Mumbai: Inspector Deepshikha Ware of Kandivali Police Station, who investigated the fake Covid-19 vaccination racket and arrested 18 people, was awarded the ‘Union Home Minister’s Medal for ‘investigative excellence’ for the year 2022. Amid a surge of infections in the second wave, the gang had administered fake vaccines to nearly 2,500 people to mint money.
Ware’s excellent investigation and solid evidence ensured that the frauds languish in jail even 15 months after their arrest.
The Union Home Secretary’s Medal for Investigative Excellence was established in 2018 to promote high professional standards in criminal investigation and to recognize such investigative excellence. Inspector Ware is among 151 police officers from across India (including 11 from Maharashtra) who have received the award.
Ware’s proactive role and careful reading of the minor leads in the case was crucial as after his first significant breakthrough, 12 FIRs were recorded in various parts of Mumbai and Thane.
In the police department, an officer’s potential and caliber are usually measured by their extensive network of informants and their local relationships with the public. On the night of April 15, 2021, Inspector Ware was in the Mahaveer Nagar area as the night inspector in charge when a few local residents informed her about the suspicious activities of a group of people administering fake vaccines Covishield to people. Ware learned that people were vaccinated at different hospitals and received vaccination certificates from different hospitals. It was enough for Ware to suspect something fishy was going on.
Wasting no time, Ware went to Nanavati Hospital as some of the vaccination certificates were issued there. Ware discovered that Nanavati Hospital had not issued these vaccination certificates. She informed her superiors and the recipients were identified and informed that the vaccines given to them were not genuine. The first FIR (CR n° 591/2021) was filed in the case on April 17, 2021.
Ware put down the whole racket that tried to mint money taking advantage of the panic situation due to the fast-spreading virus. Over the next two months, Ware and members of his team arrested 18 people in the case, including kingpin Dr Shivraj Pataria (61), his wife Neeta Pataria, owner of Charkop-based Shivam Hospital, and Dr. Manish Tripathi, who ran a nursing institute from the compound of Shivam Hospital.
I didn’t come home for 14 days
Given the seriousness of the case and rumors of fake vaccines, it was important to get the culprit to the book quickly. Thoroughly investigating all aspects – determining the role of each member of the racket, tracing financial trails and, therefore, collecting solid and indisputable evidence – Ware did not divert his attention from the case. “I didn’t come home for 14 days. Interrogating the accused for 14 days and then collecting evidence afterwards was very important to build a watertight case. Many times my teammates and I also skipped meals. But my family has fully supported and motivated me,” Ware said.
There was tremendous fear among those who were vaccinated with the fake vaccine. Making them understand that nothing would happen to them was a challenge for me. With the help of BMC, we were finally able to vaccinate the approximately 2,500 people with the real vaccine, the inspector said.
Inspector Ware, Sub-Inspector Suryakant Pawar and their teammates filed a 2,100-page charge sheet. The statements of no less than 600 witnesses were recorded, including six key witnesses whose statements were recorded before a magistrate under Articles 164 CrPC. Two used vials of fake vaccines were seized and the test result concluded that the vials did not contain any vaccine.
“The then Commissioner of Police, Hemant Nagrale, and Joint CP Vishwas Nangre Patil were directly overseeing the investigation. Ware was the first investigator of the case. She did a good investigation. Later, other FIRs were also filed and simultaneous investigation into other cases began,” said Deputy Police Commissioner, Vishal Thakur of Area 11, who also headed the SIT formed to investigate all cases of false vaccination.
Inspired by a series about a female cop
Ware joined the police force as a constable in 1994. She passed the police officer exam and became an officer in 2002 with a first posting to the sensitive community pockets at Mahim Police Station.
Speaking to HT, she said she was inspired by a 90s TV series, Udaan, which aired on Doordarshan from 1989 to 1991. The show was based on the struggle of a woman aspiring to become a police officer. the IPS – based on the true story of the IPS Kanchan. Choudhary Bhattacharya (former Director General of Police).
Ware’s family is also in close contact with the law and the justice system. Her father Zunjar Avhad is a criminal lawyer. Ware’s husband is also a policeman and assigned to the Oshiwara Police Station. Residing in the Kalina Police Colony, Ware has three children and the eldest son is also a lawyer.
“I am very happy to receive this award which is a recognition of the hard work and effort that I and my entire team have put in. I thank my superiors and the Mumbai Police for trusting me and giving me this opportunity to serve the nation,” says Ware, who served 28 years in the police force.
DCP of the city rewarded
Apart from Ware, a DCP rank IPS officer from Mumbai Police was also awarded for his investigative quality. DCP zone 6 Krishnakant Upadhyay has been awarded for leading an excellent investigation into a 2014 murder in the rural area of Solapur. NCP activist and Panchayat Samiti secretary Gurunath Katare was killed. The high-profile murder case was detected 50 days after the murder. “His trial ended in 2020 and resulted in a sentence of life imprisonment for the three arrested defendants, even though more than 11 important witnesses, including the plaintiff, injured eyewitnesses and relatives of the deceased, have become hostile during the trial,” says IPS Upadhyay, who was later assigned as an additional SP from Solapur Rural – his first assignment as an IPS officer.
42 members of Maha police receive bravery award
42 Maharashtra police officers have been shortlisted for the Police Bravery Award. Three officers, CP Joint State SID Sunil Kolhe, ACP (Wireless) Pradeep Kannalu and Senior Inspector of Oshiwara Police Station Manohar Dhanawde were awarded the President’s Police Medal for distinguished service and 39 received the Police Meritorious Service Medal.