This article is written by Shraddha Jain, a student of the Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad. This article seeks to elucidate the concept of criminal intimidation as mentioned under Section 503 IPC. The article covers essential ingredients, analysis, punishment and various judgements on the topic of criminal intimidation and summarises all the related concepts like anonymous criminal intimidation, insult to cause the breach of the peace, the object of divine displeasure, the difference between extortion and criminal intimidation, etc.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Many of you might have faced a situation where you committed an act that you were not legally bound to do. You only did that act because someone threatened you to do otherwise he or she will cause harm to your reputation, body, or property. But how many of you know that this act of threatening is an offence under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC)? Yes! You have heard it right. This is an offence of criminal intimidation that is provided under Section 503 of the IPC. According to this Section, criminal intimidation occurs when an accused threatens the victim with damage to his reputation, body, or property, or another individual in whom he has a vested interest. The punishment for the offence is outlined in Section 506 of the IPC.

The goal of the accused in committing this crime is to force the victim to perform something illegal for the profit or advantage of the accused. We’ll learn more details about this offence later in the article. We will be dealing with the essential ingredients required for the commission of this offence, various provisions of punishment for the commission of such an offence; different judgements, etc.

What is criminal intimidation

According to the Oxford dictionary, the literal definition of intimidation is “to intimidate someone in order that the other person acts as we desire.”

Criminal intimidation is defined in Section 503 of the IPC as an offence committed in which an individual endangers or threatens another with harm to his person, reputation, or property in order to compel the other individual to do an act that he is not bound by law to perform. The intimidator is the person who endangers the other.

The accused may use words or gestures to intimidate and harm the victim’s body, property, reputation, or other members of the family. 

Illustration: A threatens to burn down B’s house in order to persuade him not to file a civil suit. A has committed the offence of criminal intimidation. In this situation, A has threatened B that he will cause damage to the property of B and subsequently asked him to omit to do the certain act (to file a civil suit) which he is legally bound to do therefore A will be guilty of the offence of criminal intimidation.

Essentials of criminal intimidation

The landmark case of Narender Kumar & Ors v. State (2012) established the following elements as necessary to constitute an offence of criminal intimidation:

The threat of injury to the victim

Section 44 of the IPC defines injury as any damage whatsoever unlawfully induced to any individual, in body, mind, reputation, or property.

Threatening can be done in the following ways:

  • to cause injury to a person;
  • to cause injury to his reputation;
  • to cause injury to his property; 
  • to cause injury to another person or the reputation of anybody in whom the victim is interested.

Intimidation to cause bodily harm to another

Criminal intimidation refers to any threat or danger that would cause bodily harm to an individual. Physical damage alone must be taken into account for this Section, and mental or emotional trauma must be avoided. Moreover, the danger has to be specific in nature and clearly communicated to the opposing party.

Intimidation to cause damage to his reputation

The term ‘reputation’ has been used in the context of goodwill because it will diminish a person’s value in the eyes of the community. As a result, any effort or danger to cause harm to goodwill falls under the purview of criminal intimidation.

Threatens to cause harm to his property

The property or wealth of an individual is the outcome of his tireless hard work and is extremely valuable to him. Therefore, any danger or warning that could cause significant damage to his property is also regarded as an offence under Section 503 of the IPC. The word ‘property’ encompasses both physical and intangible property. Joint-holding properties can also come under the ambit of this Section.

Threatening to inflict harm to any other individual or his reputation in which the original person’s interest is involved

The definition of criminal intimidation is broadened by this provision. This provision broadened the definition of criminal intimidation. This provision makes threats or warnings of threats an offence if they are intended to harm someone in whom they have a personal interest. In layman’s terms, it refers to any warning or threat given to his son, daughter, wife, or any other close family member. Moreover, the explanation mentioned in Section 503 asserts that a threat to harm a dead person’s reputation is also protected by this Section.

Intention at the time of the threat

The threat should be made with the intention of:

  • causing alerts to an individual; or
  • causing an individual to perform an act that he is not legally required to perform in order to prevent the implementation of such a threat; or
  • causing an individual to omit to perform any act which that individual is legally assigned to do in order to prevent the implementation of such a threat.

Supreme Court of India defined the nature of criminal intimidation in the leading case of Romesh Chandra Arora v. State ❲1960❳. The Court concluded that criminal intimidation is said to be committed not only when a threat has been imposed but also when that threat causes a mere warning to an individual.

Threatening to cause alarm to an individual

This provision requires that there be an intent to cause alarm to an individual who is threatened. The word ‘alarm’ was established in the case of Amulya Kumar Behera v. Nabaghana Behera Alias Nabina (1995), in which the Orissa High Court determined that it is similar to words such as ‘fear’ or ‘distress’.

Threatening someone to do something he is not legally obligated to do

According to this clause, if a person endangers someone with force to do something that he does not want to do lawfully, he will be charged with criminal intimidation.

In the case of Nand Kishore v. Emperor (1927), a butcher was threatened by some people that if he engaged in the trading of beef, he would be sent to prison, and it would be difficult for him to live in society. During that time, the trading of beef was legal. Therefore, the Allahabad High Court ruled that this threat would be construed as criminal intimidation.

Threatening an individual to omit to perform any act that he is lawfully required to do

If anyone knowingly and willingly threatens or attempts to threaten anyone to refrain from performing any act that he is legally permitted to perform, he will be charged with criminal intimidation.

An analysis of criminal intimidation

As we have seen, the main components of Section 503 are threats and the intent to cause harm. The threat must be communicated to the victim. The threat can be communicated verbally, in writing, or even through expressions. Besides that, if there isn’t any intent to cause harm, the threat is insufficient. This requirement of criminal intimidation might even be met if the threat frightens the complainant. As a result, a threat to induce actual physical real physical harm is unnecessary.

An intentional insult intended to cause a breach of peace

Section 504 of the IPC allows for another type of intimidation. Unlike Section 503, in this provision, no purpose of causing damage is required, and no threat is required.

Section 504 applies when someone intentionally insults and instigates him (for example, by using offensive language). The offender must be aware that his instigation may induce the victim to disrupt public order or commit an offence.

For example, if the accused abused the victim in a way that seriously impacted the modesty of his mother or sister, such conduct is punishable under IPC Section 504.

This is punishable by imprisonment for up to two years, with or without a fine. 

Punishment for criminal intimidation

Under Section 506 of the IPC, the punishments for the offence of criminal intimidation are as follows:

Simple criminal intimidation

The first part of this Section provides that if a person is convicted of the offence of criminal intimidation, then their penalty would be up to two years of imprisonment, a fine, or both. The offence that falls under this part is non-cognizable, bailable, compoundable, and triable by any magistrate.

Hurt, grievous hurt or death of the person

The second part of this Section provides that if the threat of the intimidator causes hurt, grievous hurt, or death to the person who is threatened, or damage to any property by fire, he or she will have to face a maximum of seven years imprisonment, a fine, or both. The offences under this part are non-compoundable and can be tried by a magistrate of the first class.

The threat is to impute chastity to women

When a person threatens a woman with unchastity, the punishment has to be either imprisonment of any kind for a term that can last up to seven years, or a fine, or both.

Is probation available for those charged under Section 506 IPC

The Supreme Court has given two different responses to the question of whether an individual charged with criminal intimidation and punished under Section 506 of the IPC, is entitled to probation.

In Ramnaresh Pandey v. State of Madhya Pradesh (1973), the accused was charged with intimidating a female doctor, for which he was punished by the trial court under Section 506 of Part II of the IPC and sentenced to one year on probation (under Section 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act 1958). The learned Additional Session Judge reversed the trial judge’s judgement. This sentence was upheld by the High Court. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, asserted that the appellate court shouldn’t have reversed the trial court’s order of probation. The Supreme Court overturned the appellate court’s order because neither the appellate court nor the High Court provided any justification for overturning the trial court’s order of probation based on good behaviour.

In complete contradiction, in Siyasaran v. State of Madhya Pradesh (2019), the Supreme Court ruled that the accused, who had previously been found guilty of attacking a doctor by punching him in the face, causing a misplaced tooth, shouldn’t have had his act tolerated. The trial court convicted him under Sections 333 and 506 (Part II) of the IPC and sentenced him to three and two years in prison, respectively, which the High Court upheld. The Supreme Court denied the accused’s request for probation on the basis of good behaviour. However, the court ruled that crimes against doctors and staff in healthcare facilities are not allowed because it would harm the self-esteem of all doctors. As a result, the conviction was upheld by the court.

Commission of criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication

This is a more serious or agitated type of criminal intimidation, punishable under Section 507 of the IPC. Except for one element, the rest of the elements of criminal intimidation are exactly the same under this offence. The distinguishing feature of this offence is that the criminal intimidator commits the offence anonymously without revealing his identity. This offence is punishable by imprisonment for a term of up to two years, a fine, or both. It should be noted that this imprisonment is in addition to the usual punishment for criminal intimidation, which is provided under Section 506 of the IPC.

The nature of the offence under Section 507 of the IPC is bailable, non-cognizable, and non-compoundable, triable by a first-class magistrate.

For example, suppose the daughter of a person named Ram is abducted by certain goons. The goons called Mr. Ram and demanded a ransom of Rs 25 lakh without revealing their identities. They also threatened Mr. Ram that they would kill his daughter if he did not make a payment on time. This is an offence covered by this Section.

Act caused by inducing a person to believe that he will be rendered an object of divine displeasure

According to Section 508 of the IPC, when an accused person voluntarily causes or attempts to cause any person to do something that he is not legally bound to do or to omit to do something that he is legally entitled to do, and the accused person induces such a person to believe that he or any person in whom he is interested will become an object of divine displeasure if he does not do a particular thing, the accused person is guilty.

If a person violates the law in a specific way, he or she faces a maximum of one year in prison, a fine, or both.

Furthermore, the offence under this Section can be categorised as non-cognizable, bailable, and compoundable by the individual against whom the offence was committed, and triable by any magistrate.

Difference between extortion and criminal intimidation 

Extortion and criminal intimidation are frequently confused in common usage. The distinction was outlined in the case of Romesh Chandra Arora v. State ❲1960❳.

In this case, the appellant was found guilty of criminal intimidation under Section 506 on the grounds that he took indecent images of a girl and was claiming that he loved her. He also threatened her father with the publication of the pictures and letters written to him with the intention of extracting money from him. The accused was found guilty under Section 506 of the IPC by both the trial and appellate courts. The appellant contended that his conviction for criminal intimidation under Section 506 of the IPC was incorrect. Rather, the appellant might have been found guilty of extortion under Sections 384 and 511 of the IPC. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal. The Court stated that although the accused’s main objective was not only to cause alarm but also to get her father to grant him a ‘ransom amount’ to make sure that he did not carry through on his threat to make the damaging pictures public. Therefore, the crime committed might be classified as extortion under Section 383 of the IPC. But the court said that in this case, two courts agreed that the offence was constituted as criminal intimidation. As a result, the Supreme Court declined to overturn the judgement and determined that no bias had been caused towards the accused. The Court also held that when two separate elements of an act are treated separately, a specific action might be said to fall under two broad definitions of an offence.

Some basic differences between extortion and criminal intimidation are as follows:

Points of differencesExtortionCriminal intimidation 
Sections of IPCIt is defined in Section 383 of the IPC.It is defined in Section 503 of the IPC.
DefinitionExtortion means that an individual places another individual in a state of apprehension or threat to injure him or dishonestly persuade him so that he can deliver the property or any other valuable security to another person.This offence is committed when someone poses a threat to another with harm to his person, property, or reputation, and the other person is forced to perform or omit something he is not legally required to do or omit.
PurposeThe main purpose of extortion is to obtain money or any other valuable security.The main purpose of criminal intimidation is to threaten someone to do any act that he is not bound to do or to induce someone not to do anything that he is legally bound to do. 
Force usedIn extortion, both actual and constructive force are used.In criminal intimidation, only constructive force is used. 
Delivery of the propertyDelivery of the property is essential under this offence.There is no delivery of property, money, or valuable security in criminal intimidation.
Punishment for the offenceThe maximum punishment for extortion is 3 years.The maximum punishment for criminal intimidation is 2 years.

Social media : a new platform for criminal intimidation

Social media has created a new world order. When an individual might not say anything in person, he may say something through the veils of online platforms. With the emergence of social media sites, offenders now have a new system to intimidate and threaten someone. They no longer have to intimidate their victims physically; they can accomplish this with a single click. Furthermore, such threats can be forwarded anonymously, providing the perpetrators with an advantage. 

Section 503 of the IPC also addresses criminal intimidation in instances in which the offender conveys his threat via an online platform. And thus, Section 503 of the IPC requires that the danger should be conveyed to the individual intimidated, irrespective of the medium, and thus, even if a threat is produced through social sites, it should also be considered criminal intimidation within the scope of Section 503, and when the offender transmits the threat anonymously or attempts to conceal his identity while transmitting the threat, he will also be liable under Section 507 of the IPC. However, there is a potential problem in applying Section 503 in instances in which the threat was made online. Section 503 requires that the threat be formed with the aim of communicating it to the individual intimidated. However, on social media platforms, communication meant for a small group of people can reach a large number. So, whenever the threat reaches the person threatened but the accused has no intention of communicating the threat to the threatened person, the statute no longer perceives it as criminal intimidation.

Threats and intimidation are all too frequent on social media. It is shocking to note that such threats have even prompted people to attempt or commit suicide. There have been instances where the accused in criminal proceedings have threatened victims into withdrawing their complaints using online mediums. These incidents endanger not only the victims of the crime but also the very objectives of the criminal justice system. Given the gravity of the circumstance, it is critical that the law prevent this from becoming the new normal.

Judicial pronouncements on criminal intimidation

Doraswamy Iyer v. King-Emperor (1924)

In the case of Doraswamy Ayyar v. King-Emperor (1924), the Madras High Court held that the nature of a threat should be realistic in order to perform or cause harm to the victim. It was observed that the threat of divine punishment would not be taken into account under Section 503 of the IPC.

Rajinder Datt v. State of Haryana (1992)

In the case of Rajinder Datt v. State of Haryana (1992), it was stated that mere outbursts of the accused during the attack indicating that he intended to kill the victim were insufficient to hold that the act would fall under the ambit of Section 506 of the IPC because it could not be said that he was involved in criminal intimidation of the victim with the intent to cause death or grievous harm. This is especially applicable in situations where the damages are not severe and do not affect any vital parts of the victim’s body.

Shri Vasant Waman Pradhan v. Dattatraya Vithal Salvi (2004)

The Bombay High Court declared in the case of Shri Vasant Waman Pradhan v. Dattatraya Vithal Salvi (2004) that mens rea is the core of criminal intimidation. Mens rea refers to malafide intentions to do something. The intention must be determined based on the facts and situations associated with the incident.

Manik Taneja & Anr v. State of Karnataka (2015)

In the case of Manik Taneja & Anr v. State of Karnataka (2015), the appellant was involved in a car accident with an auto-rickshaw. The appellant paid the compensation for the treatment of the passenger of the auto-rickshaw after learning that he had been wounded; the passenger was later taken to a hospital, and no complaint was filed.

Even after that, the woman was summoned to the police station and allegedly threatened by officers. Feeling incensed, she complained on the Bangalore traffic police’s Facebook page regarding the cruel treatment and abusive behaviour of the police. The police lodged an FIR and registered a lawsuit against the appellant under Section 506 of the IPC. The Bench determined that there had been no evidence of criminal intimidation in this case. The Supreme Court ruled that posting written statements about unfair police treatment of an individual on their Facebook page did not constitute criminal intimidation.

Vikram Johar v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2019) 

In the case of Vikram Johar v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2019), the respondent reached the plaintiff’s residence with 2-3 other random people, among whom one was carrying a pistol, and abused the plaintiff in filthy language and tried to attack him; when some neighbours reached, the respondent and the other people surrounding him ran away.

The Supreme Court determined that the aforementioned accusation, if taken at face value, does not meet the requirements of Section 504 and Section 506 of the IPC. The deliberate insult should be severe enough to cause an individual to break the public peace or commit another crime. The mere act of abusing someone in filthy or dirty language does not meet the requirements for the offence of criminal intimidation under Section 503 of the IPC.

Limitation of the provision of criminal intimidation

Chapter XXII of the IPC, which contains the provision of criminal intimidation, lags far behind societal needs. With a changing and developing society, the law must also evolve. The notion of criminal intimidation is extremely broad. There is no explicit provision for being intimidated to commit suicide as a result of a threat, and there is no specific provision for intimidation through online platforms. As a result, it must be acknowledged that there is an immediate requirement for more inclusive provisions, as well as punishments that have societal value for criminal intimidation.

Conclusion

The primary goal of the IPC is to establish a legal framework for cases to be tried and punishments to be imposed. It guarantees that justice is served. It is frequently used to describe various offences known to humanity. One of the pillars of the IPC is the crime of criminal intimidation. It is a type of preventive punishment in which the accused is penalised for intimidating rather than committing the crime. It makes no difference whether or not the actual crime happened.

A mere threat, on the other hand, does not constitute criminal intimidation; it must be made with the intent of alarming the individual threatened. It is irrelevant whether it has frightened the recipient of the threat; what is needed is the accused’s purpose to do so.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How is criminal intimidation established?

If the accused uses threats to alarm the victim, this proves criminal intimidation.

Can an accused be arrested for the offence of criminal intimidation?

Yes, criminal intimidation is an arrestable offence.

What exactly is a legal threat?

A legal threat is a declaration made by one party that it intends to take legal proceedings against another party, usually followed by a demand that the opposing party take the action demanded by the first party or stop doing or continuing behaviour that the demanding party objects to.

References 


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