Extortion commonly refers to when one person threatens someone for delivery of property, or an act when whoever puts any person in fear of injury to that person or any other.
According to section 383 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860:
whoever intentionally puts any person in fear of any injury to that person, or any other, and thereby dishonestly induces the person so put in fear to deliver to any person any property or valuable security, commits “extortion.”
Section 44 of IPC defines ‘Injury’ as illegal harm to a person’s body, mind, reputation, or property.
The term “valuable security” is also defined in section 30 of IPC, a document related to legal rights ( creation, restriction, extension, etc., of a legal right).
Suppose a person extorts anyone based on publishing material that ruins another person’s image. In that case, it doesn’t matter that the material a person wants to publish is based on truth or not. Still, a person commits the offence of extortion.
Illustrations For Extort
- A is a person putting Z in fear of grievous hurt, threatening Z to delivers the signed paper to A. The signed paper may get 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 ingredients of the offence of extortion in Section 383 of IPC are:
- The threat of injury, as we read the definition of injury given in section 44 of IPC. An injury could be harmful to the body, mind, reputation or property.
- Dishonest inducement.
- To deliver any property to any person, it may be movable or immovable, valuable security or anything that can get converted into a valuable security.
Elements of Extortions
Sections 384 to 389 of IPC can further help understand the other concept of extortion. Those sections define the punishment and grievances of the offence of extortion.
Punishment for Extortion- Section 384
The punishment for extortion gets defined under section 384. Whoever commits the offence shall get imprisonment for more than three years, or with a fine, or both.
Extortion is cognizable,non-bailable, compoundable and triable by any Magistrate. But the punishment of extortion is different; it’s according to grievousness or completion of the offence of extortion which gets defined in further sections.
To commit extortion, by putting someone in fear of injury -Section 385
Per section 385 of IPC, if a person puts or attempts to put anyone in fear of any injury shall get punished.
The offence is a cognizable offence and bailable offence 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 go up to 2 years or fine or both.
In this section, punishment is less than 384 because the extortion is not yet committed; the person has yet to commit the extortion, which is why punishment is also less.
Ingredients of section 385 of IPC
- The offender puts or attempts to put a person in fear of injury.
- The intention is to commit the offence of extortion.
When the offence of Extortion gets done by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt-Section 386
Above, we discussed fear of injury to the person or someone related to him but here, the seriousness of injury increased under section 386 of IPC, which can go up to fear of death or grievous hurt.
Per the section, anyone shall get imprisonment up to 10 years or fine or both, if they commit the offence of extortion by:
- putting a person in fear of death
- Grievous hurt to a person or any other.
It is a cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence and triable only by the Magistrate of 1st class.
Ingredients of section 386
- The offender puts someone in fear of death or of grievous hurt.
- 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 gets 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 any other.
As per the section, the punishment includes imprisonment of up to 7 years and is liable to a fine. Here the offence is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and triable by Magistrate of 1st class.
The only difference between sections 386 and 387 is in section 386; extortion already got committed. And in section 387, extortion is yet to get committed, and other things remain the same, including fear of death and grievous hurt.
When Extortion gets done by giving threat of false accusations of an offence which is punishable with death or imprisonment for life-Section 388
Till now, we covered the threat of injury, the threat of death or grievous hurt. But according to section 388, a person threatens another person, saying that if he/she is not going to agree to the same, 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 puts or attempts to threaten another person for agreeing on the same, they will accuse them of such offence where the punishment will be imprisonment for life or death.
The only difference in sections 388 and 389 is that in section 388, the extortion already got committed. In section 389, a person is attempting to commit the offence of extortion by putting a person in fear of accusation of offence.
Illustration For Section 388 and 389
A and X are two persons. A is asking 1 Cr. from X, and say to X that if he is not going to pay, then there is one lady who died recently by rape and murder, and I am going to tell the police that you have done that so you are going to punished for such offence which may be imprisonment for life or death.
In that case, if A did the offence, he committed the offence under section 388. And 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 fine. It is a cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence that is triable by Magistrate of 1st class.
Blackmail and Extortion
Blackmailing and Extortion both the crimes look similar to each other. In both crimes, a threat to another person is made against his/her body, property, information, damaging reputation to extort money or property or other valuables from a person.
Similarities between blackmail and extortion
- In both the offences, a person made the demand
- Without any reasonable cause for the demand
- To gain the benefit or cause a threat to any person
- Threat to cause injury to person or another
IPC does not include the term blackmail.
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 above sections, the offence of criminal intimidation is when a person threatens another by injury, intending to alert that person or do any unlawful act to avoid such threat or injury. In other terms, it gets referred to as blackmail.
The difference between blackmail and extortion is that extortion is violent, while blackmail is more threatening and damaging one’s reputation. Blackmail is also a form of extortion, but even though the two are different from each other.
Case Laws Relating To Extort
Lalit Vilasrao Thakre Vs. The State of Maharashtra
In that case, 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 get converted into a valuable security.
According to section 383 of IPC, property transfer or valuable security must get delivered to any person. The court declared the accused innocent and freed from extortion charges under section 383 of the IPC. A lower court had sentenced him under section 327 of the IPC.
Anil B. Nandakarni & others Vs. Amitesh Kumar
In that 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; Since there is no transfer of property or valuable security done to the accused.
The Hon’ble Bombay High Court stated that it does not necessarily fulfil all the ingredients 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 will get prosecuted for the same.
Extortion under section 383 IPC and certain other sections aim to save the common public from the crime of extortion, which has become quite common nowadays. Despite the essential elements and checks provided in the sections mentioned above, there has been a major misuse of the section for booking innocents.
Many innocent people get behind bars under the false allegation of extortion. Fake cases are also made against innocent people owning to corruption and the powerful influence of some people in society.
FAQs Regarding Extortion
How theft gets 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 robbery, there is either theft or extortion. "Explain"?
Theft is a robbery if the offender causes voluntarily causing hurt or voluntarily causing 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, the property is delivered by a person in fear of threat, while in cheating, property gets delivered with consent obtained by fraud.