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Kidnapping For Ransom: Section 364A IPC

Section 364A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deals with "Kidnapping for Ransom" defines the abominable crime of holding a person captive with a view to extorting money or coercing an action from a government authority, foreign government, international organization, or any other person. In particular, this section outlines when an individual kidnaps someone else and retains them in illegal custody or threatens harm or death in order to gain certain actions, such as payment of ransom or release of prisoners. The gravity of the offence is emphasized by the potential penalty for its commission; namely, capital punishment or life imprisonment in conjunction with a fine.

This crime is non-bailable and cognizable as one can be arrested without a warrant by law enforcement, and bail is denied to the accused person as an absolute matter. Moreover, it is only triable by the Court of Session that deals with severe criminal cases. It is not compoundable under Section 320 of CrPC, which means that such offences cannot be compromised. Section 364A acts as a strong prevention against kidnapping for ransom or coercion by laying out rigid legal measures and striving to seek justice for the victims and their families who have been subjected to such illegal acts.

Ransom kidnapping is a detestable act in which individuals are taken hostage to later extort money from their loved ones or even authorities before releasing them safely. This despicable behaviour has been around since time immemorial and is still rampant across the globe today, representing enormous obstacles that law enforcement has to face and leaving indescribable suffering for victims and their loved ones.

Kidnapping with an intention to obtain ransom is mostly prompted by economic motives or the desire to hold a political hostage. Criminals, terrorist organizations, and individuals use this technique as a source of profit or promotion of their agenda. Often, it is those who are in the public eye or whose family members have a high standing in society who are targeted since they are perceived as wealthy or influential, thus becoming attractive prey for ransom fees.

One of the most common ways in which kidnapping for ransom is initiated is through the selection of a victim and planning for the actual abduction. In some cases, assailants may try to identify potential victims and evaluate their weaknesses using surveillance as a means of preparation. After the target is identified, they are kidnapped forcefully, and violence or fear may be applied in the process.

During the kidnapping, the kidnappers usually make a call to the victim's family, employer, or even some government authorities, telling them their demands for a ransom. These demands are normally followed by threats of physical injury or even death unless their demands are met within a given time frame. The parties concerned could enter into negotiations that would see terms such as the amount of ransom, payment method, and conditions under which the victim is freed discussed.

The issue of paying ransom is an ethical conflict for all parties concerned. On one hand, the main aim is to bring back the abducted person safely home, but by agreeing to pay, kidnappers may gain more power and have a chance for further abductions as well as funding their criminal activities. Governments and law enforcement bodies typically have rules that discourage negotiation with kidnappers or ransom payment in order to prevent future occurrences. Nonetheless, for families confronting the indescribable agony of a loved one's kidnapping, opting to pay ransom might be their sole hope for a secured reunion.

While a ransom kidnapping can seem to be over once the payment has been made and the individual is freed without any injury, victims, along with their relatives, bear tremendous consequences, psychologically speaking, of course, in the form of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Moreover, many families may experience financial hardships due to having paid the ransom, as well as coping with repercussions at emotional and practical levels after the crime.

The fight against ransom kidnappings involves a multifaceted approach that encompasses collaboration among law enforcement, intelligence gathering, and public awareness campaigns. Specialized units within law enforcement agencies are responsible for investigating these cases and capturing the culprits. International cooperation is crucial, as many kidnappings occur across borders, requiring coordinated efforts between nations to locate suspects and rescue victims.

Additionally, raising awareness about the dangers of kidnapping and educating the public on safety measures can help reduce the risk. This includes advising individuals and organizations on security protocols, such as avoiding high-risk areas, implementing personal security measures, and maintaining open communication with authorities.

In summary, ransom kidnappings are a despicable crime that causes immense suffering to victims and their loved ones. It is a complex and prevalent problem that demands a joint effort from governments, law enforcement agencies, and society as a whole to effectively combat it. Through the implementation of comprehensive strategies focused on prevention, detection, and response, we can work towards mitigating this heinous crime and safeguarding the well-being of individuals worldwide.

In the case of Ashwani Kumar Yadav v. State of Chhattisgarh, the conviction order of the Trial Court under Sections 307, 120B, 364-A, 392, and 397 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) was affirmed by the High Court, which was then challenged in an appeal before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that an offence under Section 364A of the IPC cannot be applied if the kidnapping or abduction did not involve a ransom demand. Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and Satish Chandra Sharma emphasized that the prosecution failed to prove the existence of a ransom call, leading to the conclusion that the accused cannot be held liable under Section 364A IPC.

The Court also referred to the case of Shaik Ahmed v. State of Telangana [(2021) 9 SCC 59], which highlighted three conditions that must be met to establish an offence under Section 364A. These include the occurrence of a kidnapping or abduction, a threat of death or harm to the person, or the accused person's conduct indicating such a threat, and the intention to compel the government, foreign state, intergovernmental organization, or any other person to perform or abstain from an act or pay a ransom.

In the case of Shaik Ahmed v. State of Telangana, 2021 SCC Online SC 436, decided on 28.06.2021, Ashok Bhushan and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ, of the Supreme Court, outlined the key elements that need to be established by the prosecution in order to successfully convict an individual under Section 364A of the Indian Penal Code, which pertains to kidnapping for ransom.

To define what constitutes kidnapping for ransom, the necessary elements include: (i) The act of kidnapping or abducting someone or unlawfully detaining a person; and (ii) The threat to inflict death or bodily injury on the captive, or conduct which leads to a reasonable belief that such a person may be subjected to harm; or (iii) Inflicting harm or causing the death of that person in order to force the Government, any foreign State, any international organization, any other person, or group of persons into some action which should not have been done, to which they had not committed themselves, with whom they did not have any agreement at all by conduct from the part of those parties towards them.

The first condition having been met, the Court stated that a second condition must be established based on the use of the word "and" in conjunction with the first condition. Therefore, in addition to the first condition, either condition (ii) or (iii) must be proven; otherwise, conviction under Section 364A is not tenable.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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