When you hear the word Private Investigator (PI), you will perhaps think of a rotund man with a moustache, sitting on a large chair taking copious notes. This was possibly true of PI’s two decades ago, but today, PI’s have access to state-of-the-art surveillance technology and are incredibly suave and professional in their approach to the work on hand.
Just as private investigators have evolved, the work they do has also seen a sea change. From finding lost pets to finding out if a spouse was cheating, the business of private investigation now involves corporate investigation; pre and post-employment verification, background search, employee dishonesty, theft, corporate espionage, and even character investigation services.
Rajani Pandit, India’s first woman private investigator who started her agency Rajani Pandit Detective Services in 1991, speaks to The Better India about the profession and the Private Detective Agencies (Regulation) Bill, which has been pending in the Parliament for about seven years now.
According to the government, the passing of this Bill would enforce proper norms for the functioning of private detective agencies. It would make sure that organisations with a “dubious reputation” close down their businesses. In short, the government wants to regulate the functioning of private detective agencies to ensure that they are run within legal parameters and are accountable to the authorities.
Rajani says, “I welcome this move and hope that the bill is passed soon.”
“The private investigating space has seen many changes and to bring in a system of verification, the issuing of a license will help us all immensely.”
“I see many people claiming to be PI’s and misusing the information they gather in the process of investigation. This bill will bring in some amount of accountability.”
Rajani has been a PI for more than 25 years now and has seen it go through various changes. She currently has agencies all over the world and even has agents in Russia. She says, “While the most important asset an agent must possess is a sharp mind, it is also important to be physically fit to take up the challenge that this job throws at you.”
Some of the critical features of the Bill are as follows:
1. No agency/PI will be able to operate without a valid license. In cases where the agency or PI have been working before the passing of the Act, it/they can continue to do so for a period of one hundred and eighty days from the date of such commencement.
2. The applicant must be a citizen of India and must be above 21 years of age.
3. The PI will be required to complete the detective training and must fulfill all the physical standards that are prescribed.
4. No person who has been convicted by a competent court for an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more shall be employed or engaged as a PI.
5. The license can be cancelled in cases where the PI has obtained the license on misrepresentation or suppression of material facts. For example, if the license holder has violated the provisions of the Act; if the license holder has misused information obtained by him during the discharge of his duties, etc.
6. No license will be cancelled without the PI being given reasonable opportunity of being heard.
7. All PI’s must carry with them during their work hours a valid photo identity card.
While a Sherlock Holmes or a Byomkesh Bakshi may not have fit these requirements, the passing of this Bill is a step in the right direction for the overall betterment of the system of private investigation.
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