Day of the detective
The fate of many a marriage in urban India rests on detectives, who are no longer just characters playing a part in thrillers. Detectives today are being approached to spy on matters big and small, issues personal and professional. Be it for checking on spouses,
pre-marital screening, employee verification, update on a business rival or uncovering cyber crime, the reasons for hiring a sleuth are many and varied.
Vibha Sharma trails the
Price for probing
Private investigation comes at a price, depending upon the case and circumstances. The price tag for a pre-matrimonial surveillance can be anywhere between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000. But if the person under investigation is an NRI, the fee can range from $1,000 to 3,000.
Post-matrimonial checks are generally more complicated and tricky. Therefore, depending upon the investigation, a client may be charged Rs 30,000 onwards. “The person may have to be kept under surveillance for weeks, for which more than one team has to be involved,” Kunwar Vikram Singh explains. Regarding employee background check, for one employee the charges can be as less as Rs 2,000 but if it involves a high-up like a CEO, the investigation can cost between Rs 25,000 and Rs 50,000. Pre-joint venture investigations for foreign companies wanting to invest in India come at $7,000 to $10,000 depending upon the scope of investigation. Investigations on IPR, fake medicines or products cost around Rs 2 lakh.
detective, sleuth or secret agent. Whatever you decide to call
them, the very word implies danger, intrigue, and enemies. Their
job is to obtain information. From tracking down an errant
husband or a two-timing wife to shadowing corporate, business or
political rivals or verifying credentials of prospective
employees, sleuthing is big business today. Large corporations
spend a lot of money on precautions and protective
countermeasures. There are parents who want to keep an eye on
their sons and daughters and want to know who they meet once
they step out of the safety of their homes. At times it is also
the other way around.
It was a change
in the behavioural pattern of his wealthy widower father that
led Atul Saxena to employ a full-time sleuth to tail him. The
detective took just two days to find that Saxena senior was
involved with a pretty young thing, less than half his age.
After some active digging on the PYT’s not-so-perfect past,
followed by aggressive persuasion from Atul, Saxena senior
agreed to try his luck with someone closer his age.
What was once a
part of fiction is now becoming very much a part of life for the
urban middle class if the increasing number of detective
agencies and spy gadgets is anything to go by. Not only business
rivals or corporates but also lovers, spouses, parents and even
youngsters are hiring detective agencies to verify and spy on
one another. Perhaps it is the mark of the times that
relationship are based on — not on trust.
A few months
back Smita Narula, married for barely two months, contacted
Ashish Mathur of Trident Investigation Network. She had a doubt
that her husband Chetan was having an extra-marital affair. The
basis of her doubt was that he appeared to be spending more time
than was required to reach his office in Gurgaon from Delhi and
back. Smita also felt that whenever she tried calling him on his
mobile during this period, he would either disconnect the phone
or was very brief.
after Mathur launched the surveillance is quite interesting.
Apparently, Chetan had misinformed his in-laws about his job
profile and the salary he was drawing. So, while the car he was
driving to work was part of his wife’s dowry, the money he was
earning did not permit him to maintain the vehicle. Therefore
everyday he would park the car in AIIMS parking, catch a bus to
Gurgaon and after finishing work pick it up and drive back home.
The reason he was reluctant to talk to his wife was because he
didn’t want her to overhear the background noises while he was
on the bus. Simple.
Is the moral of
the story that marital doubts are often misplaced?
"No", says Association of Private Detectives of India
(APDI) chairman Kunwar Vikram Singh, a two-time winner of the
best investigator in the world. "Ninety per cent of the
cases where the wife suspects her husband or vice-versa prove to
be correct," he says. Mathur agrees: "This was a freak
case because more often than not a partner’s suspicion is
Singh, who also heads Lancers Network Ltd, recalls a particular
incident where a man approached them insisting that his wife was
having an extra-marital affair and wanted her watched. "He
asked us to watch her at home during the time he was out between
9 am and 6 pm. We did that for two months and found nothing
wrong. We assured him that he had no reason to be suspicious but
he insisted that though his wife’s behaviour appeared to be
proper, he felt something was fishy. The next day we followed
her when she went to drop her son to school. And sure enough
after dropping the child, she took a detour and went to meet
someone, who we later discovered was her boyfriend in
college," he says. In most cases, Singh admits, "the
feeling" is generally right.
because it was only after Ritu Anand got the feeling that her
lover’s promises about his intentions being honourable were
not so that she decided to approach a detective agency. What
detectives found became the most horrifying revelation of her
young life. The man was married and had a one-year-old child.
"His having a one-year-old child was the final blow. But at
least I found out before it was too late," says Anand, who
had to undergo psychiatric treatment after this traumatic
Does this mean
it pays to be prudent and extra cautious, especially in these
marriage dotcom days. "The problem is that the joint family
system has disintegrated and checking the antecedents of
prospective brides or grooms is difficult," says Singh,
recounting the case of an Army nursing officer who was lured
into a relationship by a Kolkata-based married businessman,
claiming that he was divorced. "Surveillance revealed that
not only was he married, but being a businessman who travelled a
lot, this was also his modus operandi. He would insert a
matrimonial ad in regional papers saying he was divorced,
establish a relationship and then leave the girl saying that his
divorce proceedings were not through."
marriages in particular, getting a backgrounder of prospective
grooms makes sense as it can save heartbreak later. Take the
example of Simran Grewal, who got married 10 years ago to a
New-York based "doctor" but is still waiting for him.
In Punjab, Grewal’s story is common. After making endless
trips to police stations, women NGOs and government officials,
she decided to get him investigated. "There was no trace of
him in India and the detective agency said investigation in the
US would cost a lot of money. I felt it was better to save
whatever little money I had for the future of my daughter,"
she says, strongly recommending that parents should make
detailed inquiries about NRI grooms.
several agencies operating in India, dealing in business and
personal cases. They promise background checks, character
screening, corporate intelligence and analysis, pre and
post-employment screening, undercover operations and
infringement of trademark, copyright and patent besides assets
verification. They also help obtain proof and evidence for
insurance cases, offer debugging services, trace missing persons
and do audio and video surveillance and handwriting
detective agencies is growing, thanks to increasing
permissiveness followed by rising awareness in this nation of
one billion. The number of couples having a good time outside
marriage has increased and so has the business of detective
agencies, courtesy the increasing number of hurt spouses who now
have resources and facilities to bring erring partners to book.
Some detective agencies, particularly the cyber types, are
flooded with requests of hacking e-mails and procuring the proof
of their spouse’s infidelity for the convenience of divorce
lawyers who will need them as evidence for getting their clients
a suitable deal.
in the business may not like to admit it but the services most
in demand are pre and post-matrimonial verification, alimony
and divorce cases, spouse fidelity, litigation support besides,
of course, corporate surveillance.
pre-matrimonial investigations, credentials presented at the
time of alliance are verified, followed by background checks to
confirm the "character and trust worthiness of the
individual concerned." Post-marital investigation includes
cases of adultery, extramarital affairs or suspected activities
and day-to-day tracking. "Women by nature are more
suspicious than men hence the number of women asking for keeping
tabs on their husbands is more. Also now they are financially
more empowered and are aware of their rights and refuse to take
any nonsense from their erring husbands," Singh explains.
corporate intelligence are growing because with the opening up
of economy, the number of foreign investors in India is
increasing. "Companies and investors now want a due
diligence before committing. There have also been several cases
of data theft from BPOs and companies also want to find out who
are involved in these nefarious activities. It also makes
perfect sense for MNCs to know their rivals’ moves in
advance," Singh says.
post-employment checks are also gaining ground. MNCs regularly
get their employees checked before offering letters of intent
and want to know everything, right from work attitude, habits,
performance rating, social wellbeing, family and friends circle
of their employees.
like to make their own inquiries, especially about the immediate
boss. For example, Rahul Gupta, before joining a well-known
media group as a top executive, went to great lengths to find
out the behaviour of his immediate boss and also why the person
before him had left the job. "I wanted to know whether I
would be able to gel in the new set-up. Also, why did the guy
before me leave if the company was so good, especially when he
himself approached me to take up the job," Gupta explains.
Know your spy
Now if you
think the detective you have employed will come in a package
reminiscent of some debonair gun-totting character with fast
cars, beautiful girls et al — a la James Hadley Chase —
banish the thought. Even the very conservative Sherlock Holmes
or our desi Agent Vinod are nowhere close.
screen, detectives and spies have been romanticised as knights
in black ties, hats and dinner jackets who solve mysteries with
their brains, muscles and sex appeal. In real life, being on the
job means a lot of hard work. It requires a lot of effort to get
to the bottom of the story.
detective, though cool and confident, also sports
non-attention-seeking mannerisms and attire that make him blend
with the crowd. "We do not even want someone with a turban
in Delhi, let alone any other outstanding paraphernalia,"
Mathur says. And apart from physical well-being and quicksilver
responses, qualities like integrity, honesty, courteousness and
a vigilant nature are welcome. "The effort should be to
create no controversy while on the job," he adds.
investigators do not have any authority under law to detain or
interrogate anyone or gather proof, they resort to ingenious
methods to gather information and investigate the case. At the
end of the assignment, they hand over a detailed report to the
client and if the client needs a proof that can be submitted in
the court of law, it is prepared in such a way.
To aid a
detective in his job are a collection of sophisticated
technological advances like miniature wiretap detectors and
telephone-recording equipment, eavesdropping bugs, electronic
stethoscope, amplified hearing devices to detect even faint
sounds and voices behind walls, miniature cameras fitted in
cigarette lighters or pens and other gadgets.
depend upon electronic surveillance and monitoring systems.
"The nature of equipment used has more or less remained the
same, the difference is that now they are smaller and
smarter," says Singh.
advancement of technology, spies have been reinventing their
tools and bulky equipment has given way to silicon chip in
miniature devices that could capture and transmit vital
intelligence. Today, it is the world of Internet surveillance,
digitally sabotaging computer networks and cyber-spies.
There has also
been a massive increase in the number of personal surveillance
gadgets, particularly popular with litigating couples. For men
there are smart briefcases with hidden microphone and tape
recorder for taping conversations and promises that might
otherwise be lost. Women can take the help of sleek designer
recording purses to document sexual harassment at work or for
nailing a spouse for verbal or physical abuse.
surveillance may also come in the form of cuddly teddy bears
with a tiny camera peeking through its belly button or a
seemingly conventional TV with a built-in video camera behind
the speaker to keep tabs on what is going on in your bedroom
while you are out. A cigarette case with a UHF transmitter that
can record from a distance of more than 200 m, radio microphone
in pens, surveillance and telephonic microphone to intercept
voices, wall microphone behind a clock with highly miniaturised
micro-transmitter, they are all readily available.
modified mobile phones to monitor calls with a surveillance
microphone hidden in the battery. Give this spy phone to the
person you want to spy on —your wife, partner, kids or
employees— as a present. Whenever the spy phone is called from
a pre-programmed telephone number, it will answer without
ringing or flashing lights and you will be able to listen in.
In modern India
the history of private detectives can be traced back to the
Gorkha watchmen concept. As crime and security threats grew,
Gorkha watchmen made way for full-time business for security
agencies, offering security cover to business establishments,
showrooms, malls, educational institutions, housing societies
and private homes with trained security men and a complete
armoury of metal detectors and overhead miniature cameras. And
as social fabric changed, political and domestic violence
increased and foreign investment and corporate culture made a
foray, the job profiles of these security agencies also
The APDI is the
apex organisation of private investigators with a pan-India
membership of 180 but as per Singh there could be anywhere close
to 1500 investigating agencies operating in India. "A
majority of them provide security services and are not
investigative agencies. Quite a few are also involved in shady
activities. The APDI is a self-regulatory apex body with audit
and ethics committees and when you choose a member of the APDI,
you choose a professional company which works as per the
association’s code of ethics," he says.
understanding the need for regulating private security agencies,
brought in the Private Security Agencies (Regulations) Act,
2006. During the next monsoon session, the government is likely
to introduce the Private Detective Agencies (Regulations) Bill
2007 to regulate the activities of investigating agencies and
also ensure curbs on foreign investigating agencies operating in
In India as
yet, detectives do not need a licence to operate. So no
particular academic qualifications or background is necessary to
enter the profession. But the APDI conducts training programmes
and most agencies also offer in-house training.
(Names of some persons have
been changed to protect identities)