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Snooping into the booming business of private eyes

I spy:Despite the Delhi Police’s crackdown on the “illegal activities” of some private detective agencies, business is booming for the hundreds of such outfits that have mushroomed in the city.file photo: reuters  

It took Rajeev Sahni*, a West Delhi-based private detective, just a day to judge that the bride’s parents would not “spend lavishly” on the wedding.

He had been requested by the groom’s father to investigate the background of the bride’s family. “While eavesdropping on the conversation between the girl and her mother, I heard them quarrel over a few rupees. That helped me arrive at the conclusion,” Sahni explains.

This is only one of several requests the city’s private detectives receive from their clients. The clients are often incapable of going about such investigations on their own and the police will not entertain such requests.

So, even though the Delhi Police’s crackdown on the “illegal activities” of some private detective agencies may have forced some sleuths to go underground, business is booming for hundreds of agencies, which have mushroomed in the city.

Be it for judging the characters of brides and grooms before or after marriage or for spying on corporate rivals, private detectives in the city are being hired like never before. According to various estimates, there are anywhere between 300 to 800 small and big private detective agencies in the city.

Detectives say they receive anywhere between two to five queries everyday of which they accept just one or two. “On an average, we handle around 30 matrimonial cases a month. We get a similar number of requests from the corporate industry as well,” says a former RAW officer, who started his own detective agency around 15 years ago.

Marriage season

When it is marriage season, they are flooded with calls for their pre-matrimonial services. The demands can range from merely verifying the claims by either the brides or the grooms to conducting “loyalty tests” on partners.

Baldev puri, founder of AMX Detectives Pvt. Ltd., a Vikaspuri-based agency, says many people are willing to spend a part of the wedding expenses on the services offered by private detectives because weddings are costing a fortune and separations happen shortly after.

“They know that if you spend well on understanding the other partner before marriage, there will be a lesser chance of separation,” says Mr. Puri whose agency has been around for three decades.

When the marriage season ends, there is no shortage of work as private detectives go about gathering evidence for clients seeking divorce.

“Demands for post-matrimonial probe far outdo the pre-matrimonial ones,” says Puri, whose daughter Tanya too heads a separate detective agency.

For many clients, their future depends on the findings by the detectives. “We gather evidence to settle alimony cases. Some seek evidence that their partner is cheating, others want to know the exact amount their partner is earning,” says Ranjit Sharma*, a former RAW officer who started a detective agency after retirement.

Demands from corporations are mostly related to verification of their employees’ background before hiring them. But some detectives, on condition of anonymity, reveal that they also receive demands for bugging the offices of their rivals.

The sleuths say they outright refuse such demands even though one private investigator revealed that he had fixed a GPS device to the car of his client’s husband. That apparently helped him prove that the husband was cheating his client.

The shady side

Another detective reveals that he had advised his client to reconcile with his estranged wife and gift a mobile phone to her. “I had got an application installed on the mobile phone. That helped us monitor her movement,” he says.

Veterans of this profession say they refuse any illegal demands. “Our investigation begins as soon as we see a client. We accept any offer only after we have judged the client to be genuine,” says Sanjay Kapoor, founder of ASCON Detectives Network and Investigations, an agency based in Bhikaji Cama Place

The price for the desired services mainly hinges on the requirement and urgency shown by the clients. Cost for matrimonial investigations generally begin around Rs. 7,000 and can go up to Rs. 50,000, depending on the time and effort taken.

Of late, some private detective agencies have been in the news for illegally obtaining call detail records (CDRs) for their clients. But most detectives immediately dismiss it as an activity by “small-timers”.

“These elements could be those who have worked with agencies for a couple of years and then break away to start their own detective agencies. Obtaining CDRs is not a part of our system,” says Mr. Puri, who claims to be the general secretary of Delhi Detective Association and a member of World Association of Detectives.

In any case, investigations can often turn out to be a tedious exercise, demanding a lot of patience. These detectives, which include students and housewives to well-trained but retired CBI and R&AW officers, spend hours and days to dig out information.

There are occasions when they wait for hours to just spot the target. “There was an occasion when four detectives were put on one job and we changed our cars several times over a period of two days just so that the target did not realise she was being followed,” says a woman detective who does not want to be identified.

Most clients, detectives say, want hard evidence in the form of photographs and videos. For several years, the detectives used digital cameras and handicams to gather evidence, particularly in matrimonial cases, but now using mobile cameras have made it easier to avoid detection.

For such kinds of evidence gathering, women detectives are preferred as they do not arouse suspicion and it avoids any legal hassles or problems on the street.

If women detectives are unavailable, they assign such tasks to elderly men.

While these private investigators will provide you most of the information you seek, they insist that they only provide the facts and leave the judgement of “character” to you. When it comes to the question of infringement of privacy, they defend themselves saying “everyone has a right to know about the people they deal with”.

*Names changed

We gather evidence to settle alimony cases. Some seek evidence that their partner is cheating, others want to know the exact amount their partner is earning

Ranjit Sharma,Former RAW officer

The detectives are usually students and housewives, but also include retired CBI and R&AW officers

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 7:27:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/Snooping-into-the-booming-business-of-private-eyes/article14508837.ece

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