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Report No. 42

Chapter 22

Criminal Intimidation, Insult and Annoyance

22.1. Introductory.-

Criminal Intimidation is defined very comprehensively in section 503. But rather curiously the punishment for the offence in its simple form and in two different aggravated forms is prescribed in sections 506 and 507, after dealing with insult with intent to provoke breach of peace in section 504, and publication of statement conducing to public mischief in section 505. The last mentioned section (particularly after the recent amendment of 1969) contains a mixture of ideas some of which could more appropriately have been put in the earlier chapters.

Section 508 constitutes an offence substantially similar to the offence of criminal intimidation. Section 509 is connected with section 504, insult being the common feature, while section 510, falls under the category of annoyance, the third limb mentioned in the chapter heading. The chapter is thus a heterogeneous, ill-arranged, but nonetheless useful, mixture of penal provisions.

22.2. Sections 503 and 506 to 508.-

These four sections relating to criminal intimidation do not require any change but 'should preferably be brought together.

22.3. Suicide threat to coerce public authorities to be an offence.-

Another type of intimidation which, in our opinion, should be punishable under the Code is threatening to commit suicide with the object of coercing a public authority to pursue a course of action which it is not prepared to do. We have in a previous chapter recommended that an attempt to commit suicide should cease to be an offence. Suicide threats of the type mentioned above, of which we have experienced quite a few in recent years, are in a different category.

Their main object can only be described as coercion or intimidation of public authorities; and the persons indulging in such threats hope to achieve their object by the disturbance of public order and tranquillity which they expect to create during the days when they are ostentatiously preparing it carry out their threat. In our opinion, there is no justification for the State permitting such agitational activity to be carried on with impunity. This view is shared by a large number of persons who replied to our Questionnaire in which we had included a specific question on this point.

We accordingly propose that a new section may be added after section 506 as follows.-

"506A. Threat of suicide with intent to coerce a public authority.- Whoever holds out a threat of suicide to a public authority, with intent to cause that authority to do any act which it is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which it is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, and does any act towards the execution of such threat, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or with both."

The offence should be made cognizable and triable by a Magistrate of the First Class.

22.4. Section 50.-Amendment recommended.-

Section 504 punishes a person who "intentionally insults, and thereby gives provocation to any person, intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause him to break the public peace or to commit any other offence". The section, in our view, unnecessarily stresses the giving of provocation. What should really attract liability is the intentional insult. Provocation is only a link in the chain, and is used merely to describe the quality of the insult. The section, therefore, requires to be re-cast, so as to bring out more directly the connection between the insult and the breach of peace. We recommend that the section should be revised so as to read as follows.-

"504. Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace.- Whoever intentionally insults any person, intending or knowing it to be likely that such insult will provoke that person to break the public peace or to commit any other offence, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both."

22.5. Mock funerals of living persons to be an offence.-

It has been brought to our notice that mock funerals of living persons are being frequently staged in public to the annoyance of not only those persons but also of the public in general, and such demonstrations are calculated to result in a breach of the peace. In certain circumstances, a mock funeral might be punishable as defamation; but it would be more satisfactory to prohibit it as an offence of insult and annoyance in this Chapter. We recommend a new section 504A as follows to meet such cases.-

"504A. Performing mock funeral of a living person.- Whoever, with intent to cause annoyance to the public or to any person or with the knowledge that annoyance is likely to be caused to the public or to any person, performs, or takes part in the performance of, any mock funeral associated with, or referable to a living person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both."

The offence should be made cognizable and triable by any Magistrate.

22.6. Section 505.-

Section 505 punishes the making, publishing or circulating any statement, rumour or report "conducing to public mischief" (as briefly put in the marginal heading). We have in a previous Chapter recommended that clause (a) of sub section (1) relating to statements made with intent to cause mutiny, dereliction of duty, insubordination etc. among the armed forces should find a place in the Chapter relating to offences against the armed forces.1 We have also recommended that the rest of the section which could well be regarded as creating offences against public tranquillity, should be taken in Chapter 8 as section 1588.2 Section 505 may accordingly be omitted.

1. See para. 7.9, above.

2. See para. 8.26, above.

22.7. Astrological prediction.-suggestion not accepted.-

While on the subject of statements causing "fear or alarm to the public", we may mention a suggestion made by the Press Commission1 in 1954 as regards astrological predictions of a calamitous chapter. The point was referred to the Law Commission at that time. The suggestion was to punish persons who published astrological predictions foretelling death or disaster which were bound to cause fear or alarm to the public. After considering the suggestion in the light of experience, we think that the harm that results from such predictions is of a temporary and fleeting character and on the negligible. It does not seem necessary to make their publication an offence.

1. The Press Commissione's Report (1954), Part I, p. 347.

22.8. Section 509.-

In our Report on the Code of Criminal Procedure,1 we have recommended that the offence under section 509 should be cognizable. No changes are needed in the section.

1. 41st Report, Vol. 1, para. 47.8.

22.9. Section 51.-repeal recommended.-

Section 510 punishes a person appearing drunk and causing annoyance to people in a public place. There is a provision in the Police Act1 which punishes 'any person who is found drunk or riotous or who is incapable of taking care of himself. The punishment is fine upto fifty rupees or imprisonment upto eight days. The offence must be committed "on any road or in any open place or street or thoroughfare", within a notified town. This provision should be enough, for areas notified under that section. In areas where section 34 of the Police Act is not applicable, there is hardly any need for section 510 of the Code, as such misconduct is not noticeable. We recommend that section 510 may be omitted.

1. Section 34, clause sixthly, Police Act, 1861.

1. Th subject of Attempt has been dealt with in Chapter 5 above in paras. 5.41 to 5.54. Chapter 23 of the code is proposed to be omitted and replaced by a new Chapter 5B.

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