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An eye on the private eye

A Bill is pending on regulation of private detective agencies

Modern private detectives face complex challenges. Long gone are the likes of the ‘consultant genius’ at 221B, Baker Street, London, who pursued a case because it was “art for art’s sake”, or Philip Marlowe who could solve cases with his snappy repartees after downing a few pegs.

Economic growth and development have led to the establishment of a large number of private detective agencies. The scale of their work makes them “business enterprises”. Their professional expertise ranges from digging up dirt for divorce proceedings to background checks on corporate entities, to tracking terrorism. The government feels that the sensitive nature of this work requires some regulation.

The Private Detective Agencies (Regulation) Bill has been pending in Parliament for the past seven years. The statement of objects and reasons of the proposed law highlights the manner in which the security scenario in India has been affected by international terrorism and extremism, keeping the police and security agencies occupied primarily in facing these challenges.

The government notes that business establishments are increasingly reliant on private investigators for gathering information and intelligence. Therefore, a large number of private detective agencies have come up all over the country. While in most cases, these agencies have helped in meeting the private investigation and vigilance needs of business establishments, there has been growing concern over how these agencies function, as some of them conduct operations without due verification of those employed as agents. Also not observed is due regard for the protection of the rights of individuals who are spied upon.

The proposed law, the government says, would enforce proper norms for the functioning of private detective agencies. It would make sure that agencies with “dubious reputation” close down their businesses. In short, the government wants to regulate the functioning of private detective agencies so that they are run within legal parameters and are accountable to a regulatory authority.

The Bill provides for the constitution of a Central Board at the Central level and State Boards at the State level for the purpose of granting licences to detective agencies. It also makes it mandatory for private detective agencies to hold licenses to carry on their business.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 12:28:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/an-eye-on-the-private-eye/article19771623.ece

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