Silly Souls: Complainant claims to have known Smriti Irani and campaigned for BJP

The petitioner who has alleged irregularities in the Goan restaurant and bar allegedly owned by the family of Smriti Irani says he had campaigned for the BJP in 2007

Silly Souls: Complainant claims to have known Smriti Irani and campaigned for BJP

Shalini Sahay

"I have absolutely nothing personal against Smriti Irani. In fact, during the 2007 Goa Assembly elections at the invitation of late Manohar Parrikar was very privileged to address various BJP public meetings along with Smriti. At those meetings she unfailingly showered praises on me, saying that ‘I was a hope for a better Goa’…,” writes Aires Rodrigues, the lawyer who has complained of irregularities in ‘Silly Souls Café and Bar’, which he has alleged is owned by the family of Union Minister Smriti Irani.

The Union Minister has denied any involvement of her family with ‘Silly Souls’ and has sent legal notices to three Congress leaders who had repeated the allegation.

Following his complaint that the bar and restaurant did not have a proper licence, the Excise Commissioner of Goa directed both Rodrigues and Antony D’Gama, who was issued the bar licence, to appear before him on Friday, July 29. The hearing is expected to end the suspense over ownership and other irregularities alleged by Rodrigues. D’Gama, however, passed away in Mumbai in May last year.

Rodrigues, who in Panjim is known for filing PILs and RTI applications, also wrote on his Facebook wall, “I recollect Smriti and her suave hubby Zubin asking me then whether I knew of any good properties for sale in Goa, but told them that I was a lawyer and not a real estate broker.”

As claimed by Rodrigues, Anthony D’Gama resided in Vile Parle (East) in Mumbai and passed away in the Seven Hills Hospital in May 2021. A month later, however, an application under his signature was submitted for renewal of the licence.

Attempts by National Herald to contact the family at Ville Parle proved futile as D’Gama’s flat was found locked this week. But records from Assagao, Bardez show that the land on which the café and restaurant, offering Asian and Italian cuisine, stands belonged to D’Gama. However, no permission was given to him for construction and at least a part of the establishment appears to have come up on ‘tenanted’ land reserved for farming.

So, did the Irani family took the land on lease from D’Gama? Will the D’Gama family claim ownership of the café and restaurant? These are questions which will hopefully be answered during the hearing.

Police report on D’Gama’s application for a permit to run the bar, submitted in 2020, recorded that Anthony D’ Gama lived at ‘Bangla Garden, Diego Compound, Church Pakhadi, Road No. 1, Vile Parle (East), Mumbai’. The report was signed by DSP Edwin Colaco on January 22, 2021, five months before Mr Dgama passed away.

An enigmatic handwritten note appears on the renewal application, submitted a month after D’ Gama’s death and obtained by Rodrigues under RTI. The handwritten note reads, “Please renew the licence for the year 2022 to 2023 and I will transfer my licence within six months”.

Who could have written the note since D’ Gama was dead? What did it mean and to whom would the licence have been transferred?

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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