By utilising its powers under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court of India has delivered an unprecedented decision on August 09, 2018 in Chitra Sharma & Ors. v. Union of India and Ors., and other connected matters (the Jaypee / homebuyers Case). In this era of evolving jurisprudence on the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC), the Supreme Court, by this landmark decision, has settled some highly debated issues with respect to its implementation and has provided much required certainty. This has been achieved by the Supreme Court paving the way to reset the clock by re-commencing the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP).
Partner in the Dispute Resolution Practice at the Delhi Office of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Bishwajit focuses on disputes in relation to insolvency proceedings (under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016), product liability, infrastructure projects, corporate commercial, contractual, intellectual property and criminal matters. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
In this day and age of scams, crime by corporate entities throws a lot of challenges at multiple levels. The level of crime may be extraordinary owing to the magnitude, powers and reach of such corporations as opposed to an individual committing any crime. Once it is found that a corporation has committed a crime, the next question is whether corporations can be held guilty of such crimes since they do not have minds of their own.
For a long time, corporations in India were not held liable for criminal offences due to the requirement of mens rea or the intention to commit the offence and inability to award imprisonment or arrest, etc. However, corporations are no longer immune.
Supreme Court on Liability of Corporations and its Officials
The law on this aspect has evolved over time. Now, a corporation can be convicted of offences involving mens rea by applying the doctrine of attribution. Thus, the corporation can be held responsible for offences committed in relation to the business of the corporation by the persons in control of its affairs. The legal position in the US and UK has also crystallised to ensure a corporation can be held liable for crimes of intent. In the UK, the courts have adopted the doctrine of attribution to the corporation liable for acts committed by the directing mind, i.e., the directors and managers.