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In this blog post, Aashish Ahuja writes about white collar crimes in India.
Meaning of White Collar Crime: What is it
White Collar Crimes are the crimes committed by a person of high social status and respectability during the course of his occupation. It is a crime that is committed by salaried professional workers or persons in business and that usually involves a form of financial theft or fraud. The term “White Collar Crime” was defined by sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939. These crimes are non-violent crimes committed by business people through deceptive activities who are able to access large amounts of money for the purpose of financial gain.
White Collar Crimes are committed by people who are involved in otherwise, lawful businesses and covers a wide range of activities. The perpetrators hold respectable positions in the communities unless their crime is discovered. The laws relating to white-collar crimes depends upon the exact nature of the crime committed.
Types of White Collar Crimes
There are different types of white collar crimes. Some of them are as follows:
- Bank Fraud: Bank Fraud means to engage in such activities in order to defraud a bank or using illegal means to obtain assets held by financial institutions.
- Blackmail: Blackmail means demand for money by threatening some person to cause physical injury or exposing his secrets.
- Bribery: Bribery means offering money, goods or any gift to someone in order to have control over his actions. It is a crime whether someone offers or accepts a bribe.
- Computer Fraud: Computer frauds are such frauds which involve hacking or stealing information of some other person.
- Embezzlement: When someone entrusted with money or property uses it for his own use, it is embezzlement.
- Extortion: When a person illegally obtains someone’s property by actual or threatened force.
- Insider-Trading: When someone uses the confidential information to trade in shares of publicly held corporations.
- Money-Laundering: Money Laundering means the concealment of origin of illegally obtained money.
- Tax fraud: Tax fraud means evading tax by providing wrong information in tax forms or illegally transferring property in order to avoid tax.
White Collar Crime is pervasive in almost all the professions and occupations in the society. These crimes are common to the business world and Indian trade and violation of Foreign Exchange Regulation Act and export and import laws are resorted to make huge profits.
Causes of White-Collar Crime
The general perception is that the white collar crimes are committed because of greed or economic instability. But these crimes are also committed because of situational pressure or the inherent characteristic of getting more than others. However, there are various reasons for white collar crimes.
- Not really a crime: Some offenders convince themselves that the actions performed by them are not crimes as the acts involved does not resemble street crimes.
- Not realizable: Some people justify themselves in committing crimes as they feel that the government regulations do not understand the practical problems of competing in the free enterprise system.
- Lack of awareness: One of the main reason of white collar crime is the lack of awareness of people. The nature of the crime is different from the traditional crimes and people rarely understand it though they are the worst victims of crime.
- Greed: Greed is another motivation of the commission of crime. Some people think that others are also violating the laws and so it is not bad if they will do the same.
- Necessity: Necessity is another factor of committing crimes. People commit white collar crimes in order to satisfy their ego or support their family.
White Collar Crimes in India
White Collar Crimes are rapidly increasing in our country with the advancement of commerce and technology. The recent developments in the technology have given new dimensions to computer related crimes known as cyber crimes. As such, the white collar crimes are increasing with the development of new websites. The areas affected by these crimes are banking and financial institutions, industry, business etc.
Thus crime is an act or omission which constitutes an offence and is punishable under the law. As the white collar crimes are increasing on daily basis, it injures the society on a large scale because the laws are not properly administered and therefore there is a need to curb the factors that are helping in the commission of such crimes.
Laws relating to White Collar Crimes
The government of India has introduced various regulatory legislations, the breach of which will amount to white-collar criminality. Some of these legislations are Essential Commodities Act 1955, the Industrial (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951.,The Import and Exports (Control) Act, 1947, the Foreign Exchange (Regulation) Act, 1974, Companies Act, 1956, Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.
The Indian Penal Code contains provisions to check crimes such as Bank Fraud, Insurance fraud, credit card fraud etc. In case of money laundering several steps have been taken by the government of India to tackle this problem. The Reserve Bank of India has issued directions to be strictly followed by the banks under KYC (Know Your Customer) guidelines. The banks and financial institutions are required to maintain the records of transactions for a period of ten years.
In order to tackle with computer-related crimes, Information Technology Act, 2000 has been enacted to provide legal recognition to the authentication of information exchanged in respect of commercial transactions.
Section 43 and 44 of Information Technology Act prescribes the penalty for the following offences:
- Unauthorised copying of an extract from any data.
- Unauthorised access and downloading files.
- Introduction of viruses or malicious programmes.
- Damage to computer system or computer network.
- Denial of access to an authorised person to a computer system.
- Providing assistance to any person to facilitate unauthorised access to a computer.
Though the focus of Information Technology Act is not on cybercrime as such, this Act has certain provisions that deal with white collar crimes. Chapter XI deals with the offence of cyber crime and chapter IX deals with penalties and adjudication of crime. Apart from this, many issues are unresolved due to lack of focus. Some of them are:
- Qualification for appointment as adjudicating officer not prescribed
- Definition of hacking
- No steps to curb internet piracy
- Lack of international cooperation
- Power of police to enter and search limited to public places
- Absence of guidelines for investigation of cyber crime
There are some measures to deal with white-collar crimes. Some of them are, creating public awareness of crimes through media or press and other audio-visual aids and legal literacy programmes. Special tribunals should be constituted with power to sentence the offenders for at least 5 years and conviction should result in heavy fines rather than arrest and detention of criminals. Unless the people will strongly detest such crimes, it is not possible to control this growing menace.
It is clear that due to advancement of science and technology newer form of criminality known as white-collar crime has arisen. The term “white-collar crime” has not been defined in the code. But the dimensions of white-collar crime are so wide that after analysing the provisions of Indian Penal Code 1860, we may conclude that certain offence under Indian Penal Code is closely linked with white collar crimes such as bribery, corruption and adulteration of food, forgery etc. The provisions of Indian Penal Code dealing with white-collar crimes should be amended to enhance punishment particularly fine in tune with changed socio-economic conditions. The special Acts dealing with white collar crimes and the provisions of Indian Penal Code should be harmoniously interpreted to control the problem of white-collar crimes.