Assault and criminal intimidation on facebook

Aggressive comment on Facebook page of Police

Whether Facebook page of the Bengaluru traffic police is a public forum meant for citizens to discuss and post their grievances and whether  the comment  posted on the Facebook could prima facie constitute the offence of assault and criminal intimidation?

 Section 353 defines assault and is as under:

353. Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty.- Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any person being a public servant in the execution of his duty as such public servant, or with intent to prevent or deter that person from discharging his duty as such public servant, or in consequence of anything done or attempted to be done by such person in the lawful discharge of his duty as such public servant, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

A reading of the above provision shows that the essential ingredients of the offence under Section 353 IPC are that the person accused of the offence should have assaulted the public servant or used criminal force with the intention to prevent or deter the public servant from discharging his duty as such public servant. By perusing the materials available on record, it appears that no force was used by the appellants to commit such an offence. There is absolutely nothing on record to show that the appellants either assaulted the respondents or used criminal force to prevent the second respondent from discharging his official duty. Taking the uncontroverted allegations, in our view, that the ingredients of the offence under Section 353 IPC are not made out.

“Criminal intimidation” as defined in Section 503 IPC is as under:-

“503. Criminal Intimidation.- Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of any one in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, commits criminal intimidation.

Explanation.- A threat to injure the reputation of any deceased person in whom the person threatened is interested, is within this section.”

A reading of the definition of “Criminal intimidation” would indicate that there must be an act of threatening to another person, of causing an injury to the person, reputation, or property of the person threatened, or to the person in whom the threatened person is interested and the threat must be with the intent to cause alarm to the person threatened or it must be to do any act which he is not legally bound to do or omit to do an act which he is legally entitled to do.

In the instant case, the allegation is that the appellant have abused the complainant and obstructed the second respondent from discharging his public duties and spoiled the integrity of the second respondent. It is the intention of the accused that has to be considered in deciding as to whether what he has stated comes within the meaning of “Criminal intimidation”. The threat must be with intention to cause alarm to the complainant to cause that person to do or omit to do any work. Mere expression of any words without any intention to cause alarm would not be sufficient to bring in the application of this section. But material has to be placed on record to show that the intention is to cause alarm to the complainant. From the facts and circumstances of the case, it appears that there was no intention on the part of the appellants to cause alarm in the minds of the second respondent causing obstruction in discharge of his duty. As far as the comments posted on the Facebook are concerned, it appears that it is a public forum meant for helping the public and the act of appellants posting a comment on the Facebook may not attract ingredients of criminal intimidation in Section 503 IPC.

[Source: Manik Taneja vs State Of Karnataka, decided by SC on 20 January, 2015.]
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s