Out on bail after her arrest in connection with illegal possession of Call Data Records (CDR), Rajani Pandit, the first woman private detective in the state, said on Thursday, “Is it wrong to access something that is readily available, especially when one doesn’t know about its legality? A private detective is supposed to help people. For that, proof is needed. So many times, we procure proof by invading people’s privacy. It is a tightrope we walk.”
Pandit was arrested on February 2 for illegally possessing CDRs by the Thane crime branch. She was granted bail by the sessions court on March 13. The investigation is part of a bigger case of alleged CDR leaks, in which, the police had trapped four detectives for illegally obtaining, possessing and selling the confidential CDRs of over a 100 people.
So far, the police have arrested 12 people, including lawyer Rizwan Siddiqui who was released pursuant to a Bombay High Court order on Wednesday.
Pandit refused to comment on whether she had, in fact, asked for the CDRs that were found in her possession. “It is for the honourable court to decide,” she said.
Pandit believes that those supplying CDRs are more at fault than those who obtain them. “If the telecom companies are getting repeated requests from an email ID, or if multiple people are requesting the details, why were they giving it? Couldn’t they have checked if it is indeed the police who are demanding these records?” Suggesting that the system protecting CDRs is, in fact, porous, Pandit asked, “If these details are so confidential, how are they so readily available?”
“So many policemen have taken help from me for cases they couldn’t go to their own department for. I have done their work and their secrets lie with me,” said Pandit, speaking with The Indian Express at her Dadar home.
In the past three decades, Pandit believes, the work of private detectives has changed dramatically. “When I started, there were no CDRs. We used to follow people and manually take information in form of recordings or pictures. Technology is both a boon and bane,” she said.
She rues, “Although everyone knows of our (private detectives) existence and they come to us for help, no one wants to acknowledge us. There are no rules, no regulatory body, absolutely nothing for us to work under. So we do what we can. By devising our own methods, we help people when the police force turns them away or refuses to listen to them.”
Thane crime branch arrested her after they allegedly found proof that she had procured a CDR from one of the arrested detectives. “Upon interrogation and through their emails, we saw that two CDRs were sent to Pandit. We arrested her to know of her involvement in the case, as we had information that she had procured the records earlier as well,” said an officer privy to the case.
According to her lawyer, Madhav Thorat, Thane Police had arrested her without a ground. “She had not asked for the CDRs. She just had them on her mail, sent by a third person. There is no proof that she was intending to blackmail someone with those details. She was willing to cooperate. There was no ground for her arrest,” he said. They are, however, waiting for the chargesheet to be filed now. “The chargesheet will show what role they assign to my client. We are ready for all possibilities,” he added.