Saturday, Dec 09, 2023

Sonali Phogat's Death: Goa's Curlies Restaurant's Demolition Resumes After Brief Halt

Sonali Phogat's Death: Goa's Curlies Restaurant's Demolition Resumes After Brief Halt

Goa Police believes Sonali Phogat was drugged at Curlies Restaurant. It said left-overs from the drugs were seized from the restaurant's washroom.

Sonali Phogat died under mysterious circumstances in Goa last week
Sonali Phogat died under mysterious circumstances in Goa last week Instagram/Sonali Phogat

The demolition of parts of the Curlies Restaurant in Goa, which has been in news lately in connection to the death of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sonali Phogat, resumed on Friday after a brief halt. 

The Supreme Court earlier on Friday stayed the demolition which caused a brief halt in the demolition drive. However, officials said that the SC order was limited to only certain parts of the restaurant and the demolition of the parts not covered by the order therefore resumed. 

The Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) in 2016 ordered action against the restaurant as parts of it stood on No Development Zone in violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms which govern construction activity in coastal areas.

“After the SC order, we surveyed that particular part and it is kept out of the demolition drive. Rest of the parts which violate Coastal Regulation Zone rules are being demolished,” a GCZMA official said.

Linet Nunes, a co-owner of  Curlies Restaurant, had  moved the National Green Tribunal against the 2016 order of the GCZMA ordering demolition. But the tribunal refused to stay the demolition in its order on September 6, following which the administration swung into action.

The demolition squad of the North Goa district administration began pulling down parts of the restaurant at 7.30 am on Friday. The process was stopped around 11.30 am following the Supreme Court order.

In the urgent stay order, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit made it clear that unauthorised construction on land other than the specified survey number may be demolished. The bench also asked the owner of Curlies to suspend commercial activities for the time being.

Gajanan Korgaonkar, the lawyer representing Nunes, said commercial activities have been banned till the next Supreme Court hearing. The authorities stopped the demolition for a while before resuming in the afternoon.

Phogat, a BJP leader from Haryana who first rose to fame as a TikTok star and Big Boss reality show contestant, had partied at the restaurant hours before her death last month. Restaurant owner Edwin Nunes was among five persons arrested in the Phogat death case. He was later granted bail.

Goa Police believes Phogat was allegedly drugged at the restaurant. Deputy Superintendent of Police Jivba Dalvi said left-overs from the drugs which were given to her at Curlies Restaurant at Anjuna have been seized from the restaurant's washroom. 

In a CCTV footage from Curlies, Phogat can be seen dancing with one of the arrested accused Sudhir Sagwan, who forces her to drink water which she instantly spits out. Inspector General of Police Omvir Singh Bishnoi had earlier told reporters that Sagwan had mixed some obnoxious substance in the water which caused Phogat's death.

Another video shows Phogat being escorted out of the restaurant by the accused. In the footage, she is seen staggering and almost falling near the staircase on her way out of the restaurant.

The Government of Haryana, from where Phogat belonged, has requested the Goa government to recommend a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the case. 

"Sonali Phogat's family had given a letter to the [Haryana] chief minister demanding a CBI inquiry into the matter. The family has levelled serious allegations that big names can also be involved in this murder. On the basis of the letter of the family, the state government wrote to the chief minister of Goa to get the matter probed by the CBI.. so that all the facts in the case come out," Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij was quoted as saying in a statement.

Goa Police personnal have also visited Hisar in Haryana, where Phogat lived, in connection with the investigation of the case.

(With PTI inputs)