Meet Rajani Pandit, India’s first female detective with more than 80,000 cases to her credit

After a series of random investigations while in college, Rajani Pandit became a detective in the early 1980s. After more than 30 years in the field and 80,000 cases to her credit, she says the profession needs more women.

Meet Rajani Pandit, India’s first female detective with more than 80,000 cases to her credit

Monday January 09, 2023,

4 min Read

Rajani Pandit became a detective rather unconventionally and at a time when the lines between being helpful and overstepping boundaries were rather blurred.

Touted as India’s first female detective, Rajani has completed more than 30 years in the business with more than 80,000 cases to her credit.

Rajani Pandit

Rajani Pandit

In today’s time, her beginning would have elicited a ‘why does this girl not mind her own business’, but in the early 80s, it passed off as doing someone a good turn. And laid the foundation for a successful private detective agency.

“I was closely watching the behaviour of a girl studying with me in college. She was smoking, drinking, and bunking classes, and was in bad company. I got her address from the clerk in the college office, went to her home, and told her parents she was being taken advantage of,” Rajani tells HerStory.

Rajani explains that she did out of concern and when asked about intrusion of privacy, her parents were thankful for the information and that was all that mattered.

She recollects another incident during this time where she donned a burkha and followed a neighbour whose wife had complained about him constantly losing money.

“I discovered that he was drinking and gambling heavily, but would come home and tell his wife that his business was suffering losses. When I told her the truth, she took over the business and started doing well. The family was saved from poverty,” she says.

But fame came calling after she solved a case for a woman who received an anonymous letter soon after her wedding about her husband. Rajani visited his village and found he had another family. Then there was the case of a family theft where the son let himself in with a duplicate key when everyone was away and helped himself to expensive stuff inside the house.

Thinking on her feet

When news of her “exploits” spread, she was being written about in newspapers and was called ‘Lady Sherlock” and “Lady James Bond”. But she had no clue who these personalities were.

“I had to read about them to understand that they were famous fictional detectives,” she says with a laugh.

By 1989, she was a known figure. Rajani was interviewed by Doordarshan in the show, ‘Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin’. This brought her fame from all over the country and cases started pouring in. She established the office of Rajani Pandit Detective Agency in Shivaji Park, Mumbai.

Initially, she didn’t know what to take on or how much to charge. But she knew that being a detective was what she was cut out for.

Anubhav hi mera bhagwan hai (Experience is my God),” she says, implying that she learnt to run a business the way she approached each case, by thinking on her feet.

One of her toughest cases, she reveals, is where she had to go undercover as a help in a woman’s home, who was suspected of having murdered her husband and son.

She dons different roles and characters and says she’s a master of disguise. She went solo for two years, and now has 20 people.

Rajani’s work includes background checks, financial fraud, pre and post-employment check, personal investigation (locating missing persons, divorces cases) and more.

When I ask her whether she’s trained in self-defence, she laughs it off.

“What use is self-defence when people roam around with guns. Thankfully, I haven’t slipped even once. I have man ki himmat (utmost confidence of the mind),” she says.

Private detecting is largely an unorganised sector in India and there is no specific that covers it. In 2018, Rajani was arrested during a bust of private detectives and accused of illegally obtaining call data records (CDR).

“I was marked because I was doing very well,” she says of the controversy, and adds, “though there’s a detective association, there’s no protection and no one bothers to help.”

Rajani says she has received a lot of respect over the years, including job offers from the police department. But she loves the thrill of working on her own.

The five qualities of a good detective, according to Rajani, are patience, confidence, discretion, presence of mind, and quick thinking.

“We need more women in this profession. Women make good detectives as they are discreet and focused,” she says.

Edited by Megha Reddy