Legal Article

Economic Offences in India: An Overview

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow

Article | Criminal Law

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Published on: 2 Aug, 2023

Economic offences, commonly referred to as white-collar crimes, are non-violent, financially motivated crimes that typically involve deceit, concealment, or violation of trust. These offences are committed by individuals or organizations with the primary motive of economic gain. In India, economic offences have attracted significant attention due to their ability to influence the country’s financial stability and integrity.

Major Economic Offences in India:

  1. Fraud: This includes bank fraud, insurance fraud, credit card fraud, and securities fraud. Frauds can range from forging documents to manipulating stock markets.
  2. Embezzlement: Misappropriation of funds or property entrusted to one’s care but owned by someone else, typically by individuals in positions of trust, like accountants or public officials.
  3. Money Laundering: The process of making illegally-gained money appear legal by hiding its origins. This is typically done through a sequence of complex transactions that blur the paper trail.
  4. Tax Evasion: Deliberately underreporting income, inflating deductions, or hiding money and its interest in offshore accounts.
  5. Bribery and Corruption: Offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting something of value for some kind of influence or action in return.
  6. Insider Trading: Illegal trading of a company’s securities based on material, non-public information about the company.
  7. Cyber Crimes of Economic Nature: Includes phishing, credit card scams, banking frauds, online auction frauds, and more.

Legislative Framework on Economic offences:

India has a robust legislative framework to combat economic offences:

  1. The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002: Addresses the issue of money laundering and provides for confiscation and seizure of property obtained from laundered money.
  2. The Income Tax Act, 1961: Governs tax evasion and provides for penalties and prosecution for offenders.
  3. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC): Contains provisions related to cheating, counterfeiting, breach of trust, and more.
  4. The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988: Focuses on corruption in government agencies and public sector businesses.
  5. The Companies Act, 2013: Deals with offences related to companies, such as fraud.
  6. The Information Technology Act, 2000: Addresses cybercrimes, including those of economic nature.
  7. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) Act, 1992: Regulates and monitors insider trading and other securities fraud.


  1. Complex Nature of Economic Offences: Due to the intricate nature of economic transactions, tracking these crimes and prosecuting offenders can be challenging.
  2. Cross-border Elements: With globalization, many economic crimes have cross-border elements, making investigation and prosecution more complex due to jurisdictional issues.
  3. Lack of Adequate Infrastructure: While regulatory bodies exist, they often face challenges in terms of adequate technological infrastructure and skilled manpower to combat sophisticated economic crimes.


Economic offences in India, like in many countries, are a serious concern due to their potential to undermine the financial system’s integrity and stability. While the nation has stringent laws and regulations in place, continuous vigilance, periodic policy upgrades, international cooperation, and effective implementation are vital to combat these crimes.