This article is written by Ashutosh Singh, a student at Amity Law School, Amity University, Kolkata. This article explains the offence of criminal intimidation under Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 along with judicial opinions in the matter. 

This article has been published by Shoronya Banerjee.

Introduction 

The provisions for criminal intimidation are given under Section 503 to Section 507 under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). The general public sometimes gets confused between extortion, assault and criminal intimidation. Section 503 of IPC, 1860 describes what is criminal intimidation and Section 506 and Section 507 are the penal sections that state the punishment for the offence of criminal intimidation. 

Intimidation in layman terms means to threaten somebody and thereby to make them act or react in a particular manner. In other words,  threaten somebody so they do as per the desire of the intimidator and they are made to do an act they are not legally bound to or omit to do so to avoid the threat. Section 503 describes what constitutes criminal intimidation. To understand the punishment for criminal intimidation under Section 506 of IPC, it is also important to learn about Section 503 which defines what criminal intimidation is.

Description of Section 503 IPC, 1860

Section 503 of IPC explains that whosoever threatens another person or a person they are interested in with: 

  • An injury to his/her person, 
  • An injury to his/her reputation,
  • An injury to their property, 
  • An act to cause alarm to that person, 

and makes them do something which he/she is legally not bound to do, or to omit to do any act which he/she is legally entitled to do, to avoid the execution of such threat is committing an act of criminal intimidation. 

Illustrations

  • A thief entered the house of ‘X’ and robbed the house and also threatened to kill him and his wife if they raised an alarm or complained to the police when they caught him stealing. After the robber left they immediately called the police and as soon as the police caught the culprit, he was charged with robbery and criminal intimidation. However, the accused got bail but he was finally held guilty by the Court on charges of criminal intimidation and robbery. 
  • It was alleged that Mr. ‘A’, the cousin of a blind girl touched her hand when she was asleep and further proceeded to remove her quilt and insert his hand inside her dress. He also threatened to kill her if she disclosed his identity to anyone. The girl’s family filed a complaint against Mr “A”. The Court held that Mr “A” was guilty of criminal intimidation under this section, apart from other offences.
  • Z’s neighbour ‘Y’ had built a garage without informing him while he was on a holiday. When ‘Z’ returned, he protested against this act of ‘Y’ because this had damaged the part of the property that belonged to ‘Z’. ‘Y’ also abused ‘Z’ with filthy language and threatened to get ‘Z’ beaten and killed by Y’s hooligans and gunda friends. ‘Z’ was advised by his lawyer to take the matter to Court. The Court held that the threat to beat up ‘Z’ and get him killed was a clear case of criminal intimidation, however, the abuses would not amount to an offence under this section. 
  • Mrs. “A” and her husband had an inter-caste marriage after running away from home as their families did not want them to get married. After a year, Mrs “A” received letters from her father and brother saying that they will come to separate Mrs “A” and her husband. They threatened to burn Mrs “A”’s house and kill her husband as they were still angry at Mrs “A” for eloping with her husband. Mrs “A” and her husband were scared and approached a lawyer who helped them to file a case of criminal intimidation against the family members threatening to harm them and their property. 
  • ‘D’ and his friends decided to file a case against a clothes shop where the shopkeeper took some photos of ‘D’s friend ‘F’ while she was changing and trying out new clothes. When ‘D’ and his friends were caught by the shopkeeper, the shopkeeper threatened that he would leak the pictures of ‘F’ and also hurt ‘D’ and his friend’s family members if they approached the police. Despite the threat, ‘D’ and his friends approached the police in the first instance. They went to Court and initiated a criminal procedure suit against the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper was charged with voyeurism along with criminal intimidation. 

Essentials of Section 503 IPC, 1860

A threat under IPC doesn’t need to be direct. Even if a threat is made in public or to a third person, it may fall under criminal intimidation. It is also important to note that the nature of such a threat should be real. If the individual who is intimidating the other is not capable of executing that threat at all, then he/she will not be held guilty for an offence of criminal intimidation under Section 503 of IPC.

 For an offence to attract Section 503 of IPC, the following have to exist:

  • A person should be threatened with bodily injury,
  • A person’s reputation or property should be threatened. 
  • The threat should be with the intention to cause harm.
  • The intimidation should be an act to cause alarm to that person.

The act that causes a person to end up doing something he/she is not legally bound to do for avoiding the harm that may arise if he does not do it, or cause that person to omit something he/she is legally bound to do under fear of harm to them by the person intimidating them is criminal intimidation. Both the ingredients should essentially exist together for the offence to be complete. The non-existence of any one of them may refute the charge against the accused. The communication of the threat may happen either orally, in written form or even by gestures. Thus, even showing provoking gestures can be intimidating. Even a threat to hurt the reputation of a deceased person in whom the threatened person is interested is covered under Section 503. Let us understand some terms used in Section 503 IPC, 1860.

Alarm 

Earlier it was mentioned by the Orissa HC in the case of Amulya Kumar Behara v. Nabaghana Behara Alias Nabina (1995) that threat causes a lot of mental anxiety and stress to a person which may be alarming but the degree of alarm may vary from person to person. The alarm caused by the intimidator should be of such a nature that it unsettles the threatened person to such an extent that he/she loses control over his/her free voluntary actions. A threat in this case is measured considering a person of common firmness, of reason, and prudence.

Injury

Section 44 of IPC defines injury. It means any harm that is illegally caused to any person’s body, mind or repute.

Intimidation

According to Webster’s dictionary intimidation means to make another person afraid or force them with violence and compel them to do an act.

Intention

It is a mental condition. Intention plays an essential role in ascertaining whether the accused is guilty or not and the same can be clarified taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case.

Threat

It originated from the Anglo-Saxon word  “threoton to lire”, (harass). It is the plan of or a purpose to inflict loss, pain or punishment on another person.

Case laws

Vikram Johar v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2019)

The Apex Court, in this case, observed that simple usage of filthy language does not meet the fundamental necessities of criminal intimidation. The accusation was that the defendant went to the home of the plaintiff and insulted him in filthy language with a gun. The defendant even threatened to attack the plaintiff, however, the defendant escaped from that place when the neighbours arrived. The bench decided that the above-mentioned claims prima facie do not constitute an offence.  

Manik Taneja v. State of Karnataka (2015)

In this case, the Supreme Court said that written statements concerning unfair treatment by the police to a person on their Facebook website would not amount to criminal intimidation. The appellant met with a road accident with an auto-rickshaw. The appellant on learning that the passenger of the auto-rickshaw was injured paid for the expenses of the passenger’s treatment and the passenger was subsequently admitted to a hospital and no FIR was lodged.

Nevertheless, she was asked to come to the police station and was supposedly threatened by the police. Feeling aggrieved and with nowhere to go, she posted comments on the Facebook page of Bangalore traffic police about their harsh treatment and harassment of her. The police filed an FIR and registered a case under Sections 353 and 506 of the IPC against the appellant. However, the bench held that there was no instance of criminal intimidation in this case.

Romesh Chandra Arora v. State (1960)

In this case, the Supreme Court elaborated on the scope of Section 503 of IPC where the accused intimidated a person  ‘X’ and his daughter, of injury to their reputation by circulating a nude picture of the girl with a boy if the money was not paid to him. ‘X’ had made the boy and girl take off their clothes and then he took their nude pictures by threatening to circulate the nude pictures and make them public if they did not pay him money. The accused appellant was charged with criminal intimidation with the intent to cause alarm. The Court stated that the purpose of the accused was to cause alarm to get the money by threatening to post the damaging photographs on a public platform. Therefore, the Supreme Court convicted and punished the accused under Section 506 for criminal intimidation and Section 384 of IPC for extortion.

Description of Section 506 IPC, 1860

  • The first part of Section 506 of IPC, 1860 states that when a person is guilty of the offence of criminal intimidation he/she shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with a fine, or with both fine and imprisonment for the offence.
  • The second part of Section 506 is attracted if a person threatens to cause death or grievous injury or destruction of any property by fire, then the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years or fine or with both.
  • The offence under the first part of Section 506 is a compoundable offence if the parties compromise and settle the matter and the complainant agrees to have the charges dropped against the accused.
  • When a person intends to threaten unchastity to a woman, then the punishment is imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both. 
  • An offence under Section 506 is non-cognizable, bailable and compoundable by the person who was intimidated when it falls under the first part of Section 506 and non-compoundable when it falls under the second part of Section 506.

Shrikrushna S/o Babulaji Tawari v. the State of Maharashtra, Criminal (2020)

In this case, the applicant was convicted for offences punishable under Sections 354, 509 and 506 of IPC, 1860.

Mrs. ‘S’, aged 45 years is very happy in her marriage with  Mr. ‘R’, her husband. It was stated in the complaint that the applicant had approached Mrs.’S’ when she was washing utensils and tried to give her a chit. Mrs. ‘S’ however, refused to accept the same and then the applicant threw the chit on her and left muttering to himself that he loved her. The following morning the applicant returned and gesticulated obscenely to her, warning her not to tell anyone about what was written in the chit. Mrs.’S’ alleged that earlier in this incident, the applicant used to sometimes flirt with her and used to throw small pebbles on her. After investigation, when the final report has submitted the applicant denied guilt stating that he was a neighbouring grocery store owner and Mrs.’S’ used to purchase groceries from him on credit and did not want to pay the applicant the due money, hence she lodged a false complaint against him.

Going by the chits at hand and other materials brought on record, the Magistrate and the Appellate Court held the applicant guilty of offences that were punishable under Sections 354, 506 and 509 of the IPC, 1860.

The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court, however, held that the conviction recorded under Section 506 of the IPC was unsustainable because as per the evidence on record, the applicant threatened Mrs. ‘S’ not to disclose the contents of the chit.  The bench said that it was open to speculation about the nature of the threat and whether the words used were such as would cause alarm and whether Mrs. ‘S’ as a fact was alarmed. 

Exception

Pursuant to Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the offence under Section 506 (part 2) cannot be lawfully compounded. Nonetheless, in a legitimate situation, a withdrawal from the prosecution may be permitted. If the bail is denied by a Magistrate of First Class, the application processes may be initiated in the Sessions Court. If still unsuccessful, the case may be taken to the High Court.

Nature and extent of the threat

The description of the current section 506 is practically new since the words “distress” and “terror” have been substituted with the word “alarm” that is confined to the offence where the effect is to cause more pain. The words used earlier were not so alarming and did not describe the extent of the threat that a person suffered. This was done because the anxiety and mental torment caused by an injury under this section due to threatening/intimidating may often be as or even greater than the actual injury.

In the case, Ghanshyam vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (1989), the accused entered a house in the middle of the night, carrying with him a knife and threatened to kill the residents. This was held by the Madhya Pradesh HC to be criminal intimidation under part two Section 506 of IPC. 

Nature of the threatening words or action

The threat as mentioned in Section 503 and 506 of IPC should be such that the person threatening can carry the threat out and it must be made with the intention of alarming the complainant in regard to being prosecutable. A vague statement where the accused said that he/she would exact vengeance by filing false charges cannot be taken as criminal intimidation since mere words with no intention to carry out the threat doesn’t cause any harm or alarm.  A simple reading of Section 503 discloses that the threat must be made with the intention of causing injury to a person’s body, reputation, or property. Furthermore, the intent has to be to coerce that person to do something that is illegal, that he/she would not have done if not intimidated, or to omit something he/she is legally bound to do. The nature of the threat, the language used for threatening and the terms used were enough to cause fear/alarm, are issues that are up to speculation.

Description of Section 507 IPC, 1860

Both Sections 506 and 507 of IPC have provisions for the punishment for the offence of criminal intimidation as defined in Section 503 of IPC. 

Section 507 is actually a corollary to Section 506 and has provision for criminal intimidation through anonymous communication and criminal inducement Many people do not have the courage to intimidate a person directly and so they resort to criminal intimidation by an anonymous letter or by a letter signed with a made-up name or conceal their identity and place of stay. In such instances, the offence attracts a punishment of 2 years imprisonment in addition to the punishment given under Section 506. An offence under Section 507 is non-cognizable, bailable, not compoundable and triable by a Magistrate of the first class. The main essentials of this Section are the same as that of Section 503 but the threat is given either by an anonymous communication or having taken care to conceal the name/abode of the person who gives the threat. It is not necessary that both the abode and name need to be concealed for an offence to be punishable under this section.  An offence under Section 507 attracts a harsher punishment than Section 506 as the punishment under Section 507 is clubbed with the punishment under Section 506.

Steps to be taken when faced with criminal intimidation 

Where both the accused and victim are involved in a matter coming under the IPC it becomes a serious case to deal with. A person who is charged with an offence of criminal intimidation is liable to face a severe penalty if convicted. The victim should instantly contact a lawyer and directly approach the police authorities or magistrate in a criminal intimidation case since such a case would involve a non-cognizable offence. A person who is involved in such a case must know all of his/her rights before and after the arrest. The intimidated person or victim should prepare a timeline of the events and note it down on a piece of paper to make it easier to brief the lawyer about the case.

Scope of Section 506 IPC under different State Governments

Some state governments by notification in the official gazette and the exercise of powers conferred by Section 10 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932 have declared that any offence punishable under Sections 186, 189, 188, 190, 295A, 298, 505, 506 or 507 of the IPC, 1860 when committed in an area specified in the notification shall be cognizable while such notification remains in force and be deemed to be amended accordingly.  The State Government thus has the power to declare that an offence punishable under Section 188 or Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code shall be non-bailable.

The reason for taking such a step is because India is a very diverse country and an offence that is not very serious in one part of the country may be considered very offensive by the society in another part of the country. Thus, the State Governments were given the power to change the classification of certain offences under Section 10 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932. In Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra Section 506 of IPC is cognizable and non-bailable. However, in Meghalaya, the punishment is imprisonment of 3 years or fine or both.

Important judgments

Shri Padma Mohan Jamatia v. Smt. Jharna Das Baidya (2019) 

In this case, Sri Jamatia had filed a complaint petition under Section 190 of the CrPC, 1973 against the accused-respondent, Smt. Baidya was a Member of Parliament and CPI (M) party leader. In one of the rallies, she delivered a certain speech in which it was alleged that the accused-respondent was threatened, that after the 2018 assembly elections were over, the president of the State BJP party and its chief campaigner would not be in the State but the local BJP party workers would remain in the State and would have to face dire repercussions. In this case, to attract the ingredients of Section 503, Section 504 or Section 506 there must be a provocation of such a serious nature that it would compel someone to inflict bodily harm to a person or grievous hurt to them. The Tripura High Court in its judgement said that mere use of abusive words or filthy language and body posture during the speech of a political leader would not come within the ambit of the provisions of Sections 503, 504, 506 IPC. In this case, the complainant himself was not a witness to the speech which was delivered by the respondent. He heard the contents of the speech on television and also gained knowledge about the speech from the newspaper. Moreover, the complaint could not show any instance of justifying the provocation, made from either of the parties, i.e., BJP or the CPI(M) to cause any harm or grievous hurt to public peace. Also, in the complaint, the complainant neither expressed any fear for his life nor did he ask for any police protection. In the contents of the complaint, it is evident that the respondent did not appeal to her supporters to instantly attack or cause harm or injury to any of the supporters of the complainant.

Amitabh Adhar v. NCT of Delhi (2000) 

In this case, the complainant was Ms Bharti Saran who was married to the accused Sudhanshu Saran. The married life of Sudhanshu Saran and Ms Bharti Saran, according to the prosecution, lacked conjugal contentment and was marked by constant bickering and quarrels. The cause for this discord was the perverted sexual behaviour of the accused Sudhanshu Saran and the demand for dowry. The step-brother and the step-sister of the accused Sudhanshu Saran were the petitioners. The complainant lodged a written complaint to the Police against her husband and both the petitioners. Investigation in the matter culminated in the submission of a charge sheet under Sections 498A, 406, 506, 509, 34 of IPC against the accused persons. The charges made in the FIR and in the case diary statement of the complainant against the petitioners did not satisfy the essential ingredients of the offences punishable under Sections 506 and 509 IPC. The threats which were alleged to be given to the complainant by the petitioners also did not fall within the definition of criminal intimidation because the complainant nowhere stated that the threats given by the petitioners caused an alarm to her in any manner. Therefore, it was held that a mere threat does not amount to criminal intimidation but it should also have an intention to cause alarm to the person threatened. 

Subramanian Swamy (Dr.) v. C. Pushparaj, (1998) 

In this case,  the Madras High Court held that if the complaint and statements of the respondent are taken together then there were no allegations in the whole complaint, that the petitioner ever made any attempt to act in pursuance of his alleged expression which the respondent perceived as intimidation. Even the actual words used by the petitioner were not stated either in the complaint or in the depositions. In the absence of these ingredients, a mere mentioning of Sections and putting a person to face the trial was nothing but an abuse of the process of the Court of law. Thus, the High Court of Madras held that part two of Section 506 IPC was attracted over here only if the criminal intimidation included a threat to cause death or grievous hurt. A mere outburst would not fall within the mischief of Section 506 of IPC.

Kanshi Ram v. State (2000) 

In this case, the complainant Isran Ahmed said in his case diary statement that at the relevant time the petitioner had urged his security personnel to thrash the journalists. According to the complaint, the exact words used by the petitioner were “Maro Salon Ko”. But the complainant in his statement nowhere stated that the alleged threat had caused an alarm to him. On the opposite, the case clearly showed that even after the alleged threat, the complainant or other media persons did not retrace their steps. Thus, the Delhi High Court said that mere threat is no offence. Therefore, the threat which was supposedly given by the petitioner did not fall within the mischief of Section 506 IPC. Subsequently, no charge under Section 506 IPC could be framed against the petitioner on the basis of the said evidence.

Tilak Raj v. The State of Himachal Pradesh (2016)

In this case, the Appellant developed intimacy with the prosecutrix about two years prior to the incident. He lured her on the pretext of marriage. The prosecutrix alleged that the Appellant had sexually and physically violated her at her home. On the next day, the prosecutrix decided to approach the police station to register an FIR for rape. However, the Appellant apparently threatened her with death against making a complaint and therefore, she did not complain. The appellant who had promised the prosecutrix marriage, however, did not return. On 6th January 2010, the prosecutrix complained to the police that she had been raped by the appellant. She also alleged sexual exploitation on the promise of marriage by the appellant. Considering the evidence, the Trial Court which was Sessions Court, Chamba acquitted the appellant of all charges, giving him the benefit of doubt. However, on the prosecution’s appeal, the High Court of Himachal Pradesh partly allowed the same. While the HC upheld acquittal by the Trial Court for an offence punishable under Section 376 IPC, it convicted him under Sections 417 and 506 IPC.

Conclusion 

Section 506 IPC is divided into two parts, where part one is a lesser form and part 2 is a graver form of criminal intimidation and thus punishment is given accordingly. In IPC, the offence of criminal intimidation is expressly laid out and tries to cover all aspects of criminal intimidation. Being charged with a crime, whether major or minor, is a matter of seriousness. A person facing criminal charges under section 506, risks severe penalties and consequences, such as jail time, even having a criminal record if convicted, and loss of relationships and future job prospects, among other things. In fact, complaining under criminal intimidation itself is being used by many in false cases to take vengeance. With subsequent amendments, it is hoped that Section 506 becomes more inclusive and in keeping with the technological advances, social media crimes and changes in society in general.

References

  1. Gaur, K. D. Textboook on the Indian Penal Code. Universal Law Publishers, 2011
  2. Criminal laws (Meghalaya amendment ) act, 2013
  3. https://megpolice.gov.in/sites/default/files/Criminal_Laws_Meghalaya_Amendment_act_2013_act_8_of_2014.pdf
  4. https://tilakmarg.com/answers/section-506-ipc-whether-bailable-or-non-bailable/
  5.  “Manupatra – An Online Database for Legal Research.” Manupatra – An Online Database for Legal Research. Accessed 9 January 2022.
  6. https://www.manupatrafast.com/?t=desktop.
  7. https://lexforti.com/legal-news/section-506-ipc-criminal-intimidation/
  8. https://www.mondaq.com/india/crime/989624/anti-cyber-bullying-laws-in-india–an-analysis
  9. https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/offence-punishable-us506-ipc-committed-uttar-pradesh-cognizable-offence-allahabad-high-court-189068 

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