Our success as private investigators in India hinges a lot on being in possession of the knowledge of the laws that apply to our profession. While there is a lot more concerning laws that apply to private investigations in India, those are beyond the limited scope of this article. Let me give you, dear reader a synopsis of the specific laws that affect us and our business so that if you are faced with a predicament where you might require our services, it might make it easier for you to make a decision about the matter and whether or not to get professionals to help you resolve the issue to a definite conclusion.
Understanding the Law
Laws that apply to investigative law in India are widely disparate. In this article I will talk about the basic laws to which both law enforcement investigators as well as private investigators must adhere to. Some of them do not apply directly to our work as a private investigator, though many out of them do. Knowing and applying these laws in our sphere of work, I believe marks us out as serious professionals and separates us from the average private detective on the street or the ones you find on classifieds websites. Our work ethics and our deep knowledge of our craft coupled with our in-depth knowledge of the law of the land garners us respect from both the public and the law enforcement community.
One does not need to be an attorney or a police officer to be a good private detective but you do need to know something about the laws that govern law enforcement as well as laws that apply to our profession. One must know where our responsibility ends and law enforcement authority begins. Never must it enter a private investigator’s mind that he / she is a law enforcement officer. In fact impersonating a law official is a criminal offense punishable by law.
Crime Scene Investigations
An individual client or a lawyer will often hire us in cases which necessitates the search of a crime scene. The crime scene is the domain of law enforcement and police officers do not appreciate hot shot private detectives interfering with their work. So we always tread cautiously and fully co-operate with the local law officials on such cases. Acting within our boundaries and behaving responsibly helps us develop respectful working relationships with police officers which eventually helps us greatly in solving a case or reach a definite conclusion thereby ensuring that our clients or lawyers are satisfied.
Pretexting the Law
What is Pretexting
Pretexting is a formidable tool in the private investigator‘s tool box but it is quite tricky and must be applied with prudence and judgement. Pretexting can be defined as:
a. Ostensible or professed purpose or an excuse.
b. An effort or strategy intended to conceal something.
In other words, pretexting is lying but not lying for personal gain or with the intention to harm another person. It can be misused but when properly executed, courts have upheld it’s use.
Lying for any reason is a moral issue and in certain cases it can be a crime. For some people, lying is just a way of getting what one desires. While others who abide by strict moral values and principles or those who are just plain uncomfortable with lying will never misrepresent anything in any way. The criminal justice system has struggled for years with the boundaries beyond which deception must be allowed to go and the courts still grapple with the issue from time to time.
The undercover work that we private detectives have to do entails a lot of lying! Right from the false name and credentials that we have to use to obtain information to the unmarked car that that we use that disguises our true identity. Yet one must remember that all this is not done for personal gain. While some people may argue against pretexting, the courts all over the world have accepted it as a vital part of an investigator’s hunt to uncover the truth and have ruled it permissible if it has been done without coercing innocent people into false confessions.
Ethics Vs Real World Practicality
There is a definite problem that exists in society in the need to balance the reality of criminal behaviour with laws that protect the rights of all citizens. The criminal who rapes, loots and kills does not abide by any laws and all of them prey and thrive on the average citizen’s uninformed idealism and innocence about how criminals think and their behaviour. Due to this, the law and by extension the private investigator may feel constrained by laws that protect the rights of a criminal who cares nothing for the rights and the safety of others. Yet, commitment to the rule of law is enshrined in the constitution of free and democratic societies like India, the United States and others. In such countries, the rule of law is defined as universally accepted and defined and governs every citizen of the country. This in effect separates India from totalitarian regimes like the ones that still exist in countries like North Korea and other countries.
Because of the high stakes involved, abiding by the law must remain the Private Investigator’s chief concern at all times yet balancing the protection of the public at all times. Considering the real world challenge that this dilemma poses and considering the utmost objective – the need to provide protection – the Supreme Court of India has recognized this challenge in the past. In order to balance the scale between the criminals and the law abiding citizens of the country, it has given permission to allow certain behaviour that bypasses the hard-line rule of the law and allows the upholders of the law and those given responsibility for public protection to push the truth slightly when seeking information from a suspect. The line is very thin however and must be treated with fine judgement and strategy.
A Fine Balance
In achieving this kind of a balancing act, should the lie result in solving a case, the cost of lying is weighed against the foreseeable benefits to the public and the victim of the crime. When placed on a scale, the moral evil of the lie (if performed correctly) is not perceived as heavy when weighed against the cost of achieving justice for the crime victim and the protection of the public by removal of the offender – especially a violent one – from society. Unfortunately this isnt the only situation in which legal ideals and real world practically face off against each other. Some of the challenges are:
1. The presumption of innocence is challenged by the knowledge that many of the so-called innocent people are actually guilty.
2. The ideal to protect each other’s civil rights is challenged by the fact that some have abused and will continue to abuse the civil rights of others. When offender and victim rights conflict, the moot question of whose rights are more important casts a shadow on the ideal.
3. The ideal of the right to bail is challenged by the knowledge of the violent potential of many offenders should they be released.
4. The ideal of the police refraining from the use of physical force is challenged by suspects who refuse to be taken into custody without a fight and by the need of a police officer to protect himself and the public.
There are many more challenges that exist within the law, but this short list is intended to give you some of the idea of finding a balance that we private investigators have to repeatedly content with in the day to day duties of our job. It also illustrates the fact that separate arms of the law sometimes line up on different sides of these challenges. For example, part of the defense counsel’s jobs is obtaining bail for his / her client. The police officer’s or detective’s job is to apprehend and put the defendant in jail until trial. The detective or police officer may want bail to be denied to a violent defendant. The judge must look at both sides of the coin and herein lies the challenge: choosing between bail rights of the defendant vs. the rights of protection for the victim and the public at large.
Amit Sen is the founding partner of Alliance One – who are among the best detective agencies in Mumbai specializing in providing thorough pre marital investigation services among other private and corporate investigation services. Amit is also a trained pilot and an aviator and likes to remain grounded on the days when he is not flying high.