In extortion, the property is acquired from a person by putting him in fear by a threat of imminent danger to his life resulting in the delivery of property under the influence of the threat. It is gaining a benefit through coercion. Extortion takes place if a person attempts to take money or property from another by threatening to commit violence against him, accuse the victim of a crime, or reveal some secret or damaging information about the victim to others. The laws relating to Extortion are provided in Sections 383- 389 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860.
SECTION 383 of Indian Penal Code defines extortion as any person who deliberately puts another person in fear of any injury to that person, or some other person, and thereby dishonest persuasion is made to the person put in fear to handover anything or property of any kind of valuable security or a thing because of being signed and sealed be converted into a valuable security.
- C threatens to publish a defamatory libel relating to F unless F gives him money. He thereby persuades F to give him money. C has committed extortion.
- B, by putting E in fear of grievous hurt, dishonestly persuades E to sign or affix his seal to a blank paper and handover it to B. E signs and delivers the paper to B. As the paper so signed may be converted into a valuable security, B has committed extortion.
ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF EXTORTION:
- An action causing impending threat and injury to a person.
- The action must be done with dishonest intention.
3. A troublesome force should be expressed for taking the property, document, or any other valuable goods of some other person.
4. The actual delivery of the property to the person giving a threat is necessary to constitute extortion.
If a person commits an offence that includes all these elements then the person is said to have committed “Extortion”.
PUNISHMENT FOR EXTORTION:
SECTION 384 of IPC provides that any person convicted by the Court for committing extortion shall be punished with imprisonment that may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Extortion is a cognizable, non-bailable offence that cannot be compounded. The police can arrest without a warrant and any Magistrate can try the said offence.
CREATING FEAR OF INJURY TO A PERSON TO COMMIT EXTORTION:
SECTION 385 OF IPC provides that any person to commit extortion, puts or attempts to put another person in fear of any kind of injury shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
Thus, even putting a person under the fear of injury is enough for punishment under this section. The offence under this Section is triable by a Magistrate and the offence is cognizable, bailable, and non-compoundable.
EXTORTION BY PUTTING A PERSON IN FEAR OF DEATH OR GRIEVOUS HURT:
SECTION 386 OF IPC provides that an act of putting any person in fear of death or of grievous hurt to that person or some other person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Here, simply an attempt to extort by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt is enough, the actual commission of extortion is not required. The offence under this section is triable by Magistrate of the first class and the said offence is cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable.
COMMITTING EXTORTION BY PUTTING A PERSON IN FEAR OF DEATH OR GRIEVOUS HURT:
SECTION 387 OF IPC provides that a person puts or attempts to put another person in a situation when there is a sense of fear of death or severe hurt to his body with the only purpose of committing extortion shall be punished for imprisonment which may extend to 7 years and is also liable to fine.
COMMITTING EXTORTION BY THREATENING THE VICTIM OF BEING ACCUSED OF AN OFFENCE PUNISHABLE WITH DEATH OR IMPRISONMENT FOR LIFE, ETC:
SECTION 388 of IPC provides that creating fear in the mind of any person of being accused of committing or attempting to commit an offence that is punishable with death, or with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment which may extend to ten years, or being accused of inducing someone to commit such offence, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine and, in cases where the offence is one that is punishable under Section 377 of IPC, may be punished with imprisonment for life.
This offence is triable by the Magistrate of the first class. The offence under this section is cognizable, bailable, and cannot be compounded.
EXTORTION BY PUTTING A PERSON IN FEAR OF BEING ACCUSED OF COMMITTING AN OFFENCE:
SECTION 389 of IPC provides that putting 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 that is 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 is punishable under Section 377 of IPC, may be punished with imprisonment for life.
This section relates to an attempt to extort by putting a person in fear of accusation of offence. Here, there is no actual commission of extortion. The offence under this section is cognizable, bailable, and cannot be compounded. The offence is triable by the Magistrate of the first class.
BURDEN OF PROOF:
For an offence to be called extortion, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove beyond doubt that the offence was committed or attempted to be committed. The essential elements of extortion are considered by the Courts to keep a check if an offence of extortion is committed or not.
Dhananjay v. State of Bihar (2007) 14 SCC 768–
In this case, it was held that the following ingredients are required to constitute extortion:
the fear of injury to a person or some other person must be created by the accused.
the putting of a person in such fear must be done intentionally by the accused.
By creating fear in the mind of a person the accused must thereby induce the victim to deliver the accused any property, valuable security, or anything signed or sealed that may be converted into a valuable security
such inducement to handover the property must be done dishonestly.
Biram Lal vs. State, RLW 2007(1) Raj.713-
In this case, it was held that for the act of extortion to be complete the person who was put in fear, must have been induced to deliver the property or valuable security to the accused. If the act of inducement caused by the accused should bring forth its result by the victim consenting to deliver property. Although the actual delivery does not take place due to any unanticipated event which would constitute extortion, if it fails to produce the required effect, the act would be at the step of an attempt to commit extortion. In this case, the court held that although the offence of extortion is held to be not made out for want of delivery of the property, the offence of attempt to commit extortion is evident.
The law prescribes a set of norms of human behavior so that we can live peacefully and without any fear of injury of any kind and prescribes punishments for the disregard of these norms and conducts.
However, there has been a major misuse of the sections relating to extortion against the innocents. Many innocents suffer because of false charges of extortion leveled against them. False cases are made against innocent persons because of corruption or by the influence of some nefarious miscreants in society.