Recent events have given rise to the necessity to visit the area of economic offences linked to politics. The Penal Code of the last century may not be adequate to meet the current situation.
In 1991 when Prime Minister P.V.Narasimha Rao and his Finance Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh brought in the concept of Public-Private partnership as an avenue to revive the rural economy and thereby the economic health of the nation, the same was welcomed by people in India and outside, It was found that rural India was the most neglected in terms of infrastructure, education and employment opportunities. The new economic policy encouraged businessmen and industrialists to invest in rural India by establishing business and manufacturing units. These units led to better road, better infrastructure and employment opportunities in rural India.
In order to attract investment in rural India, the Governments of the day were obliged to offer attractive terms to the entrepreneurs so the terms included making land available at attractive prices, provide for supply of water and electricity at concessional rates and also offering tax rebates. Without these offers, no industrials or businessman would venture to invest in rural India and the Governments of the day were acclaimed and appreciated for bringing in capital investment into rural economy.
The policy if liberalisation was continued by successive Governments that led to a vast improvement in the infrastructure if rural India and if today sleepy towns like Eluru or Salem are vibrant cities thanks should go to the money invested by investors in rural India.
White collared crime generally denotes offences by persons who are not habitual offenders or those who commit offences out of necessity. Persons employed in Government or business establishments leading to a fairly comfortable life sometimes indulged in cries and these persons came to be designated as while collared criminals.
Of late every educated person is charged with a crime is sought to be labelled as white collared criminal. The tendency is more when transgressions are alleged in those in public or private employment.
In our culture, greeting friends and well-wishers on occasions like festivals or birthdays are common. One cannot find fault with a businessman if he offers a gift of flowers on a Diwali or new year day to his friends and well-wishers.
The concessions offered by the Governments for establishing industries and business in rural areas are considered as unethical practice indulged by those in power at that time. The development of rural India and the boost in rural economy cannot be lost sight of.
Successive Governments have taken up on themselves the task of probing through transactions of the past to fix a wrong doing on someone or other. Most of these times, the wrongs are notional. A businessman investing on the strength of the promise made by the Government of the day cannot be penalised by a successor
Government on the allegation that the earlier promises made were tainted. Such exercises have led to the launching of prosecution against businessman and administration and some politicians. An administrator who gives effect to the decision of the Government of the day does his duty and he cannot be faulted if the project fails or later appears to be tainted so long as the administrator performs his duty without offending the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, that is to say not making a personal profit to himself. He should not be scandalised and prosecuted.
The definition of crime in the Penal Code does not appear to be apposite to the offences alleged against the administrators or businessmen. A businessman is under no obligation to question the motives of the Government which granted concessions for improvement of the economy. It is monstrous to accuse such businessmen of the offence of criminal breach of trust, the accusation and charge are relevant for the pre-trial stage. Invariably, the accused is arrested and bail denied for a fairly long period of time because of the gravity of the offence. It is no consolation to a businessman or administrator to be told that he would be ultimately acquitted if the charge is not proved. Invariably, before the case goes to trial, the person is put behind bars for more than 2 months or 2 years and his reputation is damaged by the media and the business and character ruined by adverse publicity. The law as of now does not provide any remedy for such situation.
Therefore necessary to visit the area of social-political-economic offences, redefine the offences device means of effective and immediate trial and establish the truth.
The medical profession has now taken recourse to malpractice insurance scheme to save themselves from any claim by the patients for negligent treatment. There is no such insurance available to a businessman and even such insurance policy would not cover the period of his being behind bars.
The increase of corruption in politics and extreme coverage by media is leading to a situation of witch-hunting and judges who normally flow the rule of bail against jai prefer to led the person be in custody t avoid adverse publicity. When businessmen and administrators who are appreciated as best of their category at one time are painted in the darkest colors by a subsequent regime, the uncertainty in business and administration would seep in and course of time, the structure would collapse. It is time to think about means by which the businessmen and administrators would be saved from motivated prosecutions and incarcerations.
By T.L.Rammohan, Senior Advocate, Madras High Court
(The author is a designated Senior Advocate practicing in Madras High Court)