White collar crime refers to financially motivated nonviolent crime committed by business and government professionals. Within criminology, it was first defined by sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939 as “a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation”.
Prof. Paranjape has outlined some of the remedial measures for combating white – collar,: criminality, which are listed below:
1) Creating public awareness against these crimes through the media of press, and other audio-visual aids and legal literacy programmes.
2) Special Tribunals should be constituted with power to award sentence of imprisonment upto 5 years for white collar crimes.
3) Stringent regulatory laws and drastic punishment for white collar criminals may help in reducing these crimes.
4) A separate chapter on white collar crimes should be incorporated in the Indian Penal Code by amending the Code, so that white – collar criminals who are convicted by the court do not escape punishment because of their high social status.
5) Convictions should result in heavy fines rather than arrest and detention of white collar criminals.
6) There is an urgent need for National Crime Commission which may squarely tackle the problem of crime and criminality in all its facets.
7) Lastly, public vigilance seems to be corner-stone of anti-white collar crime strategy. Unless people strongly detest such crimes, it will not be possible to contain this growing menace.
There is need for strengthening of morals particularly in the higher strata and among the public services. It is further necessary to evolve sound group norms and service ethics based on the concepts of absolute honesty and integrity for the sake of national welfare. This is possible through character building at grass-root level and inculcating feeling of real concern for the motherland among youngsters so that they are prepared for an upright living when they enter real life.
On the basis of the recommendations of Santhanam Committee, some of the relevant laws were amended (on the lines of retaining the jurisdiction of ordinary criminal courts but doing away with some of the cumbersome provisions of criminal law in the context of white collar crimes). Thus, greater powers are conferred on the investigating officers and on the magistracy, and summary trials now also possible for some of the offences (e.g. in enactments like Anti-corruption laws (Amendment) Act, 1964; Foreign Exchange (Amendment) Act, 1964; Prevention of Food Adulteration (Amendment) Act, 1964, etc.). The laws have also been made less favourable to the accused person by incorporating certain presumptions against them under certain circumstances. Under Sec. 4 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, there is a presumption that money received other than legal remuneration by a public servant is an illegal gratification.
Regarding ‘Measures to check and control the criminalisation of politics’, there is no dearth of laws to prevent criminals from entering politics. No law can prevent or solve declining standards of honesty and integrity in the society. A change in the political environment is called for so that people with greater integrity, social commitment and genuine patriotism could come. The public has to be less forgiving, more unsparing in its choice of politicians; the press, more adversarial, less willing. , Depoliticising the bureaucracy and the police is another important step which should be taken.
In 1993, the Government of India appointed a committee under the chairmanship of N.N. Vohra, Cabinet Secretary, “to take stock of all available information about the crime syndicates/mafia organisations which had developed links with and were being protected by government functionaries and political personalities.”. The Vohra Committee Report while acknowledging the existence of a nexus between the politicians and the dons of the criminal world, has spelt out the writing on the wall, saying that “Mafias” are virtually running a parallel government pushing the State apparatus into irrelevance. The Committee said that a nodal agency, headed by a serving bureaucrat. to be established to check/break the criminal- politician nexus.
It is submitted that such agency should be a politically immune body involving persons of unquestionable integrity such as sitting or retired judges. In Dinesh Trivedi v. Union of India (1997) 4 SCC 306, the Supreme Court (in connection with the Report of Vohra Committee) observed: “In view of the seriousness of the charges involved and the clout wielded by those who are likely to become the focus of investigation, it is necessary that the body which is entrusted with the task of following the investigation through to the stage of prosecution, be such that it is capable of enjoying the complete trust and confidence of the people. An institution like the Ombudsman/ Lokpal could command such confidence and respect. Till its creation, a high- level committee be appointed by the President in consultation with the Prime Minister and Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The committee shall monitor investigations involving the kind of nexus referred to in the Vohra Committee Report.