Monday, 4 March 2019

Whether Threats by journalists who are reporters to publish news defaming a person amount to extortion?

The definition of injury is given in Section 44 which reads as under:—
44. “Injury”. - The word “injury” denotes any harm whatever illegally caused to any person, in body, mind, reputation or property.”
8. The definition clearly shows that the injury not only to body, but injury to mind, reputation also is an injury. Definition of extortion is given in Section 383 of the Indian Penal Code which reads as under:—
383. Extortion. - 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”.
Illustration (a). A threatens to publish a defamatory libel concerning Z to give him money. A has committed extortion.
9. From the plain reading of Section 383 coupled with definition of “injury”, it is clear that there should not be any physical harm to body. Even harm to reputation and mind is an injury. Therefore, submission of learned Counsel for the accused that there was no injury to the complainant has no force.

11. In the present case, accused not only threatened the complainant to initiate action against the complainant by respective authority but compelled the complainant to pay Rs. 50,000/- to him. At the time of trap arranged by the police, the accused has accepted Rs. 10,000/- from the complainant. Complainant could not have given the amount on that day to the accused but because the accused threatened him saying that he is a journalist and by influencing Collector etc., the houses constructed on the plots would be demolished. 

14. The illustrations to Section 384 are very clear. All the illustrations show that even a threatening by journalists who are reporters to publish news in a newspaper to defame that person amounts to extortion. Illustration-A to Section 383 is very clear. It shows that “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. In the present case, the accused being a journalist threatened the complainant that he would complain the authority to demolish the houses constructed on the plots. He would not do so unless the complainant pays Rs. 50,000/- to him. He induced the complainant to pay Rs. 50,000/-. Therefore, the “extortion” as defined under Section 383 of the Indian Penal Code is rightly proved in the present case against the accused.

In the High Court of Bombay
(Before M.G. Giratkar, J.)

Sharad Balkrushna Deotale v. State of Maharashtra

Criminal Revision Application (Revn) No. 180 of 2011
Decided on February 21, 2019
Citation: 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 305

The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
M.G. Giratkar, J.:— The present revision is against the judgment of conviction dated 30.08.2010 passed by learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Wardha in Criminal Case No. 573 of 2000 thereby convicting the applicant (hereinafter referred as accused) for the offence punishable under Section 384 of the Indian Penal Code and sentencing him to suffer RI for three years and to pay fine of Rs. 1,000/-, in default, further to suffer SI for six months. He is also convicted for the offence punishable under Section 385 of the Indian Penal Code. However, separate sentence is not awarded. The said judgment was challenged in Regular Criminal Appeal No. 83 of 2010 before the Sessions Court, Wardha. The said appeal came to be dismissed vide judgment dated 29.11.2011.
2. The case of the prosecution against the applicant/accused in short is that the accused is a journalist by profession. One Sonba Bhaisare (complainant) owned Survey No. 125 of Mouza Kamathwada, Gram Panchayat Warud adjacent to Sewagram to Kharangana (Gode) road. Sonba Bhaisare wanted to demarcate the plots for sale. In the year 1994-95, he got converted the land to non-agricultural from agricultural. After such conversion, Sonba sold various plots out of the said layout at market rates to various people. Some purchasers constructed their houses on the said plots.
3. From the year 1999, accused Sharad Deotale (journalist by profession) started meeting Sonbaji regularly. In those meetings, the accused used to tell Sonbaji that the land which he converted into non-agricultural was a Bhoodan Land and, therefore, the said conversion is illegal. Not only this, but accused used to tell Sonbaji that he is journalist and would publish the said fact in newspaper and would even file Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against him. The accused also threatened complainant Sonba with pressurising the Collector compel him to demolish the houses built on the plots already sold by Sonbaji. To create an atmosphere of fear, the accused went to the extent of visiting the houses of the people who had constructed their houses on the plots purchased from the informant. Accused told them that the Collector would demolish their houses and even took photographs of the same.
4. Ultimately, the accused went to the informant's house on 27.07.2000 at about 05:00 to 05:30 p.m.. Complainant Sonbaji tried to convince the accused to desist from his actions. The accused demanded Rs. 50,000/- from Sonba saying that he would stop his activities if the money would be paid to him. Initially informant was reluctant to pay the money but ultimately he agreed to pay Rs. 10,000/- to accused on 28.07.2000 between 01:00 and 01:30 p.m. in the Hanuman Temple on Sewagram road. A sum of Rs. 15,000/- was further agreed to be paid personally by Sonbaji to the accused at 06:00 p.m. at Sewagran on the same day. The modalities regarding the payment of remaining sum of Rs. 25,000/- were to be informed by Sonbaji to the accused in their meeting in the evening on 28.07.2000.
5. Complainant Sonbaji lodged a report in the Police Station against the accused. The police has arranged a trap. The accused was called in the temple. Police has collected amount from Sonba and numbers of currency notes were noted down. In the temple, as agreed, accused came to accept money from the complainant. In the temple, Sonba had given Rs. 10,000/- to the accused. As agreed, the signal was given by Sonba to the trap party. As soon as signals were given to the police, they rushed to the temple and caught hold the accused. The currency notes were seized from the accused at temple. Thereafter, investigation started. Crime was registered against the accused for the offence punishable under Sections 384, 385 of the Indian Penal Code. After completing investigation, charge sheet was filed before the trial Court. Charge was framed at Exh.3. The prosecution has examined in all 13 witnesses. Statement of accused came to be recorded. After hearing the prosecution and defence, learned CJM convicted the accused as stated above.
6. Heard Shri. C.B. Dharmadhikari, learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the applicant/accused, Shri. I.J. Damle, learned Additional Public Prosecutor appearing against respondent No. 1/State and Shri. Mahesh Rai, learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the informant/complainant.
7. Shri. Dharmadhikari, learned Counsel for the accused has pointed out Section 384 and submitted that the injury is not caused to the complainant as defined under Section 44 of the Indian Penal Code. The definition of injury is given in Section 44 which reads as under:—
44. “Injury”. - The word “injury” denotes any harm whatever illegally caused to any person, in body, mind, reputation or property.”
8. The definition clearly shows that the injury not only to body, but injury to mind, reputation also is an injury. Definition of extortion is given in Section 383 of the Indian Penal Code which reads as under:—
383. Extortion. - 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”.
Illustration (a). A threatens to publish a defamatory libel concerning Z to give him money. A has committed extortion.
9. From the plain reading of Section 383 coupled with definition of “injury”, it is clear that there should not be any physical harm to body. Even harm to reputation and mind is an injury. Therefore, submission of learned Counsel for the accused that there was no injury to the complainant has no force.
10. Learned Counsel for the accused has pointed out the judgment of Madras High Court in the case of Mantripragada Mattapalli Narasimha Rao (reported in AIR 1919 Mad 954). It is observed that the “injury” in Section 44 shows that it embraces only such harm to body, mind, reputation or property as may be caused illegally. There would have been nothing illegal in a landed proprietor asking the police to investigate a suspected case of smuggling liquor. The facts in the cited decision are very much different.
11. In the present case, accused not only threatened the complainant to initiate action against the complainant by respective authority but compelled the complainant to pay Rs. 50,000/- to him. At the time of trap arranged by the police, the accused has accepted Rs. 10,000/- from the complainant. Complainant could not have given the amount on that day to the accused but because the accused threatened him saying that he is a journalist and by influencing Collector etc., the houses constructed on the plots would be demolished. Therefore, the cited decision is not applicable to the case at hand.
12. Shri. Dharmadhikari, learned Counsel for the applicant/accused has pointed out the decision in the case of Laxmi Dhar v. Rex (reported in AIR (38) 1951 Ajmer 64(2)), in which it is observed that, “where accused held out a threat that in case the complainant happened to entertain more than 25 guests in the marriage-feast of his niece they would report the matter to the authority concerned unless he paid them a certain sum of money; the threat so given is no ‘injury’ within the meaning of S. 44 read with S. 43 and no offence of extortion can be made out against the accused.”
13. In the present case, the accused not only threatened the complainant to make any complainant to the authority but he threatened the complainant that if he fails to pay Rs. 50,000/- to him, then by influencing the Collector, houses constructed on the plots would be demolished. Because of continuous threats of the journalist/accused, the complainant agreed to pay Rs. 50,000/- to the accused. Accused was caught while accepting Rs. 10,000/- by police. Therefore, cited decision is not applicable to the case at hand.
14. The illustrations to Section 384 are very clear. All the illustrations show that even a threatening by journalists who are reporters to publish news in a newspaper to defame that person amounts to extortion. Illustration-A to Section 383 is very clear. It shows that “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. In the present case, the accused being a journalist threatened the complainant that he would complain the authority to demolish the houses constructed on the plots. He would not do so unless the complainant pays Rs. 50,000/- to him. He induced the complainant to pay Rs. 50,000/-. Therefore, the “extortion” as defined under Section 383 of the Indian Penal Code is rightly proved in the present case against the accused.
15. The evidence of complainant shows that the accused approached him from time to time and threatened him. He has stated that the accused was frequently visiting him and telling him that he is a reporter and he (complainant) converted the land into non-agricultural illegally. Therefore, he is going to publish the said news in newspaper and he would file PIL in High Court and names of persons constructed the houses on the plots sold by him would be reported to the Collector for removing the said houses. The complainant gave understanding to the accused that he had converted the land into non-agricultural legally but he was not listening to him and threatening him.
16. Shri. Damle, learned APP for respondent No. 1/State and Shri. Rai, learned Counsel for the complainant Sonba support the impugned judgment and pray for dismissal of the revision.
17. Shri. Dharmadhikari, learned Counsel for the accused has filed on record the order dated 05th July, 2000 passed by the Division Bench of this Court in Writ Petition No. 1758 of 2000. This order came to be passed by the Division Bench in Public Interest Litigation filed by the accused in which the direction was given by this Court to the Collector. The accused was not concerned for the said land which was converted into non-agricultural. Therefore, it is clear that the accused wanted money from the complainant and, therefore, not only threatening but also filed the PIL in respect of the said plots.
18. Further evidence of complainant shows that on 27.07.2000 at about 05:00 to 05:30 p.m., accused repeatedly threatening the complainant and demanding Rs. 50,000/-. He told him that if he gives Rs. 50,000/-, he will not do anything. Due to threat, he was frightened and he agreed to pay Rs. 50,000/- to the accused. Complainant agreed to pay Rs. 25,000/- in the Hanuman Temple situated on Sewagram road. Out of Rs. 25,000/-, he agreed to pay Rs. 10,000/- and remaining Rs. 15,000/- were to be paid at his house in the evening and they would talk in respect of remaining amount of Rs. 25,000/-. The complainant recorded the discussion between him and accused in the tape recorder. Then accused went away. On 28.07.2000, at about 09:00 a.m., he went to Police Station, Wardha and lodged report against the accused. The said report is at Exh.13. Crime was registered vide Exh.14.
19. After lodging the report by complainant, police decided to help him and to arrest the accused while accepting the money. As per the direction of Police, he handed over Rs. 10,000/- to the police. The numbers on the currency notes were noted by the police. Panch witnesses were called. Those were Enkatwar and Dhomane. Cash was shown to them. Numbers on the currency notes were recorded. Thereafter, complainant along with police and panch witnesses went to Police Station, Sewagram by auto rickshaw. Thereafter, they went to Hanuman Temple in front of Mahila Ashram. As decided, the complainant sat on the stair of temple. Panch witnesses stayed near tea stall on opposite side of the road. Police Constable Ramkrishna entered inside the temple for worship. PSI Shrirame, along with Police Constable Sanjay and Anil hidden themselves around the temple. At about 02:00 p.m., accused Sharad Deotale arrived near temple by scooter. He parked the scooter in front of temple. He arrived near the complainant and shook hand with him. He asked whether the complainant had brought money. Complainant answered in affirmative. As per his say, they both went inside the temple. Accused demanded money. Complainant paid him Rs. 10,000/-. Accused counted that money and kept in the pocket of brown colour. The police and panchas arrived at the door of the temple. As soon as Police Constable Ramkrishna caught hold the accused, they all entered the temple and encircled the accused. Panch witness Enkatwar had taken out the pocket of money. The currency notes were of Rs. 20/- and Rs. 500/- denomination. Accused was arrested and taken to the Police Station. Panchnama etc. were prepared.
20. This particular evidence is corroborated by the evidence of PW-5 Pandhari Moon. He has stated that in the year 1998, this witness has purchased plot from complainant Sonba. He constructed the house in the year 1999. He was residing in the said house. In the year 2000, accused had been to his house for once or twice. He started saying that the plot belongs to “Bhoodan Mandal” and his construction is illegal. Accused took out the photographs of his house. Thereafter, this witness went to the house of accused. One Siddharth Gosavi was with him. He asked accused as to why he had taken photographs of his house. Then he stated that he was asked by the Collector to take such photographs. The evidence of this witness shows that the accused not only threatened the complainant but the purchasers also who constructed their houses on the plots sold by complainant Sonba.
21. Another witness Siddharth Gosavi also stated the same things. PW-7 Pramod Shende, Panch witness has stated that he was present near Hanuman Temple. He was along with police. They all were in civil dress. The currency notes were seized from the accused in the temple. PW-8 Raibhan Dhawane, ASI has stated about the registration of crime. PW-9 Dilip Dhumne was one of the panch witnesses. He has stated in respect of trap in Hanuman temple. PW-13 Rajesh Parteki has stated that he was having pan shop. Two-three police personnel came to his pan shop in a civil dress. At the time of raid, all these police personnel rushed to the Hanuman temple. One person was arrested by them and taken to the Police Station. PW-11 Ramkrishna Meshram, Police Constable has stated that he was in a civil dress, sitting in front of the idol of Hanuman at the time of trap. He has stated that at about 02:00 p.m., accused came to the temple. The complainant and accused entered the temple. The accused was demanding money in his presence. Thereafter, complainant gave money. Accused was counting money. During that time, he caught hold the accused.
22. All the witnesses were thoroughly cross examined by the side of accused. Nothing is brought on record to disbelieve their evidence. The evidence of complainant is well corroborated by other evidence. Not only accused threatened the complainant but also accepted the money in presence of panch witnesses and police in Hanuman temple which is a pious place for worship. Complainant agreed to give Rs. 50,000/- because accused threatened him to publish news in newspaper and also threatened to file PIL. Accused not only stopped there but he filed PIL. The question arises what interest accused had in the said land. The said land was not belonging to him or his ancestor. There are authorities who are responsible to take care of the government land. Therefore, intention of the accused is very clear to extract the money from the complainant and others. He was threatening them. Not only threatening but also filed PIL. Therefore, activities of the accused clearly show that he is a person who might have earned money by such tactics from various persons. Learned trial Court as well as first appellate Court given specific reasons as to why the accused is not entitled for any leniency.
23. The accused threatened complainant old person aged about 72 years and extorted money by threatening him. Offence punishable under Section 384 of the Indian Penal Code is made out by the prosecution. The prosecution has proved the guilt of accused beyond reasonable doubt that accused was threatening to cause injury to mind and reputation of the complainant and thereby induces him to give Rs. 50,000/-. Though the complainant had given only Rs. 10,000/- at the time of trap, he agreed to give balance amount thereafter. Learned trial Court as well as first appellate Court rightly recorded their findings. There is no perversity or illegality in the judgments of both the Courts below. While deciding the revision, the revisional Court has to see whether there is any perversity or illegality. From the perusal of the evidence of witnesses and the judgments of both the Courts below, it is clear that there is no perversity or illegality. Hence, the revision is liable to be dismissed.
24. Shri. Dharmadhikari, learned Counsel for the applicant/accused has submitted that the accused will not commit such type of offence in future. To show bona fides, he has filed undertaking of the accused. Nobody can take guarantee of such type of person that he would not commit any kind of crime. This type of crimes are increasing day by day, by threatening the officers or innocent persons. They are extracting money in the name of journalists. The accused has misused his position and threatened the complainant and purchasers, therefore, he is not entitled for any kind of leniency.
25. In that view of the matter, revision is dismissed. The judgments of the Courts below are hereby maintained. The accused is directed to surrender himself before the trial Court within a period of one week from today. If he fails to surrender himself within stipulated time before the trial Court, the trial Court shall issue warrant and after execution of the same, send the accused to jail to serve the sentence awarded by the trial Court. The accused to surrender his bail bonds.
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