Smriti Irani's family restaurant receives notice over illegal liquor license
A posh Goa eatery, operated by Union minister Smriti Irani's daughter Zoish Irani, has made headlines for its contentious process of renewing a liquor license in the name of a long-deceased individual. Based on a complaint by lawyer Aires Rodrigues, who alleged "fraudulent and fabricated documents were produced" to get the license, Goa's excise commissioner issued a show cause notice on Thursday (July 21).
Why does this story matter?
Irani is considered one of the most influential leaders in the current Bharatiya Janata Party-led (BJP) central government and a critic of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, whom she defeated in the latter's stronghold of Amethi in the 2019 general election. She has also attacked the Congress specifically over several past corruption allegations. The current complaint over acquiring an illegal license, therefore, questions her credibility.
What does the show cause notice say?
Narayan M Gad, Goa's excise commissioner, sent a show cause notice to Zoish's Silly Souls Cafe and Bar, located in North Goa's Assagao. "The license was renewed last month, despite the license holder having passed away on May 17, 2021," the show cause notice reportedly stated. According to The Wire, a hearing over the case has been scheduled for July 29.
Renewal of license applied in name of deceased person
It was found that Anthony Dgama applied for the renewal of the license on June 22, 2022, despite having passed away in May 2021. The application was signed on behalf of the licensee with a request to "please renew this license for the years 2022-23," adding they "will transfer the said license within six months," the excise department reportedly stated.
Rodrigues obtained documents through RTI application
Rodrigues was able to obtain the documents by filing an RTI request. He reportedly stated that he wants "a thorough inquiry into this mega fraud orchestrated by the Union minister's family in conjunction with excise officials and the local Assagao panchayat." Notably, all excise applications were submitted in the name of Anthony Dgama, who was a Mumbai resident as per his Aadhaar card.
The excise agency twisted rules for Irani's restaurant: Lawyer
Rodrigues said, under Goa excise rules, a bar license can only be awarded to an established restaurant. The excise agency twisted the rules in the case of Silly Souls Cafe and Bar, giving the proprietors a permit for foreign liquor and another for Indian-made foreign liquor and domestic liquor in February 2021, well before the luxury eatery even had a restaurant license to operate.
Dgama's death ceritifcate found at Mumbai's municipal corporation
The lawyer, who dug into the issue for months after receiving a tip-off, also found Dgama's death certificate at the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai. He now questions whether such a person was ever associated with the expansive 1,200 square meter land in Bhouta Vaddo, Assagao, that encompasses the Irani's daughter's fine dining establishment, Silly Souls, who reportedly hopes to make it Goa's "food destination."