Bombay HC Holds Journo Guilty Of Extortion For Threatening To Defame Person In News [Read Judgment]
Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court recently held a journalist guilty of extortion for threatening to publish a news item defaming the complainant and demanding money in exchange for his silence.
In doing so, Justice MG Giratkar observed, "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."
The court was hearing a revision petition filed by a journalist, Sharad Balkrushna Deotale, against a judgment passed in August, 2010 convicting him under Sections 384 (extortion) and 385 (putting person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion) of the Indian Penal Code.
The prosecution had alleged that the petitioner had threatened a man, who had sold a plot to several persons, after converting it from agricultural to non-agricultural land. Deotale had threatened him of publishing a news item against him, alleging that he had fraudulently converted the plot. He had also warned him of influencing the Collector of the area and getting the structures, now built upon the plot, demolished.
After making such threats, Deotale had demanded Rs. 50,000 from the complainant in exchange for desisting from taking any such steps. However, the complainant reported him to the police and a trap was laid, after which he was caught red-handed accepting a part of the extortion amount.
He had now contended that he could not have been convicted under Section 383 as no physical injury was caused to the complainant. The court, however, referred to the definition of injury under Section 44 and opined that even harm to reputation and mind constitutes an injury.
It further explained, "IllustrationA 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."
The court, therefore, ruled that the petitioner's guilt had been proven beyond reasonable doubt. It further refused to show any sort of leniency to him despite him having furnished an undertaking assuring the court that he would not commit any such offence in future.
"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," the court observed, dismissing the petition.
Read the Judgment Here