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Extortion: Need to Know

Angadia Extortion Case, Two leaders in the state of J & K arrested for extortion, a Raikot resident has been charged for rape and extortion are among the recent headlines in our country's media and we shouldn't be surprised after reading news headlines around the world using the term Extortion.

These kinds of offences occur on a daily basis, not only in India but throughout the world. It is becoming increasingly important to learn about the legal provisions relating to extortion and be well versed with them. Chapter XVII of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, talks about the offences against property which runs from section 378 to 462. The offence of Extortion is specified under section 383. Extortion, in layman's term, is the act of forcing any person to transfer any property or any other valuable security of the person through threat or force.

Meaning and definition
Extortion is defined as the wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or intimidation to obtain money or property from a person or entity. It usually entails danger to the victim's person or property, or to their family or friends, however it can also include reputational damage or negative government action. According to the Britannica Dictionary, it means the crime of getting money from someone by the use of force or threats. Macmillan Dictionary defines it as a crime in which someone gets money or information from another person by using force or threats.

Legal Provisions in Different Countries
Extortion, according to U.S law, is the act of threatening or employing violence, fear, humiliation, or any other unlawful threat to get money, goods, property, or anything value from another person. Each state has its own definition; some are stricter than others, while some are lenient, but they all require that the act of extortion be carried out by threatening to inflict bodily harm, accusing someone of a crime, exposing a secret that would harm someone's image, taking or withholding official action, refusing to testify or cooperate in an investigation, starting a boycott or strike, or harming the person from whom money is demanded in a way that is not legal. Blackmail, certain sorts of hacking are all examples of extortion.

Queensland, Australia
Extortion is a distinct crime in Queensland, as defined by section 415 of the state's Criminal Code of 1899. The section is named 'Extortion' and it stipulates a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail for anyone who, without justifiable excuse, makes a demand with a goal to achieve a benefit for someone else or to harm someone else, in circumstances where the demand involves a threat to harm someone else.

When the threat causes, or is likely to cause, significant personal injury to another person or considerable economic loss in an industrial or commercial activity performed by another person or entity, the maximum penalty increases to life imprisonment. The provision make it clear that a threatening letter can be enough to prove the crime.

According to article 312-1 of the French criminal code, extortion is the act of obtaining either a signature, a commitment or a waiver, or the revelation of a secret, or the receiving of funds, values or any property by means of violence , threat of violence, or coercion.

Malaysian extortion laws are identical to those in India.

Legal Provisions in India
As per section 383 of the Indian Penal Code, Extortion is an act to put someone in fear of injury or any other harm to obtain his property or any valuable items.

Section 383 of the IPC 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 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".

  1. 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.
  2. 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 sings and delivers the note. A has committed extortion.
  3. 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 a certain produce to B, and thereby induces Z to sign and deliver the bond. A has committed extortion.
  4. A, by putting Z in fear of grievous hurt, dishonestly induces Z to sign or affix his seal to 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 valuable security. A has committed extortion.

Essential Ingredients
After going through the legal provisions we can easily find out that there are two essential ingredients, and these are:
  1. Intentionally putting a person in fear of injury to himself or to another person.
  2. Dishonestly inducing the person so put in fear to deliver to any person any property or valuable security.

These ingredients must be fulfilled to constitute an offence of Extortion.
  • Intentionally putting a person in fear of injury to himself or to another person
    It is the first and one of the most important components of the offence of extortion. Putting a person in fear of injury intentionally is required to be an offence under this provision. According to Ramjee Singh vs. State of Bihar case, "fear" should be of a character that unsettles the mind of the individual on whom it acts, removing the element of free voluntary action that alone constitutes consent from his actions. As a result, his permission should lose its aspect of freedom and voluntariness. Thus it should take away the element of freeness and voluntariness from his consent. The term injury is defined under the section 44 of the IPC, and keeping the definition in mind, the fear of injury anticipated under this section doesn't have to involve bodily pain or hurt. It will include harm to the person's intellect, reputation or property.

    In Queen vs Nathalirc Mirad Case, a threat to expose Bishop of his illegal association with a lady was found to be extortion.
    According to the case of R S Nayak vs A R Antuley and another, fear or threat must be employed for extortion. In this case, Chief Minister A R Antuley asked the sugar cooperatives to give money and offered to look into their case related issues, which were waiting before the government for consideration. There was no fear of injury or danger, thus it wasn't considered extortion.

    Threatening a criminal accusation is also extortion. It makes no difference whether the charge is genuine or false; the threat is sufficient. For example , extortion is when X's child goes missing and Y , who doesn't have X's child , tells X that until X pays him 2 lakh rupees , he will kill X's child . Similarly, the guilt or innocent status of the party threatened is irrelevant.
    In the case of Habib Khan vs State, it was held that the threats under this section have nothing to do with the veracity of the accusation. It makes no difference whether the party is guilty or innocent.
  • Dishonestly inducing the person so put in fear to deliver to any person any property or valuable security
    The second component of extortion is that the person who has been threatened, must handover the possession of his property to anyone. Dishonest inducement occurs when a person would not have decided to part with his property otherwise, and this parting results in him suffering a wrongful loss.

    Apart from that, the threatened individual must provide the item. It is not required, however, to deliver the property to the individual who is threatening. For example, if X threats Y to deliver property to Z, and Y does so, X is guilty of extortion. There must be the delivery of the property by the threatened person. The extortion isn't really committed until the property is delivered by the person who has been threatened.

In Duleelooddeen Sheikh case, 1866, it was decided that if a person doesn't oppose the taking of his property out of fear and doesn't provide it himself, it is robbery, not extortion.

Extortion can also occur in the case of valuable securities or anything signed that has the potential to become a valuable security. For instance, X threatens Y with signing a promissory note without filling in the amount or the date. Because the note can be transformed into valuable security, this constitutes extortion.

Romesh Chandra Arora Case, 1960
The accused in this case took a photograph of a naked boy and a girl by forcing them to remove their clothes and extorted money from them by threatening to publish the photograph. He was found guilty of the offence of extortion.

Labhshanker Keshavji & Anr. Vs. State
In this case, it was held that:
The delivery by a person so put in fear is quintessential to constitute the offence of extortion. Extortion, as defined by section 383 of IPC, is not complete until the person put in fear has actual possession of the property.

Other Related Case Laws:
Chander Kala v Ram Kishan , AIR 1985 SC 1268
In this case, it was held that extortion was committed when a school's headmaster called a female teacher to a location where he was alone and persuaded her to sign three blank documents by threatening an attack on her modesty, where the head-master of a school called a lady teacher to a place where he was alone and induces her to sign three blank papers by threatening an attack on her modesty is amounted to an offence of extortion.

Shankar Bhagvat Case, ((1866) 2BHC 394)
It is not essential for a threat to be issued by one person and property to be received by that same person. If numerous people agree that a threat is made by some persons and property is received by some other persons, then everyone will be guilty for the offence of extortion.

Vishnu Shiv Ram Bhoir vs State of Maharastra, AIR 1979 SC 1943
The accused surrounded one Yakub and his group and extorted a sum of RS 300. The accused's demand for payment was met. The accused was found guilty of extortion.

Section 384 : Punishment for extortion
Section 384 provides the penalties for the extortion. Whoever commits the offence faces an imprisonment which may extend to three years or with fine or with both. It is cognizable, non bailable, non compoundable and triable by any magistrate. But the punishment for extortion, on the other hand, is different ; It is determined by the severity or completion of the extortion offence, which is outlined in later sections.

Section 385: To commit extortion, by putting someone in fear of injury
According to this section, a person who puts or attempts to put someone in apprehension of injury shall be punished. It is a kind of preparation to commit the extortion, if someone is detected during this mode, the penalty can be up to two years of prison or a fine or both.

Section 386: When the offence of extortion gets done by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt.
In this situation, the severity of the injury escalated, perhaps leading to death or grievous hurt. According to this section, anyone who commits the offence of extortion by putting a person in fear of death or of grievous hurt to a person or any other is subject to imprisonment for up to ten years and a fine.

Section 387: Putting someone in fear of grievous hurt or of death , to commit extortion
Extortion has already been committed in the previous section. However this section of the IPC deals with the preparation for extortion, such as putting r attempting to put a person in fear of death or grievous hurt to that person or others. This section provides punishment which can go up to seven years and a fine.

Section 388: When Extortion gets done by giving threat of false accusations of an offence which is punishable with death or imprisonment for life.
According to this section, a person who threatens another person saying that if he/she doesn't agree for the same, they will accuse them of such a offence for which the sentence may be life imprisonment or death, or with imprisonment for a term which can go up to ten years or attempted to induce any other person for it, shall be punished with imprisonment which may go up to ten years and fine.

Section 389: Putting a person in fear of accusation of offence, to commit extortion
The one and only difference between the previous and this section is that extortion has already been committed in the last section whereas in this section there is attempt to commit the offence, and penalty is also the same as in the section 388.

We have seen how this extortion is committed on a daily basis by somebody or someone attempting to extort other and it became the serious issue these days. As every person has the right to live in society free of fear or menace, the occurrence of these events has thrown the society's peace and harmony in disarray. With fear or menace, it is impossible to build a wealthy and healthy society.

The provision of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, relating to extortion have been discussed in this article. IPC defines the offence of extortion under section 383 and the punishment for the same offence is prescribed under Section. In further sections there are provision for the punishment depending upon the severity and completion of the offence. There are few key criteria by which this offence is assessed, and these must be met. This section is sometimes used to submit false charges against innocent people. This type of abuse of this section shouldn't exist.


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