The Delhi High Court, in an order from Friday, 29 July, observed that no licence was ever issued in favour of Union Minister Smriti Irani and her daughter with regards to the Silly Souls Cafe and Bar in Goa's Assagao.
Summoning Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Pawan Khera and Netta D’Souza in a Rs 2 crore civil defamation suit filed by Irani for allegations against her and her daughter in connection to the restaurant, Justice Mini Pushkarna observed that no license was issued in Irani or her daughter’s name.
Previously, the Court had directed the Congress leaders to remove all mentions of the allegations, made by them during a press conference, from all social media platforms. In its order on Monday, the Court noted:
“Considering the documents on record it is clearly seen that there was no license which was ever issued in favour of the plaintiff or her daughter. The plaintiff or her daughter are not the owners of the restaurant. It has also been established by the plaintiff prima facie that the plaintiff or her daughter never applied for license.”
The Court also noted that neither the restaurant nor the land it was constructed on is owned by Irani or her daughter, and added, “Even the show cause notice issued by the Government of Goa is not in the name of the plaintiff or her daughter.”
The Court further observed that the reputation of an individual has been placed at the highest alter and has often been considered akin to the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
“There is imperative need to protect reputation of an individual, least to say, that of the plaintiff who is a respected member of the society and esteemed member of the Union Ministry,” the court said in its order.
The court also noted that Irani made out a prima facie case and the balance of convenience lays in her favour and against the defendant’s plea for interim relief.
“Balance of convenience also lies in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendants. I am satisfied that if the defamatory allegations and contents linked to it, is allowed to remain on the internet and social media platforms, then the extent of damage to the plaintiff could be of immense magnitude and injurious to the reputation of the plaintiff and her family,” the court noted in its order.
What is the Controversy?
Congress leaders pressed for Irani's sacking from the Narendra Modi Cabinet after alleging that her daughter runs an "illegal bar" – Silly Souls – in Goa's Assagao.
Aires Rodrigues, the lawyer and RTI activist who found the alleged lapses in the bar's licence procurement, said that "the whole world knows" that the 'Silly Souls Café and Bar' is managed and run by the Union minister's family.
"There is enough evidence to this effect," he added.
Rodrigues had uncovered that the bar's owners renewed the establishment's liquor licence using the name of a deceased person.
Consequently, the Minister of Women and Child Development, who has categorically denied all charges, sought damages of over Rs 2 crore and an unconditional apology from the Congress leaders.
Chiming in on the controversy on Friday, advocate Prashant Bhushan wrote on his Twitter, "The “Silly Souls Café and Bar” at Assagao allegedly being run by Smriti Irani’s family was illegally built without obtaining any construction licence. This has been revealed to Adv. Aires Rodrigues today under the RTI Act by the Assagao Panchayat."
(With inputs from Live Law)
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