Sextortion is a social menace represents profound violation of privacy :Delhi High court

    Case no.: CRL.MA. 9451/2024 and 9452/2024
    Dated on: 24th April 2024
    Quorum: Justice Hon’ble Mr. Justice Amit Mahajan
    FACTS OF THE CASEThe present applications are filed under section 438 of the criminal procedure code ,1973 seeking grant of pre-arrest bail for the offences punishable under sections 419,420,388,170, of Indian penal code 1860.
    The complainant namely, Dewan Singh Malik who alleged that on 10.10.2022, he received a WhatsApp video call from an unknow lady, and insisted for private video call and later recorded the video call. Thereafter complainant received several calls from different phone numbers who introduced themselves as police officers/ Youtube Employees and extorted a total amount of Rs. 16 Lakhs on the pretext of removing the video from all social media platforms and threatening him of false accusation in the murder case of the lady in the video and on the pretext of settling the matter case with her family.
    During investigation, on analysis of CDRs of the alleged numbers it was found further, three accused persons were arrested on 22.12.2022. During the interrogation, the said accused persons disclosed the names present applicants they stated that they used to commit such offences along with present applicants. They further disclosed that SIM cards which were used by them for calling victims and for opening of the bank account used for receiving money.
    The investigation in the present case further reveals that the alleged mobile numbers are on fake IDs and were used in one common IMEI numbers, it was found one of the accused name called soukin.
    The appellants, through their counsel, submits that the applicants have been falsely implicated based on the disclosure statements of the co-accused persons and there is nothing incriminating against the applicants. Further submits that the applicants have already joined the investigation and provided necessary information available with him. He submits that the applicants have no connection with the complainant an they are not a beneficiary of the alleged cheated amount.
    He submits that there is no evidence to establish any nexus whatsoever between the applicants and the offences as alleged in the FIR.
    The learned Additional Public Prosecutor for the state opposed to grant of any relief to the applicants.
    He submits that the allegation against the applicants are serious in nature. He submits that the learned Additional Sessions Judge has rightly rejected the bail application of the applicants. He submits that the applicants have joined investigation in terms of the direction of this court but they have not cooperated in the same. He states that the all accused persons have been active member of the organised crime syndicate being run for carrying out an organised crime of sextortion.
    Section 438 of criminal procedure code 1973:- clearly says that when any person has reason to believe that he may be arrested on an accusation of having committed a non bailable offence, he may apply to the high court or court of session under this section, and that in the event of such arrest, he shall be released on bail.
    Section 419 : punishment imprisonment for 3 years or fine or both
    Section 388: Extortion by threat of accusation of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life.
    Section 420: punishment imprisonment for 7 years or fine or both
    The material presented by the prosecution establish prima facie involvement of the applicants. The evidence including digital records and communication, link the applicant to the alleged offence. Considering the status report flied by the state, it cannot be held, at this stage, that the investigation is being carried out with the intention to injure or humiliate the applicant. The nature and the gravity of allegations are serious specific allegations have also been made that the applicants have been indulging into similar offence on earlier occasions.
    Sextortion represents a profound violation of privacy and is a significant social menace.it involves the exploitation of obtained intimate images and videos to extort money or favours from victims, often leading to severe psychological trauma. Dismantling such a complex modus operandi, which is alleged to have been used by the applicants and the other accused persons, by its very nature requires thorough investigation and custodial interrogation which ought not to be curtailed by passing and order under section 438of the CrPC. It is clarified that any observations made in the present order are for the purpose of deciding the present bail application and should not influences the outcome of the trail and also not be taken as expression of opinion on the merit of the case.
    Hence, the present application is accordingly dismissed.

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    Judgement Reviewed by – HARIRAGHAVA JP

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