Author in this article has explained the nuances of Section 506 of IPC (Indian Penal Code) with the help of Judicial Precedents and scholarly studies
Section 506 of The Indian Penal Code
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.
Section 503 IPC defines criminal intimidation and section 506 IPC is the penal provision prescribing punishment for the offence committed under section 503 IPC.
Before understanding the provision of punishment for criminal intimidation it is important to decode what constitutes criminal intimidation. Threatening someone with life and reputation is dealt with great seriousness under IPC. Section 503-510 IPC defines various offences of the nature of criminal intimidation and prescribes punishment for the same.
Essentials of Section 503 IPC
In Narendra Kumar & others Vs. State( 2004) [i] Delhi High court pointed out essential ingredients of an offence under section 503IPC
1. There should be a threat of injury
a) To a person
b) To his reputation; or,
c) To his property; or,
d) To the person or reputation of anyone in whom that person is interested.
2. The threat must be with the intent
a) To cause alarm to that person; or,
b) To cause that person to do an act which he is not legally bound to do as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat; or,
c) To cause that person to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do as means of avoiding the execution of such threat.
The term ‘Injury’ is defined under section 44 IPC which means any harm that is caused illegally to any person in mind, body or reputation.
‘Intention’ is a mental condition. Intention plays an important role in determining whether the accused is guilty and the same can be determined in view of the facts and circumstances of the case.
‘Intimidate’ according to Webster’s Dictionary means “(1) to make timid, make afraid, overawe; (2) force or deter with threats or violence.[ii]
‘Threat’ is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word “threoton to lire”, (harass). It is the declaration of an intention to inflict punishment, loss or pain on another.[iii]
The Orissa HC in Amulya Kumar Behera vs Nabaghana Behera Alias Nabina (1995) [iv] tried to explain the meaning of the term ‘alarm’ used in the section. The court tells us that the use of the term alarm is rather new and earlier words like distress and terror were used.
Threat causes great mental anguish and anxiety to a person. Any threat is measured through the lens of a man of common firmness, a man of reason and prudence.
The Orissa HC observed that the degree of alarm may vary in different cases but what matters is that the alarm raised should be of such a nature and extent that it unsettles the mind of the person in whom it operates and he loses control over his free voluntary actions.
The test, therefore, is whether the threat was of such an extent and degree that it could overcome a man of ordinary nerves. If yes, it would amount to criminal intimidation.
What constitutes ‘Criminal Intimidation’?
In Amulya Kumar Behera vs Nabaghana Behera(1995) [v], the complainant alleged that the accused abused him in filthy language and if the witnesses had not intervened and saved him, the accused would have given him more injuries than a mere fist blow.
The complainant admitted that he was not alarmed by the threat given to him by the accused. The court observed that creating an alarm in the mind of the threatened person is an essential ingredient to attract 506IPC and since this important element was missing, it did not amount to criminal intimidation.
In Romesh Chandra Arora Vs State( 1980)[vi] the accused threatened person X and his daughter, of injury to reputation by releasing nude pictures of the daughter until the money was paid to him. The court agreed that these pictures if made public would undoubtedly compromise the reputation of the girl and her father.
The court further observed that the accused intended to cause alarm to X so that having been threatened X could give in to all his demands and give him the money and thus ensure that the accused would not execute the threat of posting those pictures on public platforms. This amounted to criminal intimidation as it raised sufficient alarm for X.
In Manik Taneja Vs State of Karnataka (2015) [vii] In this case, the appellant met with an accident, she clashed with auto-rickshaw, passenger of auto sustained injuries. She paid for the expenses of the hospital and the matter was amicably settled. Later she was called to the police station, she alleged that the police officers misbehaved with her and threatened her with charges of rash and negligent driving. Aggrieved by this she posted comments on the Facebook page of Bangalore traffic police accusing the police inspector of harassment and harsh behaviour.
Consequently, FIR was filed against the appellant under section 506 and section 353 of IPC.
Supreme Court held that mere expression of any words without any intention to cause alarm would not be sufficient to bring in the application of Sections 503 and 506 IPC. There was no intention on the appellant’s part to cause any alarm.
In Surinder Suri v. State of Haryana[viii], Punjab and Haryana HC observed that the gist of the offence under Section 503 IPC, is the effect which the threat is intended to have upon the mind of the person threatened. The threat must be one that can be put into execution by the person threatening. A mere vague allegation by the accused that he is going to take revenge by false complaints cannot amount to criminal intimidation.
In a recent case of Shri Padma Mohan Jamatia vs. Smt. Jharna Das Baidya (2019)[ix] Tripura HC held 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.
Section 506 IPC: Analysis
Section 506 IPC can be divided into 2 categories-
1. First part covers simple cases of criminal intimidation which is punishable with imprisonment for a period that may extend to two years, or a fine, or both.
Classification of offence– the offence is non-cognizable, compoundable, bailable.
Triable by- Any magistrate.
2. Second part of the section covers a comparatively graver form of criminal intimidation
If the threat is to cause-
a) Death or grievous hurt;
b) Destruction of any property by fire;
c) To cause an offence punishable with imprisonment up to seven years or life imprisonment or death;
d) To attribute unchastity to a woman.
In such a case the punishment would be simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term extending to seven years; or a fine; or both
Classification of the offence– This part is non-cognizable, bailable and non-compoundable offence.
Triable by– Magistrate first class.
The very essence of the 2nd part of section 506IPC is that there must be a threat of either causing death or grievous hurt.
In Ghanshyam vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (1989) [x], 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.
In Subramanian Swamy (Dr.) vs. C. Pushparaj, (1998) [xi] In this case complaint was filed on a speech delivered by the petitioner which the complainant found offensive and threatening under 506 IPC
The court observed that for an offence to amount to criminal intimidation one must look at to whom it was intended, whether the alarm was caused, what are the actual words employed. The mere mentioning of sections and putting a person to face the trial is nothing but the abuse of the process of the Court. The court held that mere outburst is not sufficient to hold that it would fall within the mischief of Sec. 506.
Above discussion makes it clear that the immediate purpose of criminal intimidation is to induce the person threatened to do, or to abstain from doing, something which the person was not legally bound to do or to omit. It is therefore a punishable offence. Section 506 is the penal section which states the punishment for the offence of criminal intimidation, the offence itself is defined in s. 503. Section 506 IPC is divided into 2 categories which are lesser and graver forms of criminal intimidation and thus punishment is given accordingly. In IPC offence of criminal intimidation is expressly laid out and tries to cover all facets of criminal intimidation.