Extortion commonly refers to one person coercing another person to give a certain amount of money. Extortionmay also refer to an act when whoever puts any person in fear of injury to that person or any other.
According to Section 383 of the IPC, 1860:
Whoever intentionally puts in any person a fear of any injury to that person and thereby dishonestly induces the person to give up any property or valuable, then the act is ‘extortion’.
Section 44 of IPC defines ‘injury’ as illegal harm to a person’s body, mind, reputation, or property.
‘Valuable security’ is defined in Section 30 of IPC, a document related to legal rights (creation, restriction, and extension of a legal right). For example, in case a person extorts anyone by publishing material that ruins another person’s image. In such a case, it does not matter that the material a person wants to publish is based on truth or not. The act is extortion.
Table of Contents
Illustrations of extortion
- A is a person threatening to grievously hurt Z to deliver a signed paper to A. The signed paper may be converted into a valuable security. A has committed the offence of extortion.
- A threatens to publish a defamatory liber concerning Z unless Z gives him money. He thus induces Z to give money. A has committed extortion.
In R.S. Nayak v. A.R. Antulay & others, The Supreme Court observed that the main component of extortion in Section 383 of IPC are:
- The threat of injury, given in Section 44 of IPC. An injury could be harmful to the body, mind, reputation or property.
- Dishonest inducement of a particular action.
- To deliver any asset to any person, it may be movable or immovable, valuable security or anything that can be converted into valuable security.
Elements of Extortions
Sections 384 to 389 of IPC can help understand extortion deeply. Those sections define the punishment and grievances of the offence of extortion.
Punishment for Extortion – Section 384
The punishment for extortion is defined under Section 384. Whoever commits the offence shall be imprisoned for more than 3 years, or with a fine, or both.
Extortion is cognizable, non-bailable, compoundable and triable by any magistrate. However, the punishment of extortion is different based on severity of grievousness or completion of the offence of extortion defined in further sections.
To commit extortion, by putting someone in fear of injury – Section 385
As per section 385 of IPC, a person puts or attempts to put anyone in fear of any injury shall get punished.
The offence is cognisable, bailable, and triable by any magistrate. They are non-compoundable. It is a kind of preparation of Section 383, whereas if someone is in preparation mode and caught, the punishment can be up to 2 years or fine or both.
In this section, punishment is less than Section 384 because the extortion is not yet committed; the person has yet to commit the extortion, which is why punishment is also less.
Section 385 of IPC deals with the following
- Offender puts or attempts to put a person in fear of injury.
- Intention is to commit the offence of extortion.
Extortion committed by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt – Section 386
We discussed the fear of injury to the person or someone related to him. Here, the seriousness of injury increased under Section 386 of IPC, which can be fear of death or grievous hurt.
The preparator shall be imprisoned up to 10 years or fine or both, if they commit the offence of extortion by:
- Intimidate a person of death
- Grievously hurt a person.
Extortion is a cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable offence and is triable only by the magistrate of 1st class.
- The offender intimidates a person of grievous hurt or death.
- The offender commits the offence intentionally.
Putting someone in fear of grievous hurt or of death, to commit extortion – Section 387
Under Section 386, extortion has already been committed. Section 387 of IPC discusses the preparation of committing such extortion that if someone puts or tries to put a person in fear of death or of grievous hurt to that person or his family.
As per the section, punishment includes imprisonment of up to 7 years and a fine. Here the offence is cognisable, non-bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by a magistrate of first class.
The only difference between Sections 386 and 387 is that in Section 386, extortion has already been committed. In section 387, extortion is yet to be committed. In both cases intimidation is common.
When extortion is performed by threat of false accusations of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life – Section 388
Section 388 covers that case if a person threatens another person, stating that if he/she is not going to agree to extortion demands, they are going to accuse them of such an offence where the sentence may be life imprisonment or death.
Putting a person in fear of accusation of offence, to commit extortion – Section 389
According to Section 389, when a person is ordered to commit extortion or attempts to threaten another person for agreeing on the same, they accuse them of such offence where the punishment is imprisonment for life or death.
The only difference in Sections 388 and 389 is that in Section 388, the extortion has been already committed. In Section 389, a person is attempting to commit the offence of extortion by intimidation.
Illustration for Section 388 and 389
A and X are two people. A demands Rs 1 Cr. from X and threatens to falsely accuse X in a heinous criminal case if X does not pay up.
In such a case, if A commits an offence under Section 388. If A only attempted to do so, then A committed the offence under Section 389 of IPC.
The punishment of offence committed under Sections 388 and 389 is the same: imprisonment, extending to ten years and a fine. It is a cognisable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable offence that is triable by a magistrate of first class.
Blackmail and extortion
In both crimes, one person threatens another person against bodily harm, property damage, divulging information that may damage reputation to extort money or property or other valuables from a person.
Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of anyone in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, commits criminal intimidation.
According to the sections, criminal intimidation is to threaten another person of grievous harm with the intention to alert that person or do any unlawful act to avoid such threat or injury. Such acts are referred to as blackmail.
The difference between blackmail and extortion is that extortion is violent, whereas blackmail is more threatening and damaging to one’s reputation. Blackmail is also a form of extortion, but the two crimes are distinct to each other.
Case Laws Relating To Extortion
Lalit Vilasrao Thakre Vs. The State of Maharashtra
The Hon’ble High Court of Bombay held that merely taking a thumb impression or signature forcefully on blank paper may not amount to extortion because a blank paper cannot be converted into a valuable security.
According to Section 383 of IPC, property transfer or valuable security must be delivered to any person. The court declared the accused innocent and exonerated them of extortion charges under Section 383 of the IPC. A lower court had sentenced the accused under Section 327 of the IPC.
Anil B. Nandakarni & others Vs. Amitesh Kumar
In this case, the counsel for the accused pleaded that the necessary element to convict the accused under Section 383 of IPC is to deliver property or valuable security under a threat or a fear of injury. The counsel for the accused requested charges against the accused to be dismissed as no transfer of property or valuable security done.
The Hon’ble Bombay High Court stated that it does not necessarily fulfil all criteria to prove an offence. Relying on Hon’ble Supreme Court judgement Rajesh Bajaj Vs. State of NCT of Delhi & others., If the victim can prove that the accused committed the offence of extortion, then the accused can be prosecuted for the same.
Section 383 IPC and certain other sections aim to protect the common public from the crime of extortion. Despite the essential elements and checks provided in the sections mentioned above, the section has been misused rampantly for booking innocents.
Many innocent people are put behind bars under the false allegation of extortion. Fake cases are also made against innocent people because of corruption and the influence of some people in society.
FAQs Regarding Extortion
How is theft distinguished from extortion?
In theft, the movable property is taken away without the consent of the owner silently. On the other hand, in the offence of extortion, either movable or immovable property is obtained wrongfully by putting a person in threat of injury.
In all robberies, there is either theft or extortion Explain
Theft is a robbery if the offender voluntarily causes hurt death or wrongful restraint. Extortion is robbery when the offender in the presence of a person puts them in fear of instant hurt or instant death in the time of extortion.
How are extortion and cheating distinguished?
In extortion, an asset is delivered by a person in fear of threat, while in cheating, an asset is delivered with consent obtained by fraud.