Indian Penal Code

Criminal Intimidation, Insult and Annoyance

There are certain offences which do not affect anybody physically but they are still punishable. For example, criminal intimidation, insult, and annoyance under Chapter 22 of IPC are such offences. Although these offences seem straight-forward, there are several ways in which one can commit them. The punishment for these offences may include imprisonment for up to 7 years depending on its nature.

Criminal Intimidation

Criminal Intimidation

Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 defines what criminal intimidation really means. The main requirement of this offence is that the offender must threaten the victim. The intention to cause certain harm must also exist along with this threat.

The intention must be to harm either the victim himself of any other person in whom he is interested. This intention must exist in the mind of the offender even if he cannot execute it. If such an intention does not exist, the offence does not get complete.

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Ingredients of Intimidation

In order to complete an offence under Section 503, the following ingredients must exist:

1. Threatening a person with an injury to his person, reputation or property (or to that of any other person he has interest in); and

2. The threat must be with the intention to:

(a) cause alarm to that person; or

(b) cause that person to do something he is not legally bound to do for avoiding the harm that may arise if he does not do it; or

(c) cause that person to do omit something he is legally bound to do for avoiding the harm that may arise if he did it.

Both these ingredients must necessarily exist together for the offence to be complete. The absence of any one of them may negate the charge against the accused.

For example, if an offender merely threatens any person but has no intention to harm him, it is not intimidation. Similarly, if he directly harms a person without threatening him, other offences may apply but Section 503 will not.

Analysis of Intimidation

As we can see from above, the main ingredients of Section 503 are threatening and the intention to cause some harm. This threat must reach the mind of the victim in some way. In other words, the communication of the threat must happen.

The communication of the threat may happen either with an oral utterance, in written form or even by gestures. Therefore, even showing provocative gestures (like showing the slicing of the victim’s throat) can be intimidation.

Furthermore, the threat is inadequate if there is no intention to cause harm. This requirement may even be complete if the threat alarms the complainant. Therefore, a threat to cause actual physical harm is not necessary.

For example, a man may take obscene pictures of a girl and then threaten her to give him money or else he will post them online. This is not a threat of physical harm but it is still intimidation as it affects the victim’s reputation.

Punishment for Criminal Intimidation

If any person is guilty of an offence under Section 503, the court can punish him with imprisonment up to 2 years. The court can even levy a fine for it.

The offender can receive greater punishment if he threatens the victim with severe consequences. For example, if he threatens to cause grievous harm, death or destruction of property, imprisonment extends to 7 years. If he threatens to impute the chastity of a woman, the imprisonment of up to 7 years can also include a fine.

Intentional Insult provoking breach of Peace

Another form of intimidation exists under Section 504. Unlike Section 503, here the intention need not be for causing harm and a threat need is not necessary.

Section 504 applies when a person intentionally insults (maybe by using abusive language) and provokes him. The offender must know that his provocation may cause the victim to disturb the public peace or cause him to commit some offence.

For example, abusing and provoking a driver to cause road rage in anger is an offence under Section 504. This is punishable with imprisonment up to 2 years either with or without fine.

Solved Questions on Criminal Intimidation

(a) The threat under criminal intimidation must be to cause harm to a person, his reputation or his __________.

(b) The threat must generally cause __________ to the victim.

(c) Punishment for threatening to impute a woman’s chastity may include imprisonment up to __________ years.

Answers:          (a) property          (b) alarm          (c) 7

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