Criminal Liability of Corporations – An Environmental Perspective

Chapter 3 in: Environmental Crimes: Corporate Liability, ISBN 978-81-314-2521-3

36 Pages Posted: 24 May 2017

Date Written: May 22, 2010


‘Environmental Crime’ specifically, ‘Environmental Crime by Corporations’ is a recent development in law. A sea change can be witnessed in the use of criminal law in the corporate world. Generally, the regulatory and civil nature of law enforcement against corporations have seen a significant drift towards a criminal trial. This is not only significant from the securities market perspective but also from an environmental standpoint. Now, modern environmental legislations are equipped with legal provisions to send the violators to jail and as well as provide for ‘offences by companies’. This sounds good to the ears of an environmentalist, but if enforcement of law would have been as easy as legislating it, there would not have been much problem.

The seeds of the problem in enforcing environmental legislations against the corporation are implanted with the basic nature of the corporation itself. Corporation has ‘no body and no soul’ which can be catch hold of for a violation of environmental law. The basic problem was fixing criminal liability on corporations. The problem went bigger in relation to larger companies which were not hesitant even to threaten small developing economies of the world with their growing power. Somehow, lately this problem was overcome by the judiciary around the world applying ‘identification doctrine’, ‘respondeat superior principle’, ‘agency principle’ etc., but this was generally applicable. Debates for and against were evoked as to whether corporates should be made criminally liable? This chapter discusses the evolution of Corporate Criminal Liability and the requirement of mens rea in environmental crime. India has a number of environment protection legislations in place, but do they really threaten the corporates enough not to pollute the environment is a debatable question. A section of this chapter also focuses briefly on the various environmental legislations and policies in the country and specifically the liability of corporations (companies) under these. A comparative analysis of the principles of corporate criminal liability in the environmental legislation setting so as to find out whether the current environmental legislation provide a proper framework to pin down a corporation for ‘environmental crime’ is done. Chapter ends with finding out the effectiveness of corporate criminal liability as the measure to contain a corporation from committing environmental crime.

Keywords: criminal liability, corporations, environment

Suggested Citation

Singh, Vijay Kumar, Criminal Liability of Corporations – An Environmental Perspective (May 22, 2010). Chapter 3 in: Environmental Crimes: Corporate Liability, ISBN 978-81-314-2521-3, Available at SSRN:

Vijay Kumar Singh (Contact Author)

School of Law UPES ( email )

Energy Acres, Bidholi
Via- Prem Nagar
Dehradun, Uttrakhand 248007


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