Section 384 IPC defines the punishment for extortion as
Whoever commits extortion shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
In other words, if someone is found guilty of extortion, he might get imprisoned for a term extending up to 3 years, or might have to pay a fine, or both. For a better understanding of Section 384, we first need to understand what extortion exactly is.
Section 383 of the IPC defines Extortion 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”.
For an action to be considered as extortion, the following conditions should be satisfied-
- Intentionally putting the person in fear of any injury
- for the purpose of dishonestly inducing the person
- to deliver to any other person any valuable security.
The fear of injury does not necessarily have to be of bodily harm, it could be fear of injury to a person’s reputation or property, it could be fear of injury to his loved ones. This fear is inflicted to the extent that the person agrees to deliver valuable security. The element of free and voluntary action (which constitutes consent) is absent. Section 44 of the IPC defines Injury as, any harm whatever illegally caused to any person, in body, mind, reputation or property. Extortion is considered a serious or criminal offense.
For instance, A threatens to kill the son of B, if he fails to provide him with a blank signed stamp paper. A has induced B to give him the blank signed stamp paper. A has committed extortion. A could be punished with imprisonment for a term up to three years, or with fine, or with both. Another example could be, A threatens to fire B from his job if he doesn’t cast his vote for the CEO position to A. A has committed extortion.
The offense under section 384 of the IPC is a cognizable offense, which means that the police has the authority to arrest the person without a warrant. It is also a non-bailable offense i.e bail is a matter of discretion of the court. The offense of extortion is also non-compoundable. Compounding is a process where the victim and the accused agree to some compromise in order to avoid trial. There are some offenses which are so grave and serious in nature that they can not be compounded, except in certain situations where the case can be quashed by the supreme court or any high court. Since these cases are filed by the state i.e. police, the question of entering into a compromise doesn’t even arise. A full trial is conducted in the respective court and judgment is provided at the end of the trial.
In the case of Chander Kala v. Ram Kishan [AIR 1985 SCC 1268], the complainant (Smt. Chander Kala) was working as a teacher in a Govt. Middle School and the respondent (Ram Kishan) was the headmaster of the same school. The accused, after a series of events, called the complainant to his house and threatened to attack her modesty if she refused to sign three blank papers. And when she did, he threatened that he will use those signed papers to blackmail her by recording any statement on the papers, if she refused to act according to his wishes. The Supreme Court held that the accused had committed an offense under Section 384.
In the case of State Of Karnataka vs Basavegowda Alias Chandra [1997 CriLJ 4386], the accused husband took her wife (the complainant) to the forest under the pretext of going for the wedding of a friend. He then threatened to kill her if she didn’t hand all of her ornaments to him. After she handed him all her ornaments, he assaulted her with a big stone and his fists and ran away when saw two men coming. Though he wasn’t held guilty for robbery, he was punished for the offense of extortion under section 384.