While deciding a case between Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (petitioner) and Multi Reach Media Private Limited (respondent) regarding non-payment of subscription fees, the Calcutta High Court held that the petitioner's demand for outstanding payment as per the agreement did not amount to extortion or criminal intimidation.

The High Court also observed that the dispute was commercial and more appropriate for civil remedies.

The Single Judge Bench of Justice Shampa Dutt (Paul) analyzed the complaint and found that there were no ingredients to make out a case of extortion against the petitioner and noted that the petitioner had acted as per the agreement to demand their dues, and there was no dishonest intention or putting the respondent in fear.

To make out an offence of extortion punishable under Section 385 IPC, there must be prima facie material to show that the accused/petitioners had put the opposite party no. 2 in fear of injury to that person or any other person. There is no material on record to prove that the petitioners had the intention to put the complainant in fear or any other person”, added the Bench.

In this case, the petitioner had demanded outstanding dues from the respondent, threatening disconnection of their channels if not paid, a result of which the respondent had filed a police complaint against the petitioner alleging extortion and criminal intimidation under Section 385 and 120B of IPC. The petitioner had filed a revision petition in High Court seeking to quash the police case against them and argued that the dispute was purely commercial and there was no criminal intent on their part since they were merely acting as per their interconnection agreement to demand legitimate dues.

After considering the submission, the Bench found that the respondent party had admittedly approached Telecom Disputes and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) challenging the legality and validity of the Disconnection notice.

In such circumstances, the application filed under Section 156(3) of CrPC and the subsequent First Information Report was misconceived, malafide, and vexatious, added the Bench.

The High Court thus, allowed the revision petition and quashed the police case against the petitioner, observing that the criminal proceedings should not be used as a tool to settle commercial disputes, and the present case was a fit one for quashing to prevent abuse of process.

Cause Title: Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited v. The State of West Bengal

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