It is in particular on the basis of another response from RTI obtained by Rodrigues that the owner of the restaurant was accused of having fraudulently renewed his liquor license, which is in the name of a dead man. The Goa Excise Department has since issued a “although license holder died on 17th May 2021”.
Irani denied that his daughter ran the restaurant and pointed out that neither RTI’s response nor the excise notice mentions his family. She dismissed the allegations as a “conspiracy” and sent a legal notice to three congressional leaders for allegedly slandering her family.
The land on which the restaurant stands as well as its liquor license belonged to father and son Abel D’Gama and Anthony D’Gama, both deceased.
According to an application to the panchayat of Assagao by Anthony D’Gama for a certificate of no objection to operate a bar-restaurant in December 2020, the establishment was located at house 452 at Bouta Waddo in Assagao. An application for a liquor license was submitted to the Excise Department under Anthony’s name in January 2021, months before his death in May.
Rodrigues alleged that construction of the restaurant began in 2019-20, although RTI’s response states that the Assagao panchayat has not issued “any construction or repair license from 2019 to date to Anthony D’Gama or to any other person for house 452 under investigation 236/22 located at Bouta Waddo in Assagao”.
Asked about the allegations, Kartik Kelkar, deputy sarpanch of the Assagao panchayat, said, “The restaurant came into existence towards the end of 2020. Before, it was a small house in a field but no one lived there. Anthony D’Gama, accompanied by one of his relatives, came to the panchayat to obtain permission to open a bar and a restaurant. No objection certificate was given to him to perform the same at the premises of house 452 in Bounda Vaddo. Any structure built without authorization cannot be considered valid.
Assagao land records show that house number 452 is covered by survey 236, which includes subdivisions 21 and 22. While subdivision 22 has Anthony listed as an occupant, subdivision 21 is leased land occupied by Abel and cultivated by a Dharma Vasu Pole as the sole tenant.
“Before the restaurant was built, there was a small house of 200 square meters in an open field,” Rodrigues alleged, adding that the land was in subdivision 21. “The restaurant was built without permission from the panchayat and occupied leased land in absolute violation of the law.”
In his complaint to the panchayat leadership, the activist demanded that the Assagao panchayat demolish the restaurant.
Newslaundry contacted Siddhi Harlankar, Director of the Goa Panchayats, Rajesh Asolkar, Assagao Panchayat Secretary, and Minister Irani to ask about the cafe and bar allegations, in particular the revelations contained in RTI’s response to Rodrigues. This report will be updated if they respond.
Newslaundry also contacted Dean D’Gama, son of Anthony D’Gama, but declined to comment on the matter. Dean was looking after the D’Gamas Lux foster family at the property, but the facility is now closed.
House 452 and the Iranis
In an earlier complaint to the state excise commissioner, Rodrigues mentioned a company called Eightall Food and Beverages. The company, incorporated in December 2020 and registered the following month under TPS number 30AAIFE7039H1ZM, . It is also the address of the Silly Souls Cafe and Bar.
As per details of partnerships submitted to Registrar of Companies of Maharashtra seen by Newslaundry, Eightall has five directors – Rahul Vohra, Geeta Vajani, Harsh Khaneja, Mangesh Joshi and Kanika Seth. Vohra and Joshi are also directors of companies run by Smriti Irani’s husband, Zubin Irani.
Vohra, actor, producer and director, is director with Zubin and his son Zohr in Ugraya Mercantile. He also runs a few companies — Spark 84 Adworks and Meethapani — with Zubin’s ex-wife, Mona Irani.
Joshi is a director of Ugraya Farms with Zubin, Zohr and Zubin’s sister-in-law, Mehernaz Kaizad Irani, Shree Bawaji Foods with Zubin, and Heramba Life Sciences with his wife Meenal Joshi and Zohr.
Harsh Khaneja operated another Silly Souls Café – in Delhi’s Chhattarpur – which has now been closed.