The past week saw an unseemly row erupt because the entire Opposition united behind the Porvorim MLA, Rohan Khaunte, who was arrested and released on bail for allegedly threatening BJP spokesman, Premanand Mhambrey within the precincts of the Goa legislative assembly. Several opposition MLAs rushed to the media to condemn the action of the speaker for granting permission to the Porvorim
Police to arrest their colleague Rohan Khaunte. But Rajesh Patnekar of the BJP is an honourable man who would never have okayed the arrest of Rohan Khaunte without incontrovertible evidence.
Rohan Khaunte has said he was framed by the chief minister Dr Pramod Sawant and his cronies and that the chief minister was getting “frustrated. This was a murder of democracy which could not be accepted under any case when the assembly session was in progress. I come from a middle class family and doing business is what we have always been doing. Digambar Kamat was in front of me on that day and this is the first time that an MLA has been arrested.”
“ We are moving towards a fascist and an Orwelllian state, The chief minister is responsible for creating this level of law and order. This has been well thought of (by the BJP) and it is a false allegation. Very clearly, when Premanand Mhambrey was coming inside, I wished him,” claimed Rohan Khaunte, as he walked with a swagger to the media.
Although both Rohan Khaunte and Vijay Sardessai claim democracy has died in Goa, there are alleged rampant illegal constructions on the hill slope of Salvador do Mundo and just a day or two ago, the dead body of a woman was found in the jungle at Paithona in Salvador do Mundo. She had been murdered. Nearby were some construction workers. Whether there is murder of democracy in Goa or the murder
of this innocent woman in Salvador do Mundo spells the murder of law and order in Porvorim constituency remains to be seen. After all, illegal houses cannot sprout without those in power getting pay offs.
Among the stalwart Opposition MLAs to condemn the alleged high-handed action of the Speaker were Sudin Dhavlikar, who is seen sitting next to Vijay Sardessai. Digambark Kamat is also seen supporting all of them while former chief minister Pratapsingh Rane also condemned the arrest of Rohan Khautne at 1 am in the morning.
Vijay Sardessai called the arrest of their colleague the “death of democracy” although the Porvorim Police never dared to enter the august house to arrest the influential Porvorim MLA but after securing the permission of the Speaker, went to the residential house of Rohan Khaunte to arrest him at 1 a.m. The immediate provocation for the Opposition MLAs supporting Rohan Khaunte was that Mhambrey
had held a press conference where he declared that Rohan Khaunte had 18 companies with the registered address given as a residential flat at Skylark Apartments in Panjim. If this is correct, it is quite a revelation. Mhambrey went on to allege that Rohan Khaunte paid just Rs 500 per year to the City Corporation of Panaji whereas he had to take a trade licence for running these alleged so-called companies by giving the registered office address of a residential flat.
Mhambrey further went on to allege at is press conference on February 5 that Rohan Khaunte had an office built in Porvorim which is a residential bungalow allegedly built on communidade land. Needless to say, the land belongs to the communidade of Serula which is embroiled in litigation in the Bombay high court at Goa. While these allegations have not been verified, Premanand Mhambrey is discharging a duty by bringing all these allegations into the public limelight.
Be that as it may, Khaunte has countered this after the alleged assault by claiming that all his business entities were legitimate and he had given jobs to over 200 Goan youth. But the fact that the registered address of the 18 companies has been given as a residential flat and not a commercial premises, evokes concern. All these allegations have to be verified.
For those who came in late, when a company is incorporated or born, the articles of association and memorandum of association are filed with the Registrar of Companies wherein the details of business which the company intends to venture into is given. Any company cannot venture into businesses which are not explicitly mentioned in the memorandum of association which forms part of the record with the
registrar of companies.
Rohan Khaunte often holds press conferences and has a coterie of press reporters whom he knows personally and who will also give him feedback about those who hold press conferences about him. A leading English newspaper published from Panjim which declares on its hoardings that it publishes authentic news, carried full page advertisements on the birthday of Rohan Khaunte.
Leaving that aside, Khaunte perhaps feels that the media is his own fiefdom and that the press reporters whom he perhaps knows personally, are alone entitled to publish news which is favourable to him and not news which goes against him. In this instance, Premanand Mhambrey has every right to go to the media because he is merely exercising his right under Article 19 (1) (a). After all, the right to freedom of speech and expression includes the right to disseminate information through the media.
And so, Rohan Khaunte was legitimately outraged. How dare Premanand Mhambrey bring all this alleged muck into the public domain ? After all, Rohan Khaunte was a former Revenue Minister in the Manohar Parrikar government and won the 2017 Assembly elections from Porvorim constituency with over 4,000 votes.
Whether former chief minister Pratapsingh Rane is giving a factual account of the episode is left for the Porvorim Police to decipher. And they may not do a neutral, impartial and objective job because they are under tremendous political pressure. It is only because Rohan Khaunte was removed from the cabinet by chief minister Pramod Sawant that the deputy superintendent of police Edwin Colaco who
has secured an award earlier, was able to discharge his duties. Be that as it may, the Porvorim Congress Block president Shankar M. Phadtem who is a practising advocate, called Rohan Khaunte a “political thug.” Addressing a news conference at Mapusa soon after
Rohan Khautne was arrested and released on bail, Phadte said, “This political thug has become frustrated. We demand that the Porvorim Police file a chargesheet against Rohan Khaunte within 30 days after examining all the witnesses.” Phadte has to be congratulated on taking an upright stand but he lowered himself a notch when he added that the Porvorim Police should have waited to arrest Rohan
Khaunte since the assembly session was in progress. Over a year ago, Phadte had alleged that Rohan Khautne had permitted 1000 to 2000 outsiders to enrol as voters in the state and that his complaining to the Porvorim Police was an eyewash.
But for Advocate Shankar Phadte’s information, there is no rule which declares any sitting MLA cannot be arrested when the house is in session provided that the Porvorim Police do not barge into the house when it is transacting its business. The Porvorim Police and deputy superintendent of police Ediwn Colaco discharged his duty by seeking the permission of the Speaker to arrest Rohan Khaunte., The
Speaker has to be commended for granting permission to the Porvorim Police to arrest Khaunte for this alleged offence.
Two months after I was assaulted on 27 th September 2018 by goons who own illegal houses in Salvador do Mundo and an alleged false FIR was registered against me while my FIR was made to look like an afterthought , an activist from Chimbel, Pravin Chopdekar was brutally beaten up by hired goons on November 27 th , 2018 for opposing an information technology park at Chimbel. Chopdekar would have
been killed. But Rohan Khaunte declared to the media that Pravin Chopdekar was an “extortionist” Just as he declared to a gullible media that I and my 87-year-old client, John Menezes, who retired as a chief mechanical engineer from the Mumbai Port Trust were extortionists.
To quote Dr Oscar Rebello who wrote about the arrest in his column, “Many people consider Rohan Khaunte to be a complete political thug of the Porvorim constituency. From fraudulent land deals to criminal intimidation to outright, brazen corruption; Rohan is legend. So this was
his comeuppance. The guy absolutely had it coming and got his just desserts.” The other view is that of the die-hard Parrikar fans who ask how could an MLA like Rohan Khaunte who was the architect of the Manohar Parrikar government be arrested at 1 a.m. ?
The Sarpanch of Salvador do Mundo who is a die-hard supporter of Rohan Khaunte staged a demonstration against Goa Congress President Girish Chodankar and burnt his effigy with that of Premanand Mhambrey. Although I have never met him, Chodankar has a spotlessly clean image untainted by any charges of corruption. As he himself declared, “ I do not believe in the polictics of corruption. My politics is of a different kind.” And that is true, although he has a humble background, Girish Chodankar appears to be a man of honour.
Whether Rohan Khautne will actually be chargesheeted for allegedly twisting the hand of Premanand Mhambrey and threatening him with dire consequences remains to be seen. If Khaunte is chargesheeted, activists like Pravin Chopdekar who has gone into hibernation out of
fear of the powerful MLA, will realize that divine justice is better than man-made justice. For democracy in Goa has become a synonym for corruption and political thuggery where those who oppose Rohan Khaunte get beaten up.