March 11: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday asked Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) foundation to pay Rs 25 lakh on Friday and granted three weeks’ time to pay the remaining Rs 4.75 crore of the fine.
If the Art of Living fails to pay up, then the NGT would attach the grant which Culture Ministry is supposed to pay to AOL, it said, adding that the next hearing on the matter would be on April 4.
Earlier, AOL had said that it needed a month’s time to pay the Rs five-crore penalty as it was a charitable organisation. It also asked that the Rs 5 crore fine be taken as restoration amount for biodiversity park and not as penalty. However, the NGT said that it’s not a penalty, but environment compensation. It accepted the undertaking given by Art Of Living foundation adding that all authorities (CBCB,DPCC,MOEF) have to ensure no pollution is spread in Yamuna.
The NGT also expressed its displeasure over the spiritual guru’s statement that he “would go to prison but not pay the fine” and said such a statement was not expected from a person with such high stature. “If anybody hurts the image of the Tribunal, we will take it to a logical conclusion as per rule of law,” the NGT said. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had earlier said that he would rather go to jail than pay the fine imposed by NGT for environmental violations on the floodplains due to massive constructions. He had also said that AOL was not “satisfied” with the verdict of the NGT and would appeal against it.
The NGT also asked the Centre and AOL if the Rs 2.5 crore grant has been released to the foundation by the Culture ministry. It also pulled up the Ministry of Water Resources for not doing anything to protect Yamuna from pollution despite directions.
NGT also issued a show cause notice for contempt proceedings to a member of Ojaswi party for disturbing court hearing. It asked him to leave the courtroom.
The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday cleared the three-day festival on the Yamuna floodplains but rebuked the organisers and the government for failing to take enough precaution to protect the venue’s ecosystem.
Meanwhile, the activists are demanding a ban on the event saying that construction at the venue has been allowed without any risk assessment to the environment.
The government, however, earlier in the day attempted to downplay the controversy with regard to the event.
Asserting that the World Culture Festival will bring glory to India, Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said the event must not be politicised as it celebrates diversity.
“World Culture Festival by Art of Living will bring glory to India. Let’s not politicise this. 36,000 artists participating in one event is in itself a record. It’s a cultural event 2 celebrate diversity. Let’s celebrate & join d festival,” Naidu said in a series of tweets.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had yesterday confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be attending the three-day ‘World Culture Festival’ being organised by the Art of Living Foundation beginning today.
Talking to ANI, he said that Prime Minister Modi would be attending the event and added that he has received a letter from President Pranab Mukherjee wishing good luck.