Laws Relating to Criminal Threat
Author : V. Krishna Laasya
A criminal threat is an offence where there is a loom of physical danger and communication of the same is either in the form of a verbal or a non- verbal way. The threat must be in a definite form and must surely be in an imminent form. A threat that is vague and unreasonable cannot be considered a threat. A credible and a specific threat is considered grave and is an essential feature of the offence.
A criminal threat is generally made with an intention to create fear in the minds of the persons and though, it is not necessary for the person to actually experience fear, it is important that the evidence of fear exists in the mind of the person against whom the threat is made.
Essential Ingredients to Constitute the Offence-
- There must be a threat to the property, reputation of the person.
- The intention of the threat is either to
- Cause alarm to the person
- Cause the person to commit an act which he is not lawfully bound to do.
- Cause the person to omit the act he is lawfully supposed to do to avoid the harm that may be caused because of the commission of the act.
It is essential that all the ingredients are present for the offence to be considered a threat or intimation, as one without the other may lead to the offence not being classified as a case of threat.
Indian Provisions Relevant to the same
Indian Evidence Act
S. 24 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 deals with confession induced by threat cannot be taken into account in a criminal proceeding. This particular section embodies the rule granted by Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India, 1950. Offering such an inducement, threat or promise by the officers in charge or similar people in authority is also prohibited under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. However, it is noteworthy that under S. 28 of the Indian Evidence Act, the confession made after removal of traces of threat, promise is made relevant and is admissible under Law. Such threat or inducement must have been made in a charge against the person accused.
Information Technology Act
Under the Information Technology Act, 200 in reference to Cyber Law, the concept of cyber terrorism is discussed. Under S. 66F, the intention to threaten the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the nation with a specific intent to strike terror in the minds of any section of people is punishable. Threat here is declared a criminal offence and is a concept of high importance. Life imprisonment is generally awarded, thus emphasizing more on the concept of threat and implications to lives of people.
Indian Penal Code
S. 503 of the Indian Penal code deals with the offence of intimidation. It reads as the threat or injury to him, either in person, to the reputation or property or to the person in whom that person is interested or with an intention to cause harm or alarm to that person, provided that he has no lawful reason or he is not legally bound to do so, such an offence is classified and is said to constitute the offence of criminal intimidation.
It is not important that the offender must only cause physical bruise or torture, it is enough that the cause of threat exists in the mind of the offender. If such an intention does not take place but exists in the mind, it can be considered a valid threat. But, If the offence in itself has no intention on part of the offender, offence of threat is not complete and in fact, does not exist.
Analysis of the Provision
The main ingredients formulated under S. 503 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 can be broadly classified as “to threaten” and “intention to cause harm”. Thus, communication, fear and specificity, reasonable apprehension and provocation are important factors that contribute to the crime of Threat.
It can be noted from the provisions that the cause of physical harm is not always essential to contribute to threat. Even the apprehension of fear in the mind of the person can sometimes be constituted as a threat.
S. 504 can be applicable as it formulates a threat when a person intentionally insults or provokes the person. The underlying principle behind the same is that the provocation must have been in such a way that it disturbs the public peace or cause the person to commit an offence.
Insult in this regard is limited to the usage of abusive or hurtful language or words that depict the same.
The punishment for the offence of criminal intimidation is dealt with under S. 506 of the Indian Penal Code where 2 year imprisonment and fine is prescribed. If the threat is to the so grave that it causes death or seriously inflicts injury on another person, then the punishment is extended to death or life imprisonment of the person. If the offence relates to the imputation of unchastity of a woman, punishment is restricted to 7 years imprisonment.
It is emphasised everywhere that the Indian State is the flagbearer of the right of free speech and expression. However, it must be underlined that the right is subject to limitations like threats, libel, defamation etc. it must be noted that the offence of threat is a serious offence as it is not only that the threat that is grave, but also the factors surrounding the same.
 For offence of Criminal Threat, see <https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/crime-penalties/federal/Criminal-Threats.htm>. last accessed July 30, 2020.
 For the aspects of Confession and Inducement, threat, promise, see Sahoo v. State of UP AIR 1966 SC 42 and Ram Singh v. State All L.J 660 1958 All CR 462
 For the inducement and Threat prohibition, see S. 163 CrPC, 1973 and S. 25, 26 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872
 The Removal of threat and Confession’s admissibility discussed under Queen Empress v. Babul Lal ILR 6 All 509
 For S. 66F of the Information Technology Act, its Relevance to Threat and its implications as a criminal offence, see <https://cis-india.org/internet-governance/resources/section-66f-of-the-i-t-act-2000>. Last accessed July 31, 2020