Criminal Intimidation

Criminal Intimidation under the Indian Penal Code, 1860


The Indian Penal Code, 1860 is the substantive law governing the criminal activities in India. Chapter XXII of the Code, consisting of Section 503-Section 510 provides for offences which fall in the nature of criminal intimidation, intentional insult and annoyance.

The law has an objective of punishing offenders for all kinds of criminal offences but in contemporary times, the law does not entirely mirror the changes that have taken place in society. Although the provisions are relevant and binding, they fail to address the technological advances in today’s world. The law is archaic but provides a base for new developments.

In this article, these provisions have been discussed in-depth along with important case laws.

Criminal Intimidation

The offence of criminal intimidation is defined under Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The provision states that anyone who threatens any other person on the following grounds is liable for criminal intimidation.

  1. Threatens injury to his person;
  2. Threatens injury to his reputation;
  3. Threatens injury to his property;
  4. Threatens injury to the person or reputation of anyone in whom the person is interested.

Further, the intention should be to cause alarm to that person; or to make them perform any act which they are not legally bound to do; or to omit any act which they are legally entitled to perform. If they are forced to do all of these acts as a means to avoid execution of such threat, this amounts to criminal intimidation.

The explanation of this section states that a threat to injure the reputation of a deceased person in whom the person threatened is interested is also covered under this section.

Example: ‘A’ for the purpose of inducing B to refrain from filing a complaint against him, threatens to kill B’s wife. A is liable to be punished for the offence of criminal intimidation.

The Supreme Court in the case of Vikram Johar vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (2019) has observed that the mere act of abusing a person in a filthy language does not satisfy the essential ingredients of the offence of criminal intimidation. The complaint was that the accused came with a revolver to the complainant’s house and abused him in a filthy language. They also attempted to assault him but when the neighbours arrived, they fled from the spot. The Bench held that the above allegations prima facie do not constitute the offence of criminal intimidation.

The Tripura High Court in its recent judgment of Shri Padma Mohan Jamatia vs. Smt. Jharna Das Baidya (2019) has observed that the mere use of abusive words/ filthy language and body posture during the speech of a political leader is not included within the ambit of the provisions of criminal intimidation under the IPC.

In the case of Manik Taneja vs. State of Karnataka (2015)the Apex Court held that posting comments about ill-treatment by the police personnel on Facebook Page may not amount to criminal intimidation. In this case, the appellant was involved in a road accident, wherein she clashed with an auto-rickshaw. The passenger of the auto sustained injuries and was subsequently admitted in a hospital. The appellant duly paid all the expenses of the injured and no FIR was lodged.

However, she was called to the police station and was allegedly threatened by the police officers. Aggrieved with the way that she was treated, she posted comments on the Facebook page of Bangalore Traffic Police, accusing the police officer of harsh behaviour and the harassment meted out to her. The Police Inspector filed a case against the appellants for this act and an FIR was registered under Sections 353 and 506 of the IPC. The Bench held that there was no intention on the appellant’s part to cause alarm under Section 503 of the IPC.

In Amitabh Adhar vs. NCT of Delhi (2000), it was held that a mere threat does not amount to criminal intimidation. There must be an intention to cause alarm to the person threatened.

In Shri Vasant Waman Pradhan vs. Dattatraya Vithal Salvi (2004)it was held that intention is the soul of criminal intimidation. It needs to be gathered by the surrounding circumstances.

The Orissa High Court, in Amulya Kumar Behera vs. Nabhagana Behera Alias Nabina (1995) examined the meaning of the term ‘alarm.’ The Court held that the mere expression of any word without any intention to cause alarm was not sufficient to be brought under the ambit of Section 506. The Court also observed that this provision is relatively new, and originally terms like ‘terror’ or ‘distress’ had been proposed instead of ‘alarm.’

The complainant, in this case, argued that he was abused in a filthy language by the accused and if the witnesses had not intervened, he would have suffered more injuries apart from a fist blow from the accused. The complainant admitted that he was not alarmed by the threat given by the accused. Hence, the Court held that since an essential ingredient of the offence was missing, no case could be established.

The Supreme Court elaborated the scope of Section 503, IPC in Romesh Chandra Arora vs. State (1960). In this case, the accused-appellant was charged with criminal intimidation. The accused threatened a person X and his daughter, of injury to reputation by releasing a nude picture of the girl unless money was paid to him. The intent was to cause alarm to them. The Court stated that the aim of the accused was to cause alarm to get the money and to ensure that he did not go ahead with the threat of releasing the damaging photographs on a public platform.

The extent of nature of the threat

It is not necessary that the threat is direct in nature. In Re A.K. Gopalan vs. The State of Madras, Union of India: Intervener (1950)the Court held that if a speaker at a public meeting threatened police officers stationed at Malabar, with injury to their person, property or reputation – then he was liable for committing the offence of criminal intimidation.

In the case of Anuradha Kshirsagar vs. State of Maharashtra (1989)the accused allegedly threatened the female teachers by shouting that the teachers should be caught by their hair, kicked on their waist and pulled out of the hall. The Bombay High Court ruled that these remarks constituted the offence of criminal intimidation.

The nature of the injury threatened

In the case of Nand Kishore vs. Emperor (1927)a butcher who sold beef was threatened that if he indulged in the acts of buying or selling beef, then he would be sent to jail. Further, his living in the municipality was also threatened. The Court held that this amounted to criminal intimidation.

In Doraswamy Ayyar vs. King-Emperor (1924)it was held that the threat of punishment by God could not be included in the ambit of criminal intimidation. If the person who threatens is incapable of putting the threat to execution, then he cannot be held liable for the offence of criminal intimidation.

Punishment for criminal intimidation

The punishment for the offence of criminal intimidation is laid down under Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The provision is divided into two parts:

  1. In simple cases of criminal intimidation, whoever commits criminal intimidation is liable to be punished with imprisonment for a period which may extend to two years, or a fine, or both.

Classification of the offence: This part is a non-cognizable, bailable and compoundable offence.

Triable by: Any Magistrate

2. If the threat is to cause:

  • Death or grievous hurt;
  • Destruction of any property by fire;
  • To cause an offence to be committed which is punishable with imprisonment up to a term of seven years, life imprisonment or death;
  • To attribute unchastity to a woman.

Then in the above-mentioned cases, the prescribed punishment is simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term extending to seven years; or a fine; or both.

The second part of the provision, as compared to the first part, deals with prescribing punishment for graver forms of criminal intimidation.

Classification of the offence: This part is a non-cognizable, bailable and non-compoundable offence.

Triable by: Magistrate of the First Class

It is important to note that, to attract the second part of this section it is essential that there is a threat of either causing death or grievous hurt.

In Keshav Baliram Naik vs. State of Maharashtra (1995)it was alleged that the accused touched the hand of the prosecutrix, a blind girl, when she was asleep and further proceeded to remove her quilt and insert his hand inside her dress. He threatened to kill her if she disclosed his identity. The Court held this to be a case of criminal intimidation under Part II of the Section, apart from other offences.

In Ghanshyam vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (1989)the accused entered the house at night, armed with a knife. He threatened to kill the residents. This was held to be criminal intimidation under Part II of the provision.

A proposal for reform in criminal law is, to include the threat of suicide with the intention of coercing a public servant to perform an act or omit an act, as a type of criminal intimidation.

Criminal intimidation by anonymous communication

Section 507 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is an aggravated form of intimidation. This section covers instances wherein the intimidator commits the offence anonymously. It has been stated in this section that whoever indulges into the act of criminal intimidation by anonymous communication or takes precautions to conceal his identity or abode, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend up to two years. This punishment is in addition to the punishment provided for the offence under Section 506 of the IPC, 1860.

Example: If a person anonymously writes a letter to a person X, in which he threatens that he will burn X’s house, then this is an offence under this Section.

Classification of the offence: Bailable, non-cognizable and non-compoundable.

Triable by: Magistrate of the First Class


The substantive law aims to prescribe punishments for various offences through these provisions. Upon reading these sections, it can be observed that there is a dire requirement for reforms. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 is an archaic law and some of the provisions do not cater to contemporary needs. There have been several amendments to the legislation, but some issues still remain unaddressed.

The scope of these provisions is ever-extending as the law has been constantly evolving due to judicial pronouncements. Legislative reforms in the area would help in achieving the aims in a better manner.

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