A number of offences have been prevailing in the society for a long time. Offences are the illegal actions resulting from the breach of law. These offences can be classified into two main categories namely, (i) conventional offences and (ii) non- conventional offences. Conventional Offences consist of Mens Rea. For e.g., murder, theft, rape etc. Non- Conventional Offences do not contain Mens Rea. White collar crimes, socio economic offences, organised crimes, etc. are a few examples of non-conventional crime. Traditional crimes like theft, robbery, rape, murder etc. were more common and were dealt with the general law of crimes. But Socio economic crimes as its name suggest are social crimes and affects the health and morals of the public and economic crimes consist of those offences that affect the economy of the country as a whole. These are punishable under the special laws of crimes.
Socio- economic crimes are many a time used as a synonym for white collar crimes. But extensive study states that the former is a broader term. White collar crimes are the crimes committed by people belonging to upper caste and rich backgrounds. Whereas a socio- economic offence can be committed by anybody. For e.g., a big wealthy entrepreneur or a multi-national company, guilty for tax evasion and a middle class pensioner depositing false return. Both are examples of socio-economic crimes, but only the former can be considered as a white collar crime. In Mak Data Pvt. Ltd. v. CIT[i] petitioner concealed his income in order to evade taxes. After a show cause notice was served to him he decided to surrender a sum to avoid litigation. It was held by the SC that the sense of surrender of sum was made after the detection was made, if the intention of the appellant was good, he would have filed a return inclusive of the sum which is surrendered later after the assessment proceeding.
Categories of Socio- economic Offence
The offenses that can be categorised as socio-economic offences in the country are as follows[ii]:-
1. Actions calculated and executed in order to obstruct or prevent the economic development of the country and also its economic health.
2. Evasion of taxes
3. Misuse of position and power by the public servants which is most likely to up as corruption.
4. All the offences that include breach of contract and delivery of good not up to the specifications as promised.
5. All activities related to black marketing and hoarding.
6. The activities involving adulteration of foods and drugs.
7. Misappropriation and stealing of public property and funds.
8. The activities relating to trafficking of licenses, permits etc.
- Motive: Unlike traditional offences here the motive of committing the crime is excessive greed or desire for wealth.
- Emotion: Where most crimes are done due emotional reasons, on the contrary these types of offences contain no emotional background or relation between the victim and the criminal.
- Target Victim: Mostly the victim in such offenses is the state or a sector of people most likely those who are consumer of certain goods or services, a shareholder or having any other securities etc.
- Mode of operation: The main element for commencement of such crime is fraud and not force
- Mental Element: such offences are usually done deliberately and wilfully[iii].
Though the main feature of such offences is they that are not done particularly against one person, it affects the country at large and hence special efforts are applied in such offences. For e.g., in case of theft or assault to a person, the only person benefited by the punishment given to the offender is the one who got assaulted because the act is physical and hence it creates individual and social vengeance. But in these type of offences the for eg., if some commodities are hoarded or adulterated then though there will be a ‘victim’ but also the act of the wrongdoer is capable of harming a large part of the society. Thus it is most likely and injury to the whole society.
Causes of Socio-economic offences
In our country the few main causes of emergence of socio-economic offences are:
1. Industrial Revolution: The evolution from agricultural based country to industrialisation bought changes in the country which led to offences changing its paces from traditional to these new ones.
2. World War II: Post war conditions of the countries were pathetic which led to changes in the normal working of the society. Hence new practices gave birth to new offences as well.
3. Business: when new businesses started to emerged in the country it created to the sense of extreme competitiveness among them. Every one desired to one- up each other by any means necessary.
4. Technology: One of the aspects which changed our country for better is also responsible for causing such offences. The emergence of technology and scientific developments led to the decrease in belief of the almighty.
5. Lack of Morals: As the fear for the ultimate judgment or the world beyond all humanly things started to disappear, people’s morals and ethics started to decline. This resulted in the increase in frauds and also greed and lust for materialistic happiness.
6. Laissez- Faire: the state decided to leave things as they were and lack of public resentment resulted in grave consequences which is now noticeable in our country. But with proper study and attention these crimes can be controlled in the country.[iv]
Laws dealing with socio-economic offences
For punishing the criminals relating to socio-economic offences a number of Acts ere framed. Also these Acts are established for keeping the regular activities of trade, contracts etc., could take place without or with least number of malpractices. Some of these Acts are:
1. The Drugs And Cosmetic Act, 1940
2. The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954
3. The Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947
4. The Wealth Tax Act, 1957
5. The Income- Tax Act, 1961
6. The Essential Commodities Act, 1955
7. The Customs Act, 1962
8. The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 etc.
Modern Day Scenario
The development from a rural country, mostly dependant on agriculture to adopting full- fledged industrial activities was quite a drastic change of pace for the country. With increasing technology and competitiveness resulted in an increase in a number of malpractices. It is not that malpractices didn’t existed in while the early ages but the changes in nature of work and living led to new and even more advanced malpractices to emerge. Malpractices which were monotonous and simple now turns out to complex and advanced as per the changing time. There examples can be unfair completion, breach in contracts, adulteration of food and drugs etc.
People of the country have this mind-set about offences that only the conventional offences are the one that need to be eradicated. Crimes like murder, robbery rape etc., are examples of grave dangers for the society but so are these non-conventional offences socio-economic offences that slowly feeds on the social and economic health of the whole country. In times of crisis or war the way all unite in order to protect the territory in the same way if the whole society unite against these offences and put of their massive effort to protect the health of economic and social structure such offences can easily be prevented.
1. ‘A’ is a seller. In his account books he shows his sales lesser than they actually were so that his income also becomes lesser than it actually is. By this he is trying to pay lesser taxes. He is committing the crime of tax evasion.
2. ‘P’ and ‘Q’ works in the same company. While dealing which goods and resources and deliberately mess with the data so they can keep those goods dishonestly for their own use. Both of them are responsible for causing misappropriation of goods, which is a socio-economic crime.
3. ‘P’ is a politician. His son ‘D’ is an ill-mannered person who causes trouble all the time which results as him being in jail. But ‘P’ always gets him out by using his power. This is an illegal use of this position and also a crime.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Difference between Socio-Economic Offences and White collar crime.
White collar crimes are the crimes committed by a person in course of his occupation belonging to upper class society. As compared to socio-economic offences it is a narrower concept. Examples of white collar crimes are: evasion of taxes by multinational companies, sale of sub-standard drugs by a renowned manufacturer etc. all of these crimes also come under the category of socio-economic crimes. Whereas false return by pensioner cannot be considered as a white collar crime unless it is committed by a member of the upper class society. Hence it is concluded that all white collar crimes can be socio-economic offences but not all socio-economic offences can be termed as white collar crimes. Both of these are intersecting circles.
2. What are Socio-economic offences?
The offences that affect the social and economic health of the society are termed as socio-economic offences. These are a type of non-conventional crimes i.e., they do not consist of Mens Rea. These crimes affect the society at large. It does not target one person but a number of persons who are most likely consumers of such goods or services. Some examples of socio-economic rimes are corruption, tax evasion, adulteration of food or drugs, black marketing etc.
Edited by Parul Soni
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i](2014) 1 SCC 674.
[ii]29th report of Law commission
[iii]47th report of the Law Commission (Socio-economic offences) p.g 3
[iv]Shodhganga, Socio- economic offences, http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/126738/11/11_chapter%202.pdf