World Culture Festival: Can't pay remaining Rs 4.75 cr penalty, AoL tells NGT
New Delhi: Under fire for the alleged environment destruction caused by its World Culture Festival, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living (AoL) foundation on Friday told the National Green Tribunal that it won't be able to the remaining penalty of Rs 4.75 crore.
The foundation further said that it can only give a bank guarantee for it.
Petitioner Manoj Misra's lawyer, Sanjay Parikh, has alleged that Art of Living did not intend to pay the penalty and was only "beating around the bush" since beginning of the case.
“They are doing so consistently from the very beginning. First they lied to the court in a sense that they don't have money to pay for the environment destruction, their event had caused. Although the ministry of culture had released Rs.1.5 Crore for the event, but they told the court that they don't have any money and got away by paying just Rs. 25 Lakhs in place of Rs.5 Crore,” Parikh told IANS.
The development comes amid reports of ISIS threats to AoL head Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
Parikh also expressed the apprehension that AoL was trying to get the March 9 NGT order nullified. The NGT in its judgment had established that there was “environment destruction caused to Yamuna Flood plains by the World Culture Festival” and instructed a principal committee “to verify the quantum of destruction occurred after inspecting.”
“AoL knows that principle committee's report will be against them. So they are creating hurdles in their inspection. Now they are saying that they will decide on their own if at all any destruction has been caused to the flood planes by their event,” Parikh Said.
Meanwhile, officials from Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) confirmed, “they are not ready with the inspection report yet".
The NGT committee comprised officials from DPCC, National Pollution Control Board, ministry of Environment and Forest Conservation and union Water Resource ministry.
AoL, though, countered the allegations insisting they have no hesitation to pay the money. "We have only asked for a change in the modalities of payment.”
The change, according to them: “We have no objection to pay the penalty if at all any damage has been done to the flood planes. We have just informed the NGT that we may like to pay in form of a Bank Gurantee than cash in this case,” AoL lawyer Akshama Nath told IANS.
Replying to the question on creating hindrance in the way of NGT committee's inspection, Nath blamed the delay in preparing the report on “inter-departmental mis-communication.”
“There was some confusion among the officials who visited the site for inspection and the higher up in the hierarchy of their department,” Nath said.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Development Authority has also expressed apprehensions that AoL may not pay the penalty to restore the damage done to the flood planes. They said a bank guarantee was not enough.
“If they had to do so they would have done that long back. The three weeks for paying full fine of Rs. 5 crore lapsed on April 1. The NGT committee is not at a stage to submit its report within stipulated deadline of eight weeks. If there is no report AoL's probability of depositing the penalty is bleak,” DDA officials concerned with the case, who did not want to be named, told IANS.
In fact, a four-member expert committee of NGT had said in its report that World Culture Festival organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living Foundation had destroyed parts of the flood-planes of Yamuna and it would require at least Rs.120 crore to restore the area to its original state.
The expert committee headed by Water Resources Secretary Shashim Shekhar was assisted by A.K. Gosain, a professor of IIT-Delhi, C.R. Babu and Brij Gopal.