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12 businesses that are illegal in India

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A list of businesses that are punishable offenses

Sometimes, knowingly or unknowingly, entrepreneurs may tend to cross the thin line between businesses that are legal and those that are illegal. Here is the list of some businesses that are criminal offenses and can attract penalty in the form of imprisonment  and/or fine.


1. Wildlife Trading
The issue of illegal wildlife trading is now gaining traction, thanks to increasing awareness and innovative efforts by organizations such as the PETA. In India, products that are mostly traded illegally include body parts of tigers and leopards, ivory form rhino and elephant horns, snake skins, feathers, turtles – the list is long. Unfortunately, these killings are leading to the extinction of many species. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, defines wildlife as any animal, bees butterflies, crustacean, fish and moths, and aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat. The Act hence provides protection to a number of listed species of flora and fauna and also establishes a network of ecologically-important protected area such as sanctuaries, zoos, etc.

Under the Act, the punishment awarded for offense against the listed animals is up to six years, but not less than a year and also with fine of not less than Rs 5,000. If the person is found guilty under the Prohibition of Trade or Commerce in Trophies, Animal Articles, etc. derived from Certain Animals (Chapter VA under the Act), he can be imprisoned for a maximum of seven years but not less than a year and Rs 5,000 in fine.

Some offenses under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
Picking, uprooting, transport etc. of specified plants
Dealings in trophy and animal articles without license
Purchase of animals without a license

Knowingly using an infringed software can attract a term of upto three years and a fine or upto Rs 2 lakhs

2. Software Piracy
Software piracy is one issue affecting many countries severely. According to the sixth annual BSA-IDC global software report published in May 2009, software companies lost a whopping $53 billion in 2008 due to piracy. The list was topped by United States with $9,143 million in losses, China with $6,677 million in losses and Russia with a loss of $4,215 million. India came in fourth with a loss of $2,768 million. The government of India is taking several measures for tackling this issue.

In India, software piracy is governed under the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. According to the Act, it is illegal to make or distribute copyrighted software without the prior permission of the author. A copyright infringement can be considered as both a criminal or a civil offense. The offender can be punished either up to 3 years in prison and a fine of Rs 2 lakh, under Section 63 of the Act. Moreover, under the recently added Section 63-B of the Act, knowingly using an infringed software can attract a term of a maximum of three years and a fine between Rs 50,000-Rs 2 lakh. Under Section 64 of the Act, any police officer (not below the rank of sub-inspector) can seize the copies of the software and the plates used for making the copies without a warrant and produce them before the magistrate.

3. Prostitution
Prostitution is one of the world’s oldest trades. There have been several debates on its legalization in India because due to its illegal status women who have entered this trade find it very hard to report abuse, which is very common. According to an estimate, there are around 2.8 million prostitutes in the country.

There are three Acts that govern this trade, Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girl Act -1956, Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act-1956 and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act-1956. The article mentions that, “The Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, 1956 (“ITPA”), the main statute dealing with sex-work in India, does not criminalize prostitution or prostitutes per se, but mostly punishes acts by third parties facilitating prostitution like brothel keeping, living off earnings and procuring, even where sex-work is not coerced.” If a person is found guilty of assisting or managing prostitution, he can be jailed for a term of not less than one year and not more than three years.

It also attracts a fine of up to Rs 2,000. In case of second or subsequent convictions, the punishment increases with a rigorous imprisonment of not less than two years and not more than five years. He may also be fined up to Rs 2,000. If a person is found guilty of forcing a person to carry on as a prostitute, he can be punished with a term ranging from three years to seven years and also a fine of Rs 2,000. For second or subsequent conviction, the punishment can go up to a term of fourteen years.

Some Offenses and Penalty under the NDPS Act
Cultivation of opium, cannabis or coca plants without license. Rigorous imprisonment - Up to 10 years + fine up to Rs 1 lakh.
Embezzlement of opium by licensed farmer. Rigorous imprisonment - 10 to 20 years + fine Rs. 1 to 2 lakh (regardless of  the quantity).
Production, manufacture, possession, sale, purchase, transport, import interstate, export inter-state or use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.


Import, export or transshipment of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

Small quantity - Rigorous imprisonment up to 6 months or fine up to Rs. 10,000 or both

More than small quantity but less than commercial quantity - Rigorous imprisonment. up to 10 years + fine up to Rs. 1 Lakh

Commercial quantity - Rigorous imprisonment 10 to 20 years + fine Rs. 1 to 2 lakh.

External dealings in NDPS i.e. engaging in or controlling trade whereby drugs are obtained from outside India and supplied to a person outside India. Rigorous imprisonment 10 to 20 years + fine of Rs. 1 to 2 lakh (Regardless of the quantity).
Financing traffic and harboring offenders R.I. 10 to 20 years + fine Rs. 1 to 2 lakh
Repeat offense One and half times the punishment for the offense. Death penalty in some cases.

4. Narcotics
Dealing in narcotics is a serious criminal offense that can even attract death penalty under certain cases.

The quantum of the offense depends on two cases: one the quantity of the drug and the purpose such as personal consumption, sale, distribution, etc. The offenses and the penalties for the same are described under Chapter IV of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), 1985. If a person violates the Act by cultivating, distributing, selling, and importing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, he can be tried under the special courts. The crime attracts imprisonment of 10 to 20 years for the first offense, 15-30 years for subsequent offense with a fine. In addition to this, if a person is involved directly in the trafficking of narcotic drugs and is a party to the crime, he too is liable to be prosecuted. However, if a person possesses drugs for personal consumption, the punishment can be limited from between six months to a year.

Under the Indian Arms Act 1959, some offenses even attract an imprisonment for life

5. Trade in Arms and Ammunition
Illegal trade in arms and ammunition is described under the Indian Arms Act 1959. Under the Act, there are several clauses that define the offenses. Some of the most common offenses are – one, a person cannot keep an unlicensed firearm; two, he cannot manufacture, sell, transfer, convert, repair, test, offer for sale or transfer a firearm; three, he cannot shorten the barrel of a firearm or convert an imitation firearm into a firearm and four, sell or transfer a firearm which does not bear the name of the maker, manufacturer’s number or other identification mark stamped. People found guilty under these offenses can be jailed or fined, or in some cases both.

6. Begging
Ocassionally, when one comes across stories of how beggers have earned several lakhs just by begging, it brings a curious smile to our faces. But did you know that begging is considered a crime? Well, if you are in Delhi and are held for giving alms at traffic signals you could be fined Rs 1,000, under the Motor Vehicals Act. Despite the strict measure, one reason why begging is still thriving is because of poverty and unemployment and two beacuse of a lack of a central Act that governs begging.

Did you know that the 2001 census puts the number of beggars in India at approximately 6 lakhs?

For example, Delhi borrows its begging law from the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959. According to this law, begging, vending on roads, cleaning vehicles at traffic junctions, singing in buses and displaying disability for alms are all unlawful. A police officer or any authorised person in this regard has the right to arrest such a person.

7. Hawala Transaction
Hawala transaction is a process in which large amount of black money is converted into white. The money is also used for illegal purposes such as terrorism. In India, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 is defined as “an Act to prevent money-laundering and provide for confiscation of property derived from, or involved in, money-laundering and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” The schedule to the Act is divided into two parts. While the Part A lists offenses such as waging of war against the Indian government (Sections 121 and 121A of Indian Penal Code) and some offenses under the NDPS Act, 1985, offenses under Part B is subjected to a monetary limit of Rs. 3 million or more. People found guilty under the Act can be sentenced to a rigorous imprisonment for a period of 3-7 years and also a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.

Comments (9)Add Comment
Thank you
written by ClubPenguinCheats, December 02, 2010
They refuse to work because begging is easier - casting aside shame doesn't cost anything. I think the IT department should constitute a special cell to just go after them.
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written by Tonny, August 19, 2010
Its not the thing you people understand its not kind of begging or some thing its an illegal business they mentioned penney lawyer@sacramento wrongful death
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You are joking right.
written by rawraj, November 16, 2009
I think even a 10 year old will know that all of the above are illegal(except for begging)

I thought this article would be on the businesses that are illegal in India but legal around the world(like prostitution). I thought it would cover pornography, strip tease dancing etc, etc.

Everybody knows drugs are illegal. You cannot go and open a shop which with a board saying "cocaine available here cheap"/
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written by Gracelyne Fernando, October 24, 2009
i neva knew begging was illegals too..
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written by MAJ GEN PINAK PANI DAS, October 24, 2009
IF illegal buisness is curtailed in INDIA then what will happen to those who thrive on the same for their fortune . To name a few the politicians , police (IPS), the employees of the concerened deptt etc.
WE INDIANS have no desire to improve the system in totality , hence the short . WHY zero on to a few only ?
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written by seema malhotra, October 23, 2009
thanks for the info. no wonder they all are thriving and are not hit by any recession
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written by dinesh naidu, October 23, 2009
Beggars menace can be easily solved... only we have to decide to stop giving.
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Beggar the beggars
written by Manali Rohinesh, October 23, 2009
Start taxing beggars and we might just see an end to this social menace. Most of them are able-bodied parasites. They refuse to work because begging is easier - casting aside shame doesn't cost anything. I think the IT department should constitute a special cell to just go after them. There are some who are handicapped and mentally ill - such people should be rescued but the rest..especially the young women parading with babies at traffic signals should be told to get off the street...or else!
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illegal activities & punishments
written by PARTHASARATHY.G, October 06, 2009
sufficient laws are there but the problems begins at the enforcement level. we, the people are not honest to ourselves and are extremely worried about our safety, pleasure and comfort and we go to any extent to acheive that by any means. Every one should make up their minds to giveup selfishness. Then only there can be a change.
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