Goa excise commissioner refuses to cancel liquor licence of ‘Silly Souls’ café
A political controversy had erupted after the Congress alleged that the restaurant was owned by Union Minister Smriti Irani’s daughter.
The Goa Excise Commissioner on Thursday refused to cancel the liquor licence of Goa’s Silly Souls Café and Bar, which has been at the centre of a political controversy since July after it was allegedly linked to Union Minister Smriti Irani’s daughter, reported Bar and Bench.
Commissioner Narayan M Gad said that excise on liquor is one of the major revenues of the Goa government and cancelling the license would hamper the income of the state.
“If a liquor license is either suspended or cancelled on petty issues, it not only hampers the business but also affects the revenue of the state,” he said in a 19-page order. “A running business cannot be allowed to be closed all of a sudden.”
The controversy began on July 23 after Gad issued a show cause notice to Silly Souls Café and Bar on a complaint filed by lawyer Aires Rodrigues.
In the notice, Gad had said that the liquor licence of the café was allegedly registered in the name of a Mumbai resident identified as Anthony Dgama. It added that the licence was renewed in June even though Dgama had died on May 17, 2021.
An RTI application filed by Rodrigues showed that the restaurant was operating under a lease agreement between a person named Dean D’Gama, the attorney of his father Anthony D’Gama and a company named Eightall Food and Beverages Limited Liability Partnership.
On August 2, the The Indian Express had reported that companies owned by Irani’s family have invested in Eightall Food and Beverages.
The minister’s daughter Zoish Irani, her son Zohr Irani, husband Zubin Irani and his daughter Shanelle Irani own two firms named Ugraya Mercantile Private Limited and Ugraya Agro Farms Private Limited that invested in Eightall Food and Beverages in 2020-2021.
Smriti Irani, however, does not own shares in any of the three companies.
On Thursday, the commissioner said that there have been some procedural errors in the case regarding the production of Anthony D’Gama’s power of attorney before the officials of the excise department but this does not warrant cancellation of licence, the Hindustan Times reported.
“If a liquor licence holder dies, should the business come to an end?” the commissioner said in his order. “The surviving legal heirs of such deceased licence holders should be provided with necessary assistance and support both legal and moral to continue with the business…”
The political controversy
On July 23, the Congress had alleged that the restaurant was run by Zoish Irani and demanded the Union minister’s resignation.
The party had cited a Moneycontrol article – a review of the restaurant by food critic Kunal Vijayakar that had named the minister’s daughter as its owner. Smriti Irani had also shared the review on her Instagram handle, saying she was “so proud”.
The next day, Smriti Irani filed a civil defamation suit against Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Pawan Khera and Netta D’Souza.
Zoish Irani’s lawyer Kirat Nagra claimed that his client neither owns nor operates the restaurant. Nagra also said that his client had only interned with the chef of the café.
On July 29, the Delhi High Court observed on a prima facie basis that Smriti Irani and Zoish Irani are not the owners of Silly Souls Café and Bar. It ordered the Congress leaders to remove, within 24 hours, allegedly defamatory social media posts related to the Iranis.