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A Comprehensive Analysis of Criminal Intimidation

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The Crime Prevention System and the Law Enforcement system in India embraces a number of facets within its domain. Foremost is the division of various offences under different categories under specific substantive laws prevailing along with their prescribed punishment and the corresponding procedural law which eventually forms the mainstay of the criminal justice framework that has been for an extensive period put into efficient use and has always delivered on its potential to deliver justice on various junctures. Although we do have some primary knowledge about some criminal offences like Extortion, Defamation etc. as we often read or hear about them in the newspapers and television respectively, you might find that the offence of Criminal Intimidation is missing from this list. Well, a simple explanation that can be given for this is that these offences are not that often reported or covered by the media and information broadcasting industry as they are not considered to be one of the core offences under the criminal law. Therefore for a crystal clear and complete understanding, this article provides an opportunity to have an outright interpretation of Criminal Intimidation. 

Criminal Intimidation: What does it connote?

  1. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘intimidate’ as: “to frighten or overawe someone, especially in order to make them do what one wants.” When coupled with the words ‘Criminal Intimidation’ it can instantaneously strike in our mind the idea about its meaning and it must in the mind of a regular person mean that whenever any person does something that is of a provocative and threatening nature to someone with regard to causing substantial harm or injury to that person or to his property and further adding to its meaning we can without any uncertainty say that compelling or forcing that person to do some act which he is not supposed to do in his personal judgement and the individual who is forcing him to commit that act also has knowledge of the fact that it is not something that is legal or morally correct to do so.
  2. From the basic understanding we have about criminal intimidation, it is certain that in the eyes of the criminal law it is an offence that is considered to be of a serious nature when we examine and study it in terms of the other offences of a similar nature such as extortion, wrongful restraint, wrongful confinement present in the criminal legislations present in our country. Let us now shed light and attempt to understand the accurate and legally precise meaning of criminal intimidation under the Indian Criminal Law:
  3. Criminal Intimidation has been defined under Chapter 22 titled ‘Of Criminal Intimidation, Insult and Annoyance’ and Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter to be referred as “IPC”) as follows:

“503. 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.” 

Illustrative Example: A, for the purpose of inducing B to desist from entering a recruitment rally being held, threatens to injure his sister. A here is guilty of criminal intimidation.  

  1. From a simple reading of this provision of law, we can make out that what we have deliberated at the commencement of this article about the meaning criminal intimidation is somewhat similar to what has been laid down in the IPC. We can now take a step further and can decipher the essential ingredients of the offence which need to be proved for constituting this offence which can be summarised in the following manner: 
  1. Whoever threatens any person with Injury:
  • to his person 
  • reputation or property 
  • to the person in whom that person is interested in 
  • reputation of a person in whom he is interested 
  1.  With the Intention of:
  • causing alarm to that particular person
  • having that person commit any act that he is not legally bound to do or the omission of any act that he is not legally entitled to do as the means to avoid the execution of a threat given by the offender. Here the term ‘omission’ means to refrain from doing something.
  1. The aforementioned ingredients discussed are of a vital nature for deeming any person of having committed the offence of Criminal Intimidation. The offence is punishable under Section 506 (hereinafter to be referred as “Provision”) of the IPC with imprisonment of up to two years along with a fine or with both under the first part of this provision.
  2. But the second part of the provision has an additional rider attached to it which says that if the threat given is to cause death or grievous hurt to a person or to cause destruction of the property of that person by the means of a fire or to commit an offence punishable with death or imprisonment of life and also an offence for which one can be punished with imprisonment of up to seven years and where the threat is to impute unchastity to a woman shall be punishable with an imprisonment of seven years either with or without fine or both. 
  3. Let’s take a holistic look at the scope and ambit of the term ‘injury’ in Section 503 of the IPC. There is the utmost necessity of having an intention to cause an alarm to a person who is being threatened with injury to his person, reputation or property in spite of the fact that whether he is alarmed or not as it is of no consequence for the establishment of the offence. The simple expression of the words where there is no intention to cause any alarm to that person is not sufficient enough for constituting the offence and to bring it under the scope of Section 503 IPC
  4. Criminal Intimidation is a Non-Cognizable and Bailable offence under the First Schedule (hereinafter to be referred as “Schedule”) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and is triable by any Magistrate if the offence committed falls under the first part of the definition of the provision and it is considered a Non-Cognizable and Bailable offence triable by a Magistrate of First Class under the schedule if it is covered under the second part of the provision.
  5. There were some changes made after The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932 (hereinafter to be referred as “Amendment Act”) came into force on 19th December 1932. Under Section 10 of the amendment act, the state government could by notification declare any offence punishable under Sections 186, 188, 189, 190, 228, 295A, 298, 505, 506 or 507 of the IPC as cognizable when committed in any area specified in the notification

Causes of Criminal Intimidation

The general causes in our society according to the prevailing situation in the nation which forces or compels an individual to resort to intimidation can be summarised along these lines:

  1. Due to a gradual rise in the financial status of the population and the momentous rise in the poverty levels in the country, there is formed an imbalance where the number of people who have simply overpowers the people who don’t have. This, in turn, coerces people to borrow and they don’t have the means of returning back what was borrowed, of which the result is that they resort to commit a crime.
  2. The rising influence of political power is the foremost cause of criminal intimidation as political leaders and their comrades quite often use illegal and morally incorrect ways to obtain financial gains and muscle supremacy and exploiting the weakness of people to achieve their ulterior motives.
  3. Finally due to the existence of various facets of criminal intimidation under law it often does not create a sense of fear in people about the fact that if they commit it they can at a later stage simply deny it and hold the view that there act does not amount to an offence and they can avoid persecution from the law enforcement agencies.

Judicial Response and Interpretation

Landmark Judgements on Criminal Intimidation

  1. In Narendra Kumar & Others V. State & Others, the Delhi High Court was considering a petition to quash an F.I.R registered under Sections 451, 323, 506, 509, 34 of the IPC, it took a positive stride to reflect upon the essential ingredients of criminal intimidation which have to be proved by reiterating them and positioning them as follows:
  2. “Ingredients of the offence of ‘criminal intimidation’ as defined in Section 503, IPC and punishable under Section 506, IPC are as under

I. Threatening a person with any injury;

  • To his person, reputation or property; or
  • To the person or reputation of anyone in whom that person is interested.

II.Threatening a person with an injury

  • 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 so as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat.”

  1. In Romesh Chandra Arora vs The State, the appellant was convicted for the offence criminal intimidation as he had threatened X and his daughter with the intent causing injury to their reputation by publishing the indecent photographs of the daughter. An appeal was directed against the judgement to the Supreme Court and it was held that “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 which he was not legally bound to do, as a means of avoiding the execution of the threat. It is perhaps correct to say that the threat of publication of the photographs must have also caused alarm to X. All that we need say is that on the finding of the learned Magistrate, which finding was affirmed by the High Court, the appellant was clearly guilty of the offence of criminal intimidation. We, therefore, hold that the conviction of the appellant under Section 506 is correct.”
  2. In Oriental Bank of Commerce vs S.M. Chopra, there was a specific allegation that the plaintiff was ‘gheraoed’, manhandled and forced to tender the resignation letter by the General Manager of the appellant and threatened that in case he did not tender the resignation he will be handed over to the C.B.I. on false allegations of committing fraud. The Allahabad High Court observed and stated that “the allegations evidently display that the plaintiff was compelled to sign and tender the resignation by manhandling him. This allegation certainly amounted to a threat of injury to the person of the plaintiff in case he did not tender the resignation. There is no case of the appellant that the plaintiff was legally bound to tender resignation.”
  3. In Manik Taneja V. State Of Karnataka,  the Apex Court while considering the allegation that the appellants had abused the complainant and obstructed the respondent from discharging his public duties and spoiled the integrity of the respondent held that “a reading of the definition of ‘Criminal intimidation’ indicates that there must be an act of threatening to another person, of causing an injury to the person, reputation, or property of the person threatened, or to the person in whom the threatened person is interested and the threat must be with the intent to cause alarm to the person threatened or it must be to do any act which he is not legally bound to do or omit to do an act which he is legally entitled to do.”There must be a threat with the intention to cause alarm that person to do or omit to do any work. Mere expression of any words without any intention to cause alarm would not be sufficient to bring in the application of this section. 
  4. The Calcutta High Court has in Md. Salauddin & Anr vs The State Of West Bengal & Another held that “to be an offence punishable under Section 506 of the IPC the threat should be a real one and not just a mere word.”In this case, the promoter of an apartment society along with his associates had been harassing the flat owners of the society for a long period of time in various ways. There a was allegation levelled against the appellant that he had abused the flat owners but the court observed that the actual words used in abusing them were not mentioned in the complaint filed by them and therefore it was held by the court that there was no ingredient present to constitute the offence of criminal intimidation.

Recent Stance took by Legal Institutions

  1. In a matter decided recently by the Gujarat High Court, where an F.I.R. was lodged against a lawyer for threatening the police officials by saying that he would see them all and drag them to the court when he was not allowed meet his clients in the Police Station. The charges were filed under Sections 186, 189 and 506(1) of the IPC for causing obstruction to a public servant in the performance of his duty and threatening him with injury and criminal intimidation. The High Court while quashing the F.I.R observed that “assuming the petitioner has uttered these words, the same will not satisfy the ingredients of the expression ‘threat to injury’, since merely during an altercation, if he utters such words it will not amount to an intention to inflict injury, loss or pain. Unquestionably, the mere threat to approach the high court does not denote injury.” 
  2. In P.B.Chinnavenkata Raja vs State, a Single Bench of the Madras High Court observed and held that mere“exchange of words cannot be construed as criminal intimidation while setting aside an order of the lower court and discharging a person from a criminal intimidation case.”It was further observed by Justice V. Parthiban that “simple intimidation without real intention to cause alarm cannot bring the act within the ambit of criminal intimidation to make out the charges under IPC Section 506(i).”
  3. In Vikram Johar vs The State of Uttar Pradesh,  a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan and K.M. Joseph observed that the use of filthy language does not amount to criminal intimidation and therefore held that “a threat must be accompanied with an intention to cause alarm to the person and to cause that person to do or omit to do any work. Mere expression of any words without any intention to cause alarm would not be sufficient to bring in the application of this section. Abusing a person with filthy language alone does not constitute the offence of criminal intimidation.”

Conclusion

From the above deliberations, we can conclude that Criminal Intimidation falls under that category of crime in the IPC which has involved with it several aspects that are in a general sense often overlooked upon and no special attention is paid to it in the general course of everyday life. We initiated this article by acquiring a basic understanding of Criminal Intimidation by first deciphering it in our own words and then analysing it with the prevailing criminal law setup along with understanding its key ingredients. We then expanded our horizons by discussing the societal causes that foster it and how that has an effect not only an individual but also has a cumulative effect on the society as a whole. The judicial view that was understood by us provides us with a varied and diverse position adopted by the courts while dealing and deciding upon the merits of each case that came before it and applying its own discretion and assessment. It can be further added that with the evolving social order in the country, the offence of criminal intimidation has to be dealt upon by looking upon the circumstances under which it happened and what was the central intention behind it, as in the eyes of one person it can be criminal intimidation but not in the view of the court and for another it can simply be an ordinary thing which if we perceive it personally can have a different meaning altogether and that person might or might not recognize that. Therefore going forward we ought to be careful and vigilant about what words or actions are criminally intimidating and which are not.

As it was observed by Edmund Burke:

“Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all.”

Endnotes

1.     Indian Penal Code 1860, Sec. 503

2.     2004) 72 DRJ 620, (2004) CRILJ 2594

3.     AIR 1960 SC 154

4.     2000 (1) AWC 594

5.     AIR 2015 SCW 948, (2015) 7 SCC 423

6.     (2015) 153 AIC 447

7.     Main tujhe dekh lunga’, is not criminal intimidation, says Gujarat High Court, Times Of India, (Feb. 22, 2019,  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/main-tujhe-dekh-loonga-is-not-criminal-intimidation-says-gujarat-high-court/articleshow/68102827.cms

8.     Crl.R.C(MD).No.521of 2019

9.       2019 (6) SCALE 794

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Arihant Singh

Student, Fairfield Institute of Management and Technology

Arihant Singh is a determined, eager and diligent Law Student and has an avid interest in exploring the varied aspects of the legal arena. He is an enthusiast of Corporate Law and Dispute Resolution with a major interest in Arbitration. He has a firm determination to contribute to the legal fraternity by being an active part of the evolving process.  For any Clarifications, feedback, and suggestion, you can reach him at arihant11er@gmail.com

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