The essential ingredients of the offence of extortion (Section 383 of IPC)
1. Intentionally putting a person in fear of injury,
2. The purpose of which is to dishonestly induce the person put in fear,
3. To deliver property or valuable security.
The offence of extortion is intermediary between the offence of theft and robbery. Extortion becomes robbery, if the offender at the time of committing the offence puts the person in fear and commits the extortion by causing fear of instant death, hurt or wrongful restraint. However, in robbery, the property can be removed by force without the person delivering the property.
Before a person can be said to put any person in fear of any injury to that person, it must appear that he held out some threat to do or omit to do what he is legally bound to do a thing which he is not legally bound to do and says that if money is not paid to him, he would not do that thing, such act would not amount to an offence of extortion.
The fear of injury contemplated under Section 383 need not necessarily be bodily harm or hurt. It will include injuries to mind, reputation or property of the person. The fear must be of such a nature and extent as to unsettle the mind of the person on whom it operates and takes away from his acts that element of free voluntary action which alone constitutes consent.
The ‘fear’ must be of such a nature and extent as to unsettle the mind of the person on whom it operates, and takes away from his acts, that element of free voluntary action which alone constitutes consent.
The word ‘injury’ is defined in Section 44 of IPC as denoting ‘any harm whatever illegally caused to any person, in body, mind, reputation or property. The injury contemplated must be one which the accused himself can inflict or cause to be inflicted and the threat of divine punishment will not come under it.
The essence of Section 383 is dishonest inducement and obtaining delivery of property in consequence of such inducement. Therefore, an intention to cause wrongful loss or gain is essential; merely causing of wrongful loss would not be sufficient.
For an offence under Section 384 actual delivery of property by the person put in fear of injury is essential. Where a person through fear offers no resistance to the carrying off of his property, but does not deliver any of the property to those who carry it away, the offence committed is not extortion but robbery. The offence of extortion is not complete until delivery of property by the person put in fear.
It is not necessary that the threat should be used, and the property received, by one and the same person. The threat may be used by one person and the property must be delivered in consequence of such a threat, i.e., the delivery of property to the person who puts in fear of injury to the one who delivers that property is not necessary, it may be delivered to any person at the insistence of the former and in consequence of the threat used. All those persons who use threat and to whom property is delivered will be liable for the offence of extortion.
The thing delivered under Section 383 may be any property or valuable security, or anything signed or sealed with may be converted into a valuable security. Valuable security is defined in Section 30 of the Code thus: “The words ‘valuable security’ denote a document which is, or purports to be, a document whereby any legal right is created, extended, transferred, restricted, extinguished or released, or whereby any person acknowledges that he lies under legal liabilities, or has not a certain legal right.
For example, A writes his name on the back of a bill of exchange and the effect of this endorsement is to transfer the right to the bill any person who may become the lawful holder of it, the endorsement is a ‘valuable security’.
The expression ‘anything signed or sealed’ denotes that even incomplete deeds may be the subject of extortion. If a minor boy is beaten and forced to execute a pronote, the person using such force would be liable under Section 283, but forcible taking of thumb impression on a piece of paper which can be converted into a valuable security does not amount to extortion but to an offence under Section 352 of the Code.
But incomplete deeds may be the subject of extortion. For instance, A signs his name to a promissory note in which date and amount etc. are not filled up and delivers it to B, the offence of extortion is committed because promissory note can be completed and used as valuable security.