The Congress on Saturday, 23 July, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately sack Union Minister Smriti Irani amid allegations of her daughter Zoish Irani running an "illegal bar" in Goa's Assagao.
"We demand from the prime minister that Smriti Irani should be immediately sacked as a minister from the Union cabinet. You owe it to this country, to the youth of this country [sic]," Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said while speaking to journalists at a press meet chaired by him and party spokesperson Jairam Ramesh.
The Silly Souls Cafe and Bar allegedly operated by the Union minister's daughter landed in a controversy after it was found that its owners renewed the restaurant's liquor licence using the name of a deceased person.
Noting that it was a "very serious issue," the Congress shared a copy of the show cause notice given to the bar and said that the excise official who gave the notice was reportedly being transferred after pressure from authorities.
"The licence by Smriti Irani's daughter is in the name of a person who died in May 2021, and the licence was taken in June 2022 in Goa. But the person in whose name the licence is had died 13 months ago. This is illegal," Pawan Khera told reporters.
"Was the illegal act carried out without her knowledge or influence?" Khera asked on Saturday. He added that the restaurant was now being guarded by private agencies and bouncers to keep the media away. "We want to know who was behind this illegal exercise," he said.
He said that according to rules in Goa, a restaurant could only get one bar licence, but this restaurant got two.
'How Can a Ghost Apply for Liquor License?': Goa Cong Chief
Goa Pradesh Congress Committee President Amit Patkar, on the other hand, asked how a "ghost" could apply for a liquor license?
"The deceased passed away on 17 May 2021, yet an application was made on his name on 22 June 2022 for renewal. Why is there no SIT (Special Investigation Team) probe into this big fraud? Are BJP Ministers allowed to move scot-free while common man continues to be harassed by the Government?" he questioned.
Patkar also stated that this was an open and shut case, and that Irani should come clean on the matter.
The party's Viriato Fernandes also said that the "double-engine" government in Goa had failed, and called for Irani's resignation from the Union Cabinet.
'My Client Doesn't Own or Operate Silly Souls Goa': Zoish Irani's Lawyer
Kirat Nagra, the lawyer of Smriti Irani's daughter Zoish Irani, on Saturday, denied the allegations levelled against her.
In a statement, Nagra said that his client neither owned nor operated the restaurant named 'Silly Souls Goa'. She has not received a show cause notice from any authority as well, he said.
Contending that these allegations were levelled against his client with a predetermined motive to defame her for being the daughter of a political leader, he said that the charges were baseless. "It is unfortunate that they have resorted to spreading false propaganda only to sensationalise a non-issue without ascertaining true facts," he further said.
Various "erroneous, frivolous, malicious and defamatory social media posts being made by various vested quarters trying to settle political scores with our client's mother, the renowned politician Smriti Irani each of which are predicated on blatant falsities," he added.
What's the Controversy?
Narayan M Gad, the excise commissioner of Goa, on 21 July issued a show cause notice to the restaurant after receiving a complaint from lawyer Aires Rodrigues, who stated that the owners had submitted "fraudulent and fabricated documents" to get the licence.
The matter is set to be heard in court on 29 July.
According to the show cause notice, the restaurant's liquor licence was renewed last month, although the licence holder passed away on 17 May 2021.
On 22 June this year, the restaurant applied for the licence renewal in the name of Anthony Dgama. However, Dgama had passed away in May 2021, the show cause notice stated. As per the Aadhaar card of Dgama, which was issued in December 2020, he was a resident of Mumbai's Vile Parle. Lawyer Rodrigues also found Dgama's death certificate from Mumbai municipal corporation to substantiate his statements.
(With inputs from PTI.)