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Report No. 156

Clause 162

12.63. Under this clause a new section 385A is sought to be inserted. The proposed section is intended to cover an offence of blackmailing with the dishonest intention. The existing section 383 defines extortion and section 385 lays down that putting the person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion irrespective of delivery of any property etc. is an offence punishable under the Code.

The Law Commission in its 42nd Report examined the question whether the definition of extortion as it exists covers every case as blackmail as, for instance, where money is obtained by threatening to expose something true but unsavory about a person and when such conduct though reprehensible may not squarely attract the definition of extortion or at any rate an ambiguity is there because it is not clear whether such a threat would amount to a threat of injury.

The word 'injury' is defined as to denote any harm whatever illegally caused to any person in body, mind or reputation or property. The word 'dishonesty' is defined to mean that "whoever does anything with the intention of causing wrongful gain to any person or wrongful loss to any person is said to have acted dishonestly".

Now the new section 385A is to the effect that whoever by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations, dishonestly threatens any person with the making or publication of any imputation which is likely to harm his reputation or the reputation of any near relative or any person shall be punishable. The object underlying the new section is that such an act of blackmailing with the dishonest intention is to threaten in the manner mentioned therein which may result in harm should be made punishable.

The Law Commission in the proposed section did not use the words "any near relative" but on the other hand used the words "any other person". In the new section in place of words "any other person" we find the words "any near relative of that person". The change brought about in the new section appears to be more coherent than make it so wide as to cover harm to any "other person". A doubt may arise whether this new section can properly be added after 385 for the reason that the word "extortion" as defined in section 383 envisages extortion of some property or putting the person in fear.

But in the new section the word "dishonestly" itself indicates the intention of causing wrongful gain or wrongful loss which naturally implies the delivery of property or valued security, etc. The further usage of the word likely to harm the reputation would mean causing an injury. In the present crime scenario the blackmailing has become very rampant. Therefore, the new section dealing with such offences is very necessary.

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