Author: Rachi Gupta
Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code deals with criminal intimidation.
- Criminal intimidation.—Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of any one in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, commits criminal intimidation.
Explanation.—A threat to injure the reputation of any deceased person in whom the person threatened is interested, is within this section.
Illustration– A, for the purpose of inducing B to desist from prosecuting a civil suit, threatens to burn B’s house. A is guilty of criminal intimidation.
Section 503 defines criminal intimidation and section 506 prescribes punishment which may extend to 2 years, Fine or both and ss 507 and 508 are applicable where criminal intimidstion is caused by anonymous communication or inducing a person to believe that he will be rendered an object of divine displeasure.
Aggravated Form –
The offence becomes aggravated, if the threat is to cause the death of the person threatened, or grievous hurt, or destruction of any property by fire, or the threat is to impute unchastity to a woman. In such a case worth the punishment may extend upto seven years of imprisonment, or fine or both.
This offence is non-cognizable, bailable and triable by magistrate of first class. A threat of social boycott is not an offence under this section.
Section 507 Ingredients –
- The accused threatened some person with some injury to his person, reputation or property to himself or to a person in whom he was interested;
- The accused did so with the intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do an act which he was not legally bound to do, or omit to do an act which he was legally bound to do ;
- The offence committed was by anonymous communication of threat sent by the accused.
Section 508 Ingredients –
- The accused voluntarily caused or attempted to cause any person to do a thing which that person was not legally bound to do, or omit to do a thing which he was legally bound to do.
- The accused induced that person to believe that he or any person interested in him would become an object of Divine Displeasure if such thing was not done accordingly.
Criminal Intimidation is closely analogous to extortion. In extortion, the immediate purpose is obtaining money or money’s; in criminal intimidation, the immediate purpose is to induce the person threatened to do, or to abstain from doing, something which he was not legally bound to do or omit.
As laid down in the case of Narendra Kumar & others Vs. State and others on 13 January, 2004 as under:
- Threatening a person with any injury-:
- to his person,reputation,or property ; orsuch threat
- to the person , or reputation of anyone in whom that person is interested ;
- Threat must be with intent -:
- to cause alarm to that person, or,
- to cause the person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, or,
- to cause that person to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat.
Distinguished concept as in relation to offence extortion under IPC:
In the case of Romesh Chandra Arora v. State of Punjab
Facts – The appellant was convicted under section 506 on the ground that he took indecent photographs of a girl by pretending to love her and threatened her father , with the publication of the photographs with intent to extort money from him.
Issue – The appellant’s conviction for the offence of Criminal Intimmidation under s 506,IPC was bad. The appellant could have been convicted of extortion under s 384 read with s 511, IPC instead.
Held – Justice SK Das stated-
The section 503 of Criminal Intimidation is mentioned in 2 parts –
- The first part refers to the act of threatening another with injury to his person, reputation or property of any one in whom that person is interested; and
- Second part refers to the intent with which the threatening is done and it is of two categories , one is intent to cause alarm to the person threatened , and the second is to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do or omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do so, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat .
On the findings arrived at against the appellant, the first part of the section is clearly fulfilled; and as to the intent, it comes more properly under the second category, that is to cause X to do any act (In other words, to pay hush money) which he was not legally bound to do, as a means of avoiding threat.
It is not often that a particular act in some of its aspects comes within the definition of a particular offence in the IPC , while in order aspects, or taken as a whole, it comes within another definition. There is differnce between the offence of Extortion (s. 383) and the offence of criminal intimidation (s. 503). The appellant is guilty of the offence of criminal intimidation.
The scope of word ‘injury” contemplated under this section:
- Intention must be to cause alarm to the section and whether he is alarmed or not is really of no consequence. Mere expression of any words without any intention to cause alarm would not be sufficient to bring application of section 506.
In Ramesh Chandra Arora vs. State, AIR 1960 SC 154, the appellant was charged with criminal intimidation for threatening X and his daughter of injury to their reputation by making public a nude photograph of the daughter unless hush money was paid to him. The intent was to cause harm to them. Therefore, the Supreme Court convicted the accused under section 506 IPC.
- Threat must be communicated or uttered with intention of it being communicated to the person threatened for purpose influencing his mind.
The Apex court in Communist Party of India vs. Bharat Kumar AIR 1998, SCC 184 held that the call of “bandh” and “hartal” would amount to criminal intimidation if it is coupled with a threat of any injury to the person or property and is punishable under section 503 & 507 of the Indian Penal Code.
- The injury threatened to be caused must be illegal.
In Ragubar Dayal Vs. Emperor, AIR 1931, ALL 263, it was held that a notice requiring a shopkeeper to agree to not import for sale in his shop, foreign cloth and otherwise his shop would be picked, was held to amount to an offence of criminal intimidation.
Judicial Approach –
- Communist party of India v. Bharat Kumar , AIR 1998 SC 184: (1998) 1 SCC 201 : (1997) SCALE 21 : (1997) Supreme 415 : (1998) 1 UJ 60 (SC) :AIR 1997 Ker 291.
In this case, a question came before the apex court that wherein the petitioners claimed a right to call or enforce “Bandh” as a fundamental right. Rejecting the contention , the court stated that “There can not be any right to call or enforce “bandh”. Which interferes with the exercise of fundamental rights of other citizens, in addition to causing national loss in many ways. At the same time call of “bandh” and “hartal” would amount to criminal intimidation if it is coupled with threat of any injury to the person or property punishable under sections 503 and 506, IPC.
2. Ganga Chandra Sen v. Gour Chunder Banikya
In the cases of Criminal Intimidation, it was held that the threat must be communicated, or uttered with the intention of it being communicated, to the person threatened, for the purpose of influencing his mind.
3. Queen v. Sri Vidya Shankar
There can be no criminal intimidation where the injury of which complaint is made, is the hardship arising from a conventional punishment, which a spiritual superior, acting in the exercise of his authority as regulated by the custom of the caste, is competent to inflict.
4. Emperor v. Raghubar Dayal
Notice requiring a shopkeeper to agree not to import for a sale in his shop, for one year, any foreign cloth, together with the intimidation that if he failed to agree his shop would be picketed, was held to be criminal intimidation.
5. Tilak Raj vs. The State of Himachal Pradesh
In this case Appellant developed intimacy with prosecutrix about two years prior to the incident. He allured her on the pretext of marriage. On 01.01.2010 prosecutrix alleged Appellant having 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 Appellant allegedly threatened her with death against making a complaint. Thus, he did not complain. Appellant promised prosecutrix marriage, however, did not return. On 06.01.2010 prosecutrix complained for rape at the police station. She also alleged sexual exploitation on the pretext of marriage. Considering the evidence, trial court acquitted Appellant of all charges, giving him the benefit of doubt. However, on prosecution’s appeal, High Court partly allowed the same. While it upheld acquittal by trial court for offence punishable under Section 376 IPC, it convicted him under Sections 417 and 506 IPC.
6. Nand Lal and Ors. vs. State of H.P.
In the instant case, Parkash Chand (PW-1), Banti Devi (PW-2), Chaman Lal (PW-3) and Ram Kumar (PW-4) are clear and consistent in their version with regard to not only presence of the accused on the spot, but also having hurled abuses and proclaimed of settling the matter, causing injury to the complainant party. Their intent being their preparedness of pelting stones. All the accused persons were together and shared common intention of having intimidated the complainant and the other persons present on the spot. In this view of the matter, it cannot be said that the Court below errored in convicting the accused for having committed an offence, punishable under the provisions of Section 506 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. Accused convicted under Section 506 of IPC.
506. Punishment for criminal intimidation.—Whoever commits, the offence of criminal intimidation shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both; If threat be to cause death or grievous hurt, etc.—And if the threat be to cause death or grievous hurt, or to cause the destruction of any property by fire, or to cause an offence punishable with death or 1[imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or to impute, unchastity to a woman, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.
507.Criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication.—Whoever commits the offence of criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication, or having taken precaution to conceal the name or abode of the person from whom the threat comes, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, in addition to the punishment provided for the offence by the last preceding section.
508.Act caused by inducing person to believe that he will be rendered an object of the Divine displeasure.—Whoever voluntarily causes or attempts to cause any person to do anything which that person is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do anything which he is legally entitled to do, by inducing or attempting to induce that person to believe that he or any person in whom he is interested will become or will be rendered by some act of the offender an object of Divine displeasure if he does not do the thing which it is the object of the offender to cause him to do, or if he does the thing which it is the object of the offender to cause him to omit, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
 AIR 1960 SC 154,  1 SCR 924.
(1883) ILR 15 Cal 671.
(1883) ILR 6 Mad 381.
(1930) ILR 53 All 407.
(06.01.2016 – SC) : MANU/SC/0010/2016.
 (05.05.2015 – HPHC) : MANU/HP/0323/2015.
About the Author: Rachi is a third-year student at Vivekanada Institute of Professional Studies, New Delhi.
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