Internet extortion is a cybercrime where an individual or group coerces another person into giving money, property, or services by threatening them through digital means. Such threats often involve harm to the victim's personal life, reputation, or business. This crime has seen an alarming increase due to the proliferation of the Internet and digital technology.
In India, the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act), and the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), provide the legal framework to deal with internet extortion. Section 66D and 66E of the IT Act, in conjunction with Sections 383 to 389 of IPC, are primarily employed to combat internet extortion.
Legislation Governing Internet Extortion in India
Section 66D of the IT Act: This section penalises the act of 'cheating by personation' using any communication device or computer resource. If a person assumes the identity of another person and cheats by using a computer or communication device, they can be held liable under this section. The punishment can extend to imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of up to one lakh rupees.
Section 66E of the IT Act: This provision penalises the violation of privacy by intentionally capturing, publishing, or transmitting the image of a private area of any person without their consent. This can be used against those who threaten to leak explicit content in an extortion attempt.
Section 383 to 389 of IPC: These sections define extortion and lay out the punishments for committing it. Extortion is described as compelling a person to deliver property or valuable security, or to cause harm, by putting them in fear of injury. Internet extortion cases can also be brought under these sections, providing another legal avenue for victims.
Key Case Laws Related to Internet Extortion
State of Maharashtra v. Prafulla Kumar Dashrathlal Dalal (2016): In this case, the accused created a fake social media profile of the victim and threatened to upload explicit content if they did not pay a certain sum. The Court held that the accused's actions constituted offences under Section 66D of the IT Act and Section 384 (Punishment for Extortion) of IPC.
Atul Shantilal Kotecha v. State of Maharashtra (2018): The accused used emails to threaten the victim that their explicit photos would be circulated unless they paid a hefty amount. The Court decided that the accused had violated Sections 66D and 66E of the IT Act, and Section 385 (Putting person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion) of IPC.
Prevention and Redressal Mechanisms
Internet extortion can be reported to the Cyber Crime Cell of any city, irrespective of the location of the crime. Victims can also report it to their local police station, and the case will be transferred to the Cyber Crime Cell if necessary. Organisations like the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) also work actively in this sphere.
Conclusion: Navigating Internet Extortion in the Digital Age
Internet extortion is a grave issue that can have serious psychological and financial repercussions for victims. Through legislation like the IT Act and IPC, India seeks to provide a robust framework to combat these digital-age crimes. Awareness, prompt reporting, and use of advanced technological safeguards are crucial in effectively combating internet extortion. While these legal avenues exist, it's equally important for individuals to practice online safety and be aware of their digital footprints, ensuring they don't become an easy target for such crimes.