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BLACKMAILING: CRIME OR NOT

Introduction

Nowadays, the term “Blackmail” is widely used. We may see a variety of sorts of blackmailing going on, including cyber blackmailing, extortion, and so on. In general, blackmail is defined as an act in which a person threatens another person while creating a situation in which the person being threatened is forced to perform a specific task under duress for the sake of his privacy, reputation, and most often, the wrongful deeds that they are concealing. It is usually a piece of damaging information, and it is more likely to be shared with family members, relatives, people you know personally, etc., than with the general public.

In most circumstances, the blackmailer must have actual proof of the information he or she threatens to divulge, such as photographs or letters, for blackmail to be effective. In this sense, blackmail is sometimes confused with extortion, and it may depend on a threat of action other than revealing the victim’s secrets. It is usually done for personal gain, which might take the shape of power, money, or real estate. Money or favour is an often-requested concession for such information. If victims do not comply with the blackmailer’s demand, they may suffer the consequences of an illegal act they did previously. So, in most cases, victims either comply with the blackmailer’s demand, report the problem to the police or take matters into their own hands. So, what are your options here?

Difference Between Blackmail and Extortion

Extortion, as well as blackmail, is a type of extortion. Even though the two are distinct, the concepts of blackmail and extortion share the same foundation. Extortion is a type of stealing those entails threatening physical damage or property destruction in order to gain something of value or compel someone to do something. The criminal faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine.

Extortion is primarily a force-based crime, whereas blackmail is mostly an information-based crime. A blackmailer usually has negative information about the victim and uses threats to compel the victim into disclosing that information. Whether the information is real or untrue, blackmail is considered a felony. The blackmailer’s aim to extort money, property, or services from the victim with threats of releasing the information is the core part of the crime. The criminal faces a sentence of up to two years in prison, plus a fine.

Laws Concerning Blackmail

Section 503 IPC: Criminal Intimidation

The IPC section 503 clearly defines blackmailing as a kind of criminal intimidation, according to this section This part includes threats to harm the reputation of any deceased person in whose death the person threatened is interested. The goal must be to injure either the victim or anyone else in whom he has an interest. Even if the perpetrator is unable to carry out his plan, it must exist in his thoughts. Criminal Intimidation is punishable by imprisonment of either sort for a duration of up to two years, a fine, or a combination of two.

Section 383 IPC: Extortion

According to this section extortion occurs when a person knowingly puts another person in fear of harm to themselves or others, and then dishonestly compels that person to transfer to another person any assets or valued security, or anything signed or sealed that can be transformed into a valuable security.  Extortion is punishable under Section 384 of IPC which says “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.”

Section 292A IPC: Discussion of the printing and distribution of grossly immoral material for the purpose of blackmail

This section says that: – “Prints or causes to be printed in any newspaper, periodical or circular, or exhibits or causes to be exhibited, to public view or distributes or causes to be distributed or in any manner puts into circulation any picture or any printed or written document which is grossly indecent, or in scurrilous or intended for blackmail.” Certain sexual offences involving cybercrime are also included by the Information Technology Act of 2000 such as section 66E, 67, 67A, 67B: –

Section 66E of IT Act: – Punishment for violation of privacy

This section says: – “Whoever intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes or transmits the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent, under circumstances violating the privacy of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or with fine not exceeding two lakh rupees, or with both.”

 Section 67, 67A, 67B of IT Act: Obscenity

According to this section, sections 67, 67A, 67B of the IT Act, respectively, make it illegal to publish or send obscene material, material involving sexually explicit acts, and material representing children in sexually explicit acts in electronic form. On the first conviction under section 67 of the IT Act, the penalty is imprisonment of either description for a term of up to three years, with a fine of up to rupees five lakhs, and on a second or subsequent conviction, imprisonment of either description for a term of up to five years, with a fine of up to rupees ten lakhs. On first conviction under section 67A and 67B of the IT Act, the penalty is imprisonment of either description for a term of up to five years, with a fine of up to rupees ten lakhs and on second or subsequent convictions, imprisonment of either description for a term of up to seven years, with a fine of up to rupees ten lakhs.

Case Laws

Romesh Chandra Arora v. State

In the following case, the accused was charged with criminal intimidation for threatening Mr. Romesh and her daughter with making a nude photograph of the daughter public if “hush money” was not paid to him. Clearly, the goal was to scare them. The accused was found guilty under section 503/506 by the trial court, and the High court upheld the conviction.

Ghulam Mohammad v. UT of Ladakh

In the following case, the appellant filed an FIR saying that the accused threatened to go viral with recordings of the video in which there were intimate scenes of the girl unless the appellant paid Rs. 80,000. Here the accused already removed the videos from his phone, also none of the charges against the defendants carry a penalty of more than seven years. As a result, bail was granted to the accused.

Conclusion

The government must take broad and extreme measures to reduce India’s rising rates of blackmailing. To ensure that anyone may report blackmail securely and courteously, the system must have a formal and confidential method for receiving and recording complaints, also the incident should be handled in the strictest of confidence. More significantly, legal, institutional, and community protection mechanisms for these victims must be established, as well as legal and psychological support to encourage the victims to come forward and hold perpetrators accountable and not allow them to get exploited by the perpetrators. Rather than marginalising victims, society must be aware of the situation and should be accepting them.

Victims who are confronted with this problem must take a risk and speak up. They should be aware of their rights and should practice them in cases like this. As a result, society must encourage victims to come forward and non-governmental organizations and the government can take steps to establish an environment that encourages victims to share their stories rather than cave to blackmailer’s demands. Furthermore, the government must take broad and serious measures on an urgent basis to reduce India’s rising rates of blackmailing. That is most significantly the government must prioritise the preservation of the victim’s status and confidentiality.  Last but not least the society should help the victims rather than criticize them.

Author(s) Name: Shivansh Gupta (Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIPU, New Delhi)

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