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Criminal Intimidation under Indian Penal Code

The criminal activities in India are governed by the provision of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It is a substantive law that describes all the criminal offences and punishes the offenders for their conduct. The offence of criminal intimidation is also one such offence that is dealt with under Chapter XII of the India Penal Code. In this article, we will explore the meaning and essential ingredient of criminal intimidation. Further, we will also look into the type of punishment along with landmark cases related to the said offence.

Meaning of Criminal Intimidation

As per the Oxford dictionary, the literal meaning of the term intimidation is “to threaten someone so that the other person acts as per our desire”. Section 503 of the Indian Penal code defines criminal intimidation as an offence in which a person threatens another with injury to his person, reputation or property intending to force the other individual to do any act which he is not legally bound to do. The person who threatens the other is known as Intimidator.

Ingredients of Criminal Intimation

As per the definition, the concept of Criminal Intimidation broadly involve 2 ingredients namely

  1. Threaten a Person
  2. The Intent of the Threat Must be Combined

Threaten a Person on Either of the Following Grounds:

  • To cause injury to a person
  • To cause injury to the reputation
  • To cause injury to his property
  • To cause injury to the person or reputation of anyone in whom the person is interested.

Threatening to cause injury to a person

It means any threat or warning to inflict any bodily harm to a person. Only physical harm must be considered for this section and the mental or physical trauma suffered by a person are excluded. Furthermore, the threat must be explicit in nature and it shall be clearly communicated to the other party.

Illustration – If a Person named X put a gun on the head of another person and forced him to pay 10 Lakh rupees to him, then the offence of criminal intimidation is committed as there is an explicit threat to his body.

Threatens to cause injury to his reputation

The word reputation is used in the sense of goodwill as it will hamper the value of a person in the eyes of society. Thus, any attempt or threat to cause injury to the goodwill also comes under the scope of criminal intimidation.

Illustration – If a female employee threatened his employer with a statement that she will put a false charge of sexual harassment on him if he didn’t pay her 50 lakh rupees. There is a clear threat to the reputation of the employer, thus this event falls under the scope of criminal intimidation under section 503 of IPC.

Threatens injury to his property

The property or wealth of a person is a result of his relentless hard work and it holds special importance for him. Thus, any threat or warning that may inflict damage to his property is also considered an offence. The term property involves both the tangible as well as the intangible property. The provision of this section is also extended to those properties in which he has a joint holding.

Illustration – If a labour Contractor forces a daily wage labourer to work for him at very minimal pay and if he doesn’t do so, then he will confiscate the personal belongings of the labourer and set them on fire. Here the offence of criminal intimidation is committed.

Threatening to cause injury to any such person or his reputation in which the interest of the original person is attached

This provision has extended the scope of criminal intimidation. By this provision, the threat or warnings will be considered an offence if directed to harm any person to whom his personal interest is attached. In simple words, it talks about any warning given to his son, daughter, wife or his immediate family. Furthermore, the explanation of section 503 states that a threat to injure the reputation of a deceased person is also covered under the provision of this section.

Illustration – A person named Ram threatens Mohan to leak the indecent photos of his daughter if he doesn’t pay him 5 lakh rupees. Here Ram is threatening to injure the reputation of Mohan’s Daughter, thus the offence of criminal intimidation is committed.

The Intent of the Threat Must be Combined with Either of the Following Things:

In the landmark case of Romesh Chandra Arora vs State 1860, the Hon’ble Supreme Court outlined the scope of criminal intimidation. The court stated that while constituting an offence of criminal intimidation, only a threat element is not sufficient but the threat must be directed to cause alarm or force an individual to do or preventing him from doing an act.

Threatening to cause alarm to that person

 As per this clause, there must be an intention to cause alarm to the person threatened.  The term “alarm” was defined in the case of  Amulya Kumar Behera vs. Nabhagana Behera Alias Nabina (1995) wherein the court held that this term is synonymous with the original terms like terror or distress.

Illustration – If some terrorists hijacked a public aircraft and threatened the Indian government to fulfil their demand or either they will kill all the passengers. Now, the element of fear and distress is thereby the act of threatening. Thus, the offence of criminal intimidation is committed.

Threatening a person to do any act which he not legally bound to do

As per this provision, if a person threatens someone by force to do any act which he doesn’t want to do legally, then the offence of criminal intimidation will be there.

Illustration – The case of Nand Kishor vs Emperor (1927) – At that time, the selling of beef was legal and a butcher was threatened by some members that if he was involved in the acts of trading beef, then he would be sent to jail and his living in the municipality would be troublesome. The Court considered this as an offence of criminal intimidation.

Threatening a person to omit any act which he is legally bound to perform.

Illustration – If a person named X threatens another person Y to kill his wife if he filed a complaint against him for his prior offence. Here, X is compelling Y to abstain from performing his legal duty by threat, so the ingredients of criminal intimidation are satisfied.

Punishment for Criminal Intimidation

Section 506 of IPC deals with the punishment for the offence of Criminal Intimidation.

The punishment is broadly divided into 2 categories

Punishment for Simple Cases of Criminal Intimidation

The normal cases in which the threat is not much grave falls under this category. As per this provision, the person who commits this act shall be punished with imprisonment for a term that can be extended to 2 years or a fine or both.  This offence is non-cognizable, compoundable and bailable in nature.

Punishment for the threat to cause death or grievous hurt;

This second part deals with the grave form of criminal intimidation. This provision can only be attracted when there is a threat to cause death or grievous hurt by a person. It is important to note that the threat to cause unchastity to a woman also falls under this grave form of criminal intimidation.  The punishment for this offence is simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term that can be extended to 7 years or fine or both. This offence is non-cognizable, non-compoundable and bailable in nature.

Some Landmark Cases of Criminal Intimidation

  • In the case of Shri Vasant Waman Pradhan vs. Dattatraya Vithal Salvi (2004), It was stated by our hon’ble court that the mens rea is the soul of criminal intimidation. The term mens rea means guilty intentions to commit an act. The intention needs to be assessed from the facts and the circumstances surrounding the incident.
  • The Hon’ble Supreme court in the matter of Vikram Johar vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (2019) observed that the mere instance of abusing a person in a filthy or dirty language does not fulfil the necessary conditions for constituting an offence of criminal intimidation under Section 503 of Indian Penal Code.
  • The threat must be practical in nature to perform or inflict some injury. In Doraswamy Iyer vs. King-Emperor (1924), the court observed that the threat of getting punishment from God will not be considered for Section 503 of IPC.

Criminal Intimidation Through Anonymous Communication

This is an additional or aggravated form of criminal intimidation which is dealt with under Section 507 of the IPC. Under this offence, all the other ingredients of Criminal intimidation are the same except one thing. The different element under this offence is that the intimidator commits the act anonymously or without disclosing his identity.

The punishment for this offence is imprisonment which can be extended up to a period of 2 years or fine or both. It is important to note that this punishment is in addition to the normal punishment of criminal intimidation stated under Section 506 of IPC.

Example: The only son of Mr X is kidnapped by some goons. They called  X without disclosing their identity and demanded a ransom amounting to 50 Lakh and they also threatened X to kill his child if he fails to deposit the money within the due time. This offence falls under the scope of this section.

Conclusion

The offence of Criminal Intimidation is one of the cornerstones of the Indian Penal Code. It is a sort of preventive punishment wherein the accused are punished for threatening and not for the actual commission of the offence.  it is immaterial whether the actual crime occurred or not. This offence is provided under Section 503 of the IPC and the punishment for the same is prescribed under Section 506 of the IPC.