SUPREME COURT : In Shiv Kumar Jatia vs. State of NCT of Delhi

An individual who has perpetrated the commission of an offence on behalf of the company can be made an accused, along with the company, if there is sufficient evidence of his active role coupled with criminal intent.

The liability of the Directors / the controlling authorities of company, in a corporate criminal liability are elaborately considered by this Court in the case of Sunil Bharti Mittal. In the aforesaid case, while considering the circumstances when Director / person in charge of the affairs of the company can also be prosecuted, when the company is an accused person, this Court has held, a corporate entity is an artificial person which acts through its officers, Directors, Managing Director, Chairman, etc. If such a company commits an offence involving mens rea, it would normally be the intent and action of that individual who would act on behalf of the company. At the same time it is observed that it is the cardinal principle of criminal jurisprudence that there is no vicarious liability unless the Statute specifically provides for. It is further held by this Court, an individual who has perpetrated the commission of an offence on behalf of the company can be made an accused, along with the company, if there is sufficient evidence of his active role coupled with criminal intent. Further it is also held that an individual can be implicated in those cases where statutory regime itself attracts the doctrine of vicarious liability, by specifically incorporating such a provision.

By applying the ratio laid down by this Court in the case of Sunil Bharti Mittal it is clear that an individual either as a Director or a Managing Director or Chairman of the company can be made an accused, along with the company, only if there is sufficient material to prove his active role coupled with the criminal intent. Further the criminal intent alleged must have direct nexus with the accused. Further in the case of Maksud Saiyed vs. State of Gujarat & Ors. this Court has examined the vicarious liability of Directors for the charges levelled against the Company. In the aforesaid judgment this Court has held that, the Penal Code does not contain any provision for attaching vicarious liability on the part of the Managing Director or the Directors of the Company, when the accused is a Company. It is held that vicarious liability of the Managing Director and Director would arise provided any provision exists in that behalf in the Statute. It is further held that Statutes indisputably must provide fixing such vicarious liability. It is also held that, even for the said purpose, it is obligatory on the part of the complainant to make requisite allegations which would attract the provisions constituting vicarious liability.

(Link : https://sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2018/31728/31728_2018_6_1502_16190_Judgement_23-Aug-2019.pdf)