Parul Agarwal, GNLU
Meghaa G., TNLU
The Indian Penal Code (Herein IPC), enacted in 1860, is the official document that encompasses criminal laws in India. The main objective of the legislation is to lay a foundation for the penal code of India. The Act is divided into 23 chapters and subdivided into 511 sections. Through this it covers various types of offences such as those against the State, relating to Religion, affecting the Human Body, etc.
This article will deal with in specific the laws regarding to Extortion as under Chapter XVII – Offences against Property.
Extortion as under Section 383 of the IPC is defined as -
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”.
In simpler terms, extortion is when one person, with the aim of obtaining any property, induces fear on another person to obtain said property. Here, ‘property’ is a generic term used in place of any valuable security, movable or immovable property, etc.
Example: Vanya threatens her brother, Luther, that if he doesn’t transfer their deceased father’s mansion to her name, she will wrongfully confine Allison, their sister.
In Dhananjay v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court held that the essential elements that would establish an offence of extortion under IPC are -
(i) The wrongdoer must put the victim in fear of injury to his person or reputation or any other person.
(ii) The above act of putting the victim in fear must be intentional and deliberate.
(iii) The intention behind putting the victim in fear must be to induce him/her to deliver to any person property or any other valuable security or item capable of being transformed into a valuable security.
(iv) Such inducement to deliver valuable assets must be carried out dishonestly.
(v) There must be actual delivery of property under fear.
However, the 5th essential is subject to conditions, where in certain cases actual commission of extortion is not necessary but rather attempt is sufficient.
Extortion is essentially:
- Cognizable: Where the police can arrest without a warrant
- Non-Bailable: Where bails are a matter of discretion of the Court.
- Non- Compoundable: Where the Complainant and Accused cannot compromise.
Section 384 of the IPC covers the punishment for actual extortion. The punishment awarded to the wrongdoer is imprisonment up to 3 years, either simple or rigorous, or/and Fine.
Section 385 of the IPC covers the punishment for an attempt or threat of extortion i.e. even putting a person under the fear of injury of any kind or attempting to do so is sufficient to entice punishment under this section. The punishment is imprisonment up to 2 years, either simple or rigorous, or/and Fine.
VI. BURDEN OF PROOF
When making a case of extortion, the prosecution has to prove the actual commission or an attempt of the commission of the crime of extortion. Thus, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution.
VII. SCOPE – Aggravated Forms of Extortion
Extortion under the IPC is not limited to its foundational definition under Section 383 but includes various aggravated forms defined from Section 386 – 390. Such aggravated forms differ in nature, punishment awarded and classification under the Criminal Procedure Code.
1. Section 386 – Extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt
This section defines a specific form of extortion where the wrongdoer puts the victim under the fear of death or grievous hurt and commits the act of the extortion whereas Section 383 was a wider definition that included any type of fear and not exclusive to death or grievous hurt.
The punishment awarded to the wrongdoer extends up to 10yrs of imprisonment, either simple or grievous, coupled with mandatory Fine.
This form of Extortion is Cognizable, Non-Bailable and Non-Compoundable.
2. Section 387 – Putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt, in order to commit extortion
This is a branch of Section 386 where an attempt to extort by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt is sufficient, the real commission of extortion is not essential.
The punishment awarded to the wrongdoer extends up to 7yrs of imprisonment, either simple or grievous, coupled with mandatory Fine.
This form of Extortion is Cognizable, Non-Bailable and Non-Compoundable.
3. Section 388 - Extortion by threat of accusation of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life, etc
This Section deals with a specific form of extortion where a person threatens to accuse another of an offence in order to obtain any property.
To be specific, the said offence is one that is punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term up to 10 years. It also defines a distinct punishment when the said offence is one under Section 377 i.e. Unnatural Offences.
Here, actual extortion must take place and not merely an attempt.
The former attracts a punishment of simple or rigorous imprisonment for up to 10 years and a fine. The latter, regarding Section 377, the punishment is imprisonment for life.
This form of Extortion is Cognizable, Bailable and Non-Compoundable.
Michael threatens Dwight, that if he doesn’t hand over his 60-acre beet farm, he will wrongfully tell the police that Dwight murdered Moses. Dwight does accordingly and transfers his beet farm.
4. Section 389 - Putting person in fear of accusation of offence, in order to commit extortion
This is with reference to the previous section of extorting through threatening to accuse. The difference lies in the fact that Section 389 criminalizes even the attempt to extort by threating to accuse, while Section 388 requires the actual commission of extortion.
The punishment is as same as Section 388.
The former attracts a punishment of simple or rigorous imprisonment for up to 10 years and a fine. The latter, in cases regarding Section 377, the punishment is imprisonment for life.
Extortion under Section 389 is Bailable, Cognizable and Non-compoundable.
Walter threatens Jesse that if he doesn’t deliver a promissory note of a certain amount, he will wrongfully publicize that Jesse has been involved in a kidnapping a child for a ransom. Jesse refuses to do so and files a case against Walter.
CAN EXTORTION BE ROBBERY?
Yes, as per Section 390 Extortion can be referred to as the crime of robbery when the Wrongdoer at the time of carrying out the act of extortion is in the presence of the Victim. To say that he is in the physical presence of the wrongdoer would mean that he/she was satisfactorily close or in close vicinity of the victim which makes him capable of carrying out the threat instantly. 
Example: A police officer getting the possession of jewellery from a lady under the threat that disobeying would result in immediate imprisonment for months or even years.
RELEVANT CASE LAWS
1. Gursharan Singh v. State of Punjab – Time Factor when Extortion becomes Robbery
The Court established, in this case, when Extortion would become Robbery considering the time factor according to Section 390. Here, the Respondent received a letter where the Appellant threatened of dire consequences if a sum of money was not delivered to him. After negotiations and discussions, the Respondent delivered the money at a later point in time.
The Court held that since there was not an immediate delivery of the money, the act would only amount to extortion under Section 387 of the IPC and not robbery under Section 390. Whereas an immediate delivery would have deemed it a robbery.
2. Anil B. Nadkarni and Ors. v. Amitesh Kumar – Necessity for Fulfilment of Essentials
The Bombay Hight Court established that it was not necessary to fulfil all the essentials of extortion to be liable under Section 383, subject to certain conditions. During the trial of this case regarding the Respondent’s malpractice as an employee under the Petitioner, it was argued that without an actual delivery of property from there cannot be extortion. The Court held that it is sufficient if one can “lay a factual foundation” to prove that extortion was committed and hence not all the essentials have to be fulfilled.
3. Lalit Vilasrao Thakare v. The State of Maharashtra - Signature on Blank Paper
In this case, the Bombay HC in 2018 freed the Accused from punishment given by the Lower Court on the ground that simply getting signatures or thumb impressions of an individual on a blank piece of paper, even if taken compellingly, may not take the shape of extortion. The rationale being that a signed blank piece of paper cannot be transformed into any valuable property under Section 383 of the IPC, 1860.
4. Sharad Balkrushna Deotale v. State of Maharashtra - Injury to Mind
In this case from 2019, where the Accused (journalist by profession) threatened the victim to defame him and injure his reputation unless he paid him money, the Court held that such threatening by journalists to publish news in a newspaper to defame a person amounts to extortion and is covered under illustrations to Sections 383 and 384 of IPC.
To revisit, IPC provides for Extortion stretching from Section 383-389 to safeguard the community from this offence. Simply put, Extortion would mean a situation where Person A exerts fear over Person B to compel them to deliver a property. In order to hold a person liable for Extortion, certain essential elements as laid above have to be fulfilled. Extortion also includes various aggravated forms where situations where said Person A threatens to with Death, etc. Such forms have different classifications and punishments.
Furthermore, time and again Courts have interpreted these laws regarding the offence of extortion to provide clarity, adding a new dimension apart from just the bare text of the law. For instance, it was held that laying down the principle that forcefully compelling a person to sign on a blank paper may not lead to Extortion.
Hence, the Indian Penal Code is a living and breathing document that grows and changes over time to accommodate the changes in human society.
 The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §383, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India).  (2007) 14 SCC 768.  The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Schedule 1, §420, No. 2, Acts of Parliament, 1974 (India).  The Indian evidence Act, 1872, § 101-102, No. 1, Acts of Parliament, 1872 (India); Vinay Jain v. State of Karnataka, (2015) 2 MLJ (Crl) 323 (SC).  The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §386, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India).  The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §387, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India).  The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §388, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India).  The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §377, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India).  The Indian Penal Code, 1860, §390, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India).  AIR 1956 SC 460.  (2001) 4 BOMLR 402.  2018 ALL MR (Cri) 2355.  2019 ALL MR (Cri) 2247.