24 March 2014

Criminology - White Collar Crimes in India: who will bell the Cat

The concept of white collar crime is usually associated with E.H. Sutherland whose penetrating work in this area focused the attention of criminologists on its demoralizing effect on the total crime picture. Sutherland pointed out that besides the traditional crimes such as assault, robbery, dacoity, murder, rape, kidnapping and other acts involving violence, there are certain anti social activities which the persons of upper strata carry on in course of their occupation or business. These activities for a long time were accepted as a part of usual business tactics necessary for a shrewd professional man for his success in profession or business. Thus any complaint against such tactics often went unheeded and unpunished.
It must, however, be stated that Sutherland was preceded by other writers who focused attention on the dangers to society from the upper socio economic group who exploited the accepted economic system to the detriment of common masses. Thus Albert Morris refers to a paper entitled 'Criminal Capitalists' which was read by Edwin C Hill before the International Congress on the Prevention And Repression Of Crime at London in 1872. In this paper the learned writer underlined the growing incidence of crime as an organised business and its evil effects on society. In 1934, Morris drew attention to the necessity of a change in emphasis regarding crime. He asserted that anti social activities of persons of high status committed in course of their profession must be brought within the category of crime and should be made punishable. Finally E.H. Sutherland through his pioneering work emphasised that these 'upper world' crimes which are committed by the persons of upper socio economic groups in course of their occupation violating the trust, should be termed "White Collar Crime" so as to be distinguished from traditional crime which he called, "Blue Collar Crime". Thus, he observed that if a broker shoots his wife's lover, that is not a white collar crime, but it' he violates the law and is convicted in connection with his business, he is a white collar criminal.
Sutherland further pointed out that white collar crimes differ from the crimes committed by criminal syndicates. This distinction could be based on the extent of presumed respectability. Thus, if a person who belongs to a respectable class of society and possesses some degree of good reputation, sells shoddy goods, he is committing a white collar crime. But if a group of persons unknown to their victims, sell the same type of shoddy goods that would not be a white collar crime.
Sutherland carefully examined the depredations of about seventy large corporations involved in white collar crimes and found that the charges against them included contracts, combinations or conspiracies in restraint of trade, misrepresentation in advertising, infringements against copyrights, financial frauds regulations and other miscellaneous offences. and violations of trust, b reach of war But people knew. very little about the trickery of these big business criminals and even if they knew, they were apathetic towards the problem because of the fact that "the legal battles involved therein are dragged out for years in the courts, with the result that the charges are forgotten long before they are settled."
Sutherland’s View
The concept of "white collar crime" found its place in criminology for the first time in 1941 when Sutherland published his research paper on white collar criminality in the American Sociological Review . He defined white collar crime as a "crime committed by persons of respectability and high social status in course of their occupation". A white collar criminal belongs to upper socio economic class who violates the criminal law while conducting his professional qualities. Thus misrepresentation through fraudulent advertisements, infringement of patents, copyrights and trade marks etc., are frequently resorted to by manufacturers, industrialists and other persons of repute in course of their occupation with a view to earning huge profits. Other illustrations of white collar criminality include publication of fabricated balance sheets and profit and loss account of business, passing of goods, concealment of defects in the commodity for sale etc.

Sutherland further pointed out that a white collar crime is more dangerous to society than ordinary crimes because the financial loss to society, from white collar crimes is far greater than the financial loss from burglaries, robberies larcenies etc. 'Me most dismal aspect of white collar crimes is that there is no effective programme for the enforcement of criminal law against them ' and the influential persons involved in these crimes are able to resist enforcement of law against themselves.
Sutherland, in coining the term "white-collar crime" earlier this century, defined the concept as "a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation. " Sutherland sought not to provide a comprehensive definition, but to expand the realm of criminology by including a wide variety of civil and regulatory violations that were not at the time viewed as criminal acts. Later scholars have sculpted a further framework that today includes corporate and occupational crime ; elite deviance ; contrepreneurial crime ; political or government crime ; and technocrimes . Debate on the precise parameters of the field continues today . This search for an acceptable definition of white-collar crime led to an academic workshop co-sponsored by the National White-Collar Crime Center and West Virginia University. In attendance were noted white-collar criminologists who, by the end of the three-day proceedings, reached a general consensus on a definition: "Illegal or unethical acts that violate fiduciary responsibility or public trust, committed by an individual or organization, usually during the course of legitimate occupational activity, by persons of high or respectable social status for personal or organizational gain. " While this definition lays a framework for discussion, various elements in the definition are still in dispute. For example, there is no consensus on whether unethical or deviant acts should be included in the definition, or whether white-collar crime should be determined by the status of the individual committing the act or by the offense committed .
These white collar crimes by their very nature are such that the injury or damage caused as a result of them is so widely diffused in the large body of society that their gravity in regard to individual victim is almost negligible. It is probably for this reason that till late these crimes did not attract Much attention as they do not carry with them any loss of social status of the offender even it' he is caught or detected. There is yet, another reason for white collar criminals escaping prosecution. In cases of misrepresentation, concealment or fraud etc., the Courts usually place reliance on the principle of caveat emptor, which signifies that the purchaser must enter into a deal with open eyes and guard himself against ordinary dishonesty of the vendor. As a result of this attitude of the courts there was enormous increase in white collar crime during the period of depression in 1930's in United States. Perhaps it is for this reason that American President Roosevelt in 1933 insisted on withdrawal of the doctrine of caveat emptor from adjudication of cases involving white collar crime.
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