CRIMES OF THE FORTUNATE: WHITE COLLAR CRIMES
“It’s the classic white-collar crime because it’s the old adage: The best way to rob a bank is to work for it.”
Not every crime involves a smoking gun. Some crimes take place right under the victim’s nose without a single shot being fired. White collar crimes do not find its space in the newspapers on a daily basis, however, these crimes of the privileged are on the rise. These crimes have been present in the courtyards for quite a long time yet they are ambiguous to some. Edwin Hardin Sutherland, an American criminologist, in the year 1939, for the first time defined White-collar crimes as those crimes which are committed by people who enjoy a high social status, great reputation and are respected in their occupation.[i]The accused in such cases does not commit a crime out of poverty but indulges in illegal acts owing to his greed. The Supreme Court in the case of State of Gujrat v. Mohanlal JitamaljiPorwal&anr.[ii] stated “that murder can be made in the heat of the moment but these economic offences are calculated with a cool calculation and planned strategy to gain personal benefits.” These are non-violent crimes committed for monetary gain and involve deception, concealment and violation of trust. The white-collar crime which was in its emerging stage then, has today emerged as a fully-fledged offence and has been posing a challenge to the justice system. The insatiability and lust for money has not spared even the noble and honored professionals of the country. White collar crimes include cybercrime, bribery, conspiracy, embezzlement, intellectual property crimes, tax crimes etc.
GROUNDS OF WHITE-COLLAR CRIMES
There are various reasons that force a person to commit such crimes that have a deterrent effect on society. Some causes of the same are mentioned below:
1. Greed: The people with high social status are financially stable. Machiavelli, father of modern political philosophy was of the opinion that “a man can sooner and easily forget the death of his father than the loss of his inheritance.” In the race of being the richest, these reputed people commit such crimes.
2. Growing Technology: Due to the rapidly growing technology, business, as well as political pressure, has introduced criminals to newer ways of committing such crimes. Technology has made it easier to inflict harm to the other person, with a relatively lesser risk of being caught. Also, the cost of such crimes is much more than other crimes like murder, robbery or burglary, and so the victim would take time to recover from it. This would cut down the competition.
3. Lack of stringent laws: There is an absence of enough laws to deal with such crimes, and hence the offenders easily get away from the clutches of the law. It has mostly been seen that due to political connections or lack of witness and evidence, most offenders get away without any kind of punishment.
4. Lack of awareness: Even the educated people in our country do not possess enough knowledge about such crimes for it being different from the conventional crimes. This deficiency of knowledge increases chance of becoming worse hit by these crimes.
DIMENSIONS OF WHITE-COLLAR CRIMES
“White Collar Crimes are not new to India. The scale is.”
White-collar crimes have inundated society and there is no profession that is still untouched by these. To cite a few professions that has been aggrieved by these crimes:
· The Medical Profession- The medical practitioners who are considered next to God are no behind in indulging themselves in illegal activities. Issuance of false medical certificates, carrying out illegal abortions, selling adulterated drugs are some malpractices undertaken by people from the medical fraternity.
· Education Sector- Private institutions, considered as temple of learning, are only interested in minting money at the cost of a child’s future. The quality of education thereby gets deteriorated. Many teachers and staff of some educational institutions are often found participating in crooked practices.
· Business- Formation of illegal contracts, conspiracies of trade restraints, selling of adulterated drugs and food, bribing of public officials, etc. are some misconducts being indulged in by certain companies. The Sanathanam Committee Report on Prevention of Corruption[iii] observed that Indian businessman build up secret stocks of foreign exchange abroad, violating the Export and Import Laws.
· Engineering-There have often been found instances of underhand dealing with contractors, suppliers, passing of sub-standard works etc. which not only endangers the life of people but also results in huge losses to the government.
· Legal Profession- Individuals from the legal fraternity are often regarded as the keepers of law. However, the lawyers and the judges in the present generation are seen to use their knowledge of law for their insatiability and personal benefits. Fabrication of false evidence, engagement of professional witnesses, sorting out illegal methods of tax evasion, etc. are certain misuses in this regard.
The victims of these crimes have an adverse impact on them. According to a data, in the year, 2017 over 91,000 cases resulted in loss of property. The amount involved was less than ₹1 lakh in more than half of these cases. In 29,500 cases, the amount involved was between Rs. 1 lakh and Rs. 10 lakhs, and in 21 cases, it was more than Rs. 100 crores.[iv]
MAJOR TYPES OF WHITE-COLLAR CRIMES IN INDIA
· BANK FRAUD - Any illegal act that involves the practice of trickery to obtain money or other property from a financial institution, or from a bank’s depositors, is often recognized as bank fraud.
· BRIBERY- The people at significant positions are being provided with money by some people persuading them to carry out activities for their benefits. In the case of Satya Narayan Sharma vs. State of Rajasthan[v] the Supreme Court held that in cases where public servants are being accused of any corrupt practices under any provision of the Prevention of Corruption Act,1988, the same should not be stayed by any order passed under CrPC. Proper adjudication and enquiry of the act should be carried out in conformity to the provisions of the said Act.
· FOOD & DRUG ADULTERATION- The present Indian society is a victim of the acts of making adulterated foods and drugs which are sold to the general public. A report submitted by the Ministry of Health of the Government of India shows that approximately 70% of the food and other edible stuff is adulterated in nature and has the potential of causing health risks and damages to the general public. In the case of Sunil Kumar v. State of Haryana[vi], the Supreme Court held that “adulteration of food is a menace to society and perpetrators cannot be let off lightly.”
· TAX EVASION- Criminal tax evasion is when a wrongdoer attempts to evade taxes they would otherwise owe. Tax evasion can range from simply filing tax forms with false information to illegally transferring property so as to avoid tax commitment.
VARIOUS LEGISLATIONS PERTAINING TO WHITE-COLLAR CRIMES IN INDIA:
Ø Indian Penal Code, 1860
Ø The Income Tax Act, 1961
Ø The Companies Act, 1960
Ø The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988
Ø The Commodities Act, 1955
Ø The Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881
Ø The Information Technology Act, 2005
Ø The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002
Ø Imports and Exports (Control) Act, 1950, etc.
CURBING WHITE-COLLAR CRIMES
1. More stringent laws pertaining to these crimes coupled with better implementation and execution can prove better results.
2. Fast track courts and tribunals should be established across the country and should be vested with adequate powers of imposing fine and awarding sentence to the guilty.
3. People should be made informed about the types of white-collar crimes and their ill-effects so that they do not fall prey in the hands of the culprits. Electronic and print media can be used for this purpose.
4. The officials who deal with such crimes must be skillful and should keep themselves updated about the latest developments in these crimes so that proper and latest remedies could be adopted to control them.
White collar crimes are a global concern and is increasing at a distressing rate. White-collar crimes are not only a detriment to the fiscal growth of the developing country but also spoils the reputation of our country. Joining hands with the government and legal bodies can help reducing such crimes. Aversion to these crimes are still in a state of denial, it has thus, become important that the loopholes & the grey areas of our laws are addressed to make them more efficient & secure. India may succeed in combating the problem of these crimes by adopting an approach wherein technological measures are adopted coupled with proper legislative framework and trained human resource.
AUTHOR: Chahat Bhandari
[i] Edwin H. Southerland, White Collar Crime 14 (1949). [ii] Para 4, AIR 1987 SC 1321. [iii]Report of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, available at : https://cvc.gov.in/sites/default/files/scr_rpt_cvc.pdf. [iv]https://www.livemint.com/news/india/eight-states-accounted-for-bulk-of-economic-crimes-in-india-11571741063964.html. [v] AIR 2001 SC 2856. [vi]AIR 2012 SC 2430.