New law to regulate private detectives soon

NEW DELHI: Private detectives, sought to be regulated by a Central legislation, will be allowed to work only in the non-government sector and keep strictly off any investigation into bona fide activities or affairs of the state, particularly the work of state agencies such as IB, R&AW or CBI. Importantly, a clause is proposed to be inserted in the Private Detective Agencies (Regulation) Bill, 2007, debarring private detective agents (PDA) from interfering with the right to privacy of an individual, including tracking of his/her personal letters or electronic communication.

The draft report of a home ministry committee under secretary (border management) — set up to consider issues raised by a parliamentary standing committee on the Private Detective Agencies (Regulation) Bill, 2007 — has also recommended that only Indian citizens be issued the licence to become a private detective agent, and that control of private detective agencies (PDA) remain in Indian hands. Importantly, the PDA will be defined as a person enrolled as a member of the Central Institute of PDAs, which will also arrange for their training by setting up training centres and accredited institutions and courses.

The committee has recommended inclusion of a separate Schedule in the bill – listed in the agenda for the upcoming session of Parliament — listing the activities that can be undertaken or be forbidden for PDAs, after they have obtained a licence under the proposed legislation. The permitted areas include asset investigations such as location and ownership, business or corporate issues, pre-employment verification, post-employment integrity checking, pre-matrimonial background checks, security surveys, insurance fraud probes, pre-joint venture or collaboration investigation and pilferage-related investigation.

However, what will remain out of bounds for PDAs are anti-counterfeiting security related matters, domestic or marital discord issues for which a police complaint is pending, collection of personal information infringing upon privacy of an individual, technological investigation, valuables theft investigation, environmental issues investigation, financial or accounting investigation, forensic or fingerprint investigation or handwriting analysis, insurance claims of government companies, IPR investigations, investigation relating to court cases, missing persons probe, search of archaeological records, white collar crimes investigation or undercover investigation.

The PDAs will have to work as per a code of ethics and code of conduct to be laid down by the proposed regulatory authority, the Central Institution for PDA (CIPDA). These codes will govern the collection of information by the PDA, including its manner, methodology, timing, storage, retrieval, ownership and usage. In case any cognizable offence comes to the notice of an agent, the home ministry panel has proposed that he/she report to the superior and/or police.

The evidence furnished by a PDA will be like that of any private person called upon by the court to give evidence.

A Register of certified PDAs, the home ministry committee has recommended, shall be maintained listing the PDAs who have the requisite qualifications and experience and fulfil the statutory requirements. The disqualification of detective agents would also have to be specified, along with the procedure for their removal from the register of PDAs.

PDAs found intentionally violating conditions of their licences will face cancellation of their licence. If any individual agent is found to be involved in illegal activity, his/her name may be struck from the Register of Certified Agents temporarily or permanently.