Criminal Intimidation IPC

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The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is a comprehensive legal framework designed to uphold societal law and order. Within its provisions are various offences, including Sections 503, 504, 505, and 506, which address acts of criminal intimidation, intentional insult to incite a breach of the peace, and the making of statements leading to public mischief, respectively.

What is Criminal Intimidation?

The literal definition of intimidation, as per the Oxford Dictionary, is to coerce someone into acting as desired by the intimidator.

As Section 503 of the IPC, criminal intimidation is an act committed by an individual who threatens another person with harm to their person, reputation, or property, with the intention of compelling them to perform an act that they are not legally obligated to do. The person who poses the threat is referred to as the intimidator.

In such cases, the accused may use words or gestures to intimidate and cause harm to the victim’s body, property, reputation, or even to other family members.

For example, consider the following illustration: A threatens to burn down B’s house to dissuade him from filing a civil suit. In this scenario, A has committed the offence of criminal intimidation. A has used a threat to cause damage to B’s property and subsequently compelled him to refrain from performing a legally required act (filing the civil suit), thereby making A guilty of the offence of criminal intimidation.

Essentials of Criminal Intimidation

The landmark case of Narender Kumar & Ors v. State (2012) established the essential elements required to constitute the offence of criminal intimidation:

Threat of injury to the victim

According to Section 44 of the IPC, injury refers to any unlawful damage caused to an individual, whether it pertains to their body, mind, reputation, or property.

Ways in which threats can occur

Criminal intimidation can take place through various means, including:

a. Threatening to cause injury to a person.

b. Threatening to cause injury to the reputation of the victim.

c. Threatening to cause injury to the property of the victim.

d. Threatening to cause injury to another person or the reputation of someone the victim is interested in.

Intimidation to cause bodily harm

Criminal intimidation encompasses threats of bodily harm to another individual. Considering only physical harm under this section is essential, while mental or emotional distress should be excluded. Additionally, the threat must be specific in nature and clearly communicated to the opposing party.

Intimidation to cause damage to reputation

The term “reputation” in this context refers to a person’s goodwill or standing in the eyes of the community. Therefore, any attempt or threat to harm an individual’s goodwill falls under the purview of criminal intimidation.

Threatening to cause harm to the victim’s property

Property, whether physical or intangible, is highly valuable and represents an individual’s hard work. Thus, any warning or danger that could significantly harm their property is considered an offence under Section 503 of the IPC. This provision also applies to jointly-held properties.

Threatening to harm another individual or their reputation, where the original person has a personal interest

This provision broadens the scope of criminal intimidation. It includes threats or warnings intended to harm someone the intimidator has a personal interest in, such as their son, daughter, wife, or any other close family member. The explanation in Section 503 also covers threats to harm the reputation of a deceased person.

Intention at the time of the threat

The threat should be made with the intention of:

a. Causing alarm to an individual.

b. Compelling an individual to perform an act they are not legally required to do to prevent the implementation of the threat.

c. Forcing an individual to omit to perform an act they are legally obligated to do to prevent the implementation of the threat.

The Supreme Court of India, in the leading case of Romesh Chandra Arora v. State (1960), further clarified that criminal intimidation is not limited to the imposition of a threat but also includes situations where the threat serves as a mere warning to an individual.

Threatening to cause alarm to an individual

This provision requires that the threat be intended to cause alarm, fear, or distress to the person being threatened. The term “alarm” was clarified in the case of Amulya Kumar Behera v. Nabaghana Behera Alias Nabina (1995), where the Orissa High Court equated it with words like ‘fear’ or ‘distress.’

Threatening someone to do something they are not legally obligated to do

If a person threatens another individual with force or harm to compel them to perform an act that they are not legally obliged to do, it constitutes criminal intimidation.

For example, in the case of Nand Kishore v. Emperor (1927), a butcher was threatened by certain people that trading beef would lead to imprisonment and social isolation, even though trading beef was legal at that time. The Allahabad High Court held that this threat amounted to criminal intimidation.

Threatening an individual to omit to perform any act they are lawfully required to do

If anyone knowingly and willingly threatens or attempts to threaten someone to refrain from performing any act that they are legally permitted to do, it will be considered criminal intimidation in IPC.

Punishment for Criminal Intimidation

The punishment for the offence of criminal intimidation, as per Section 506 of the IPC, is as follows:

Simple criminal intimidation

If a person is found guilty of simple criminal intimidation, the penalty is up to two years of imprisonment, a fine, or both. This offence is non-cognizable (police cannot arrest without a warrant), bailable (the accused can obtain bail), compoundable (can be settled with the consent of the victim), and triable by any magistrate.

Hurt, grievous hurt, or death of the person

Suppose the threat of the intimidator leads to causing hurt, grievous hurt or death to the person threatened or damaging any property by fire. In that case, the punishment is a maximum of seven years imprisonment, a fine, or both. This offence is non-compoundable (cannot be settled by mutual agreement) and can be tried by a first-class magistrate.

The threat is to impute chastity to women

If a person threatens a woman with imputing unchastity to her, the punishment is imprisonment of any kind for a term that can extend up to seven years, a fine, or both. This offence is non-compoundable and can be tried by a first-class magistrate.

Commission of Criminal Intimidation By An Anonymous Communication

Under Section 507 of the IPC, there is a more serious and agitated form of criminal intimidation, which shares most of the elements with the standard criminal intimidation under Section 506. The distinguishing feature of this offence is that the intimidator commits the act anonymously without revealing their identity.

The punishment for this offence includes imprisonment for a term of up to two years, a fine, or both. It’s important to note that this imprisonment is in addition to the usual punishment for criminal intimidation provided under Section 506 of the IPC.

The nature of this offence under Section 507 is bailable, non-cognizable (police cannot arrest without a warrant), and non-compoundable (cannot be settled by mutual agreement). A first-class magistrate can try it.

For instance, if someone abducts the daughter of a person named Ram and demands a ransom without revealing their identity while threatening to harm the daughter if the payment is not made, it would be an offence covered by Section 507.

Section 508 of the IPC also deals with causing a person to believe that they will be rendered an object of divine displeasure. If an accused voluntarily induces or attempts to induce someone to do something they are not legally bound to do or omit to do something they are legally entitled to do, and convinces that person that they or someone they care about will face divine displeasure if they do not comply, then the accused is guilty.

The maximum punishment for this offence is one year of imprisonment, a fine, or both. This offence is non-cognizable, bailable, and compoundable by the individual against whom the offence was committed, and any magistrate can try it.

In summary, Sections 507 and 508 deal with specific forms of criminal intimidation that involve distinct elements and carry different punishments.

Doraswamy Ayyar v. King-Emperor (1924)

The Madras High Court established that for an act to be considered criminal intimidation under Section 503 of the IPC, the threat made must be realistic and capable of causing harm to the victim. The court ruled that threats of divine punishment alone would not be sufficient to qualify as criminal intimidation.

Rajinder Datt v. State of Haryana (1992)

In this case, it was determined that mere outbursts or statements made by the accused during an attack, indicating an intent to kill the victim, might not be enough to classify the act as criminal intimidation under Section 506 of the IPC. The court emphasized the need for evidence demonstrating a specific intent to cause death or grievous harm for the offence to fall under the ambit of criminal intimidation.

Shri Vasant Waman Pradhan v. Dattatraya Vithal Salvi (2004)

The Bombay High Court, in this case, emphasized the importance of mens rea (the guilty mind) in criminal intimidation cases. It clarified that the core of criminal intimidation lies in the accused’s malicious intentions or malafide motives. The court highlighted that determining the intention behind the act should consider the surrounding facts and circumstances associated with the incident.

Manik Taneja & Anr v. State of Karnataka (2015)

In the case of Manik Taneja & Anr v. State of Karnataka (2015), the Supreme Court ruled that posting written statements on a social media platform, in this case, Facebook, about unfair treatment by the police did not constitute criminal intimidation under Section 506 of the IPC. The appellant had been involved in a car accident with an auto-rickshaw, and even after paying compensation for the passenger’s treatment, the woman in the auto-rickshaw felt incensed and complained on the Bangalore traffic police’s Facebook page. However, the court found no evidence of criminal intimidation in this situation.

 Vikram Johar v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2019)

In the case of Vikram Johar v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2019), the Supreme Court concluded that the mere act of abusing someone in filthy language does not meet the requirements for the offence of criminal intimidation under Section 503 of the IPC. In this case, the respondent and some others went to the plaintiff’s residence, and one person in the group was carrying a pistol. 

They verbally abused the plaintiff and attempted to attack him, but when neighbours arrived, they ran away. The court found that the accusation, if taken at face value, did not fulfil the elements of criminal intimidation under Sections 504 and 506 of the IPC, as the insult was not severe enough to cause a person to break public peace or commit another crime.

Limitation of the Provision of Criminal Intimidation

Chapter XXII of the IPC deals with the offence of criminal intimidation, but it appears to be inadequate to address the needs of the evolving society. With societal changes and technological advancements, the law must adapt accordingly. 

The concept of criminal intimidation is quite extensive, but it lacks explicit provisions for situations where individuals are coerced into committing suicide due to threats or for cases involving intimidation through online platforms. Therefore, there is a pressing need to introduce more inclusive provisions and appropriate punishments that hold societal significance for instances of criminal intimidation.


Criminal intimidation, under IPC Sections 503 to 506, safeguards against threats and coercion. Key elements include injury threats, bodily harm, reputation damage, or property endangerment. Notably, anonymity elevates the offence (Section 507). Landmark cases guide its application. 

Modern cases highlight the need to adapt to technological advancements, addressing social media and inclusive provisions. Criminal intimidation in IPC undermines safety and societal harmony. Evolving laws must meet emerging challenges, ensuring just punishments that hold societal value. This fosters trust and respect, creating a safer environment for all.

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