putting a person in fear of injury to that person or any other.
There is no element of force in the theft.

Scope:
Extortion is wider in scope as it covers any kind of property, valuable security or anything that may be converted into valuable security.
Theft covers only the cases of moveable property.

Taking Of Property:
In extortion, the threat may be by one person and the property may be received by another person.
In theft, the property must be a move by the person in order to such taking.

Effect:
In extortion, the property is delivered.
In theft, there is a dishonest removal of property.

[1] 1997 CrLJ 4386

[2] AIR 1985 SCC 1268

[3] 1986 CrLJ 1922 (SC)

[4] AIR 1954 SC 700

[5] AIR 1941 Pat 129

 

[6] 1996 SCC (4) 720

[7] 1967 AIR 528

[8] 1973 AIR 157

[9] AIR 1969 SC 355

[10] 1964 AIR 295

[11] 1996 SCC (4) 720

[12] 1996 (2) BLJR 800

[13] Supreme court of India

[14] 1996 (2) BLJR 800

[15] 1985 AIR 823

[16] 1966 AIR 911

[17] Supreme court of India

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