The National Green Tribunal on Tuesday rapped the Art of Living Foundation for a plea seeking to pay the ₹4.75 crore compensation, slapped on it for allegedly damaging the Yamuna flood plains, as a bank guarantee. Spiritual guru and AOL founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar took to Twitter soon after the judgement, vowing to "fight till the end for justice".
The green panel also slapped a fine of Rs 5,000 on AOL for filing an application which "lacks bonafide" and directed the institution to pay the remainder amount in one week. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar pulled up the foundation for not depositing the amount despite assurance granted to the tribunal.
The green panel on March 9 had allowed the three-day 'World Culture Festival', held by AOL between March 11 and 13, on the condition that it paid a Rs 5 crore fine for damaging the biodiversity of the fertile Yamuna flood plain.
On March 11, AOL had moved a plea seeking four weeks time for depositing the amount after which the tribunal allowed the foundation to deposit Rs 25 lakh on that day and granted three weeks time to pay the balance amount.
Since the Art of Living has not created any air, water or soil pollution, we will fight till the end for justice. #Yamuna
— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (@SriSri) May 31, 2016
The AOL, in its application, had stated that it is in the process of preparing a proposal laying down parameters/methodology for collection of scientific data/evidence regarding assessment of actual environmental damage, if any, and hoped to persuade NGT that, "damage, if any, is neither permanent nor irreversible but in fact remediable".
On May10, the foundation had issued a clarification over a NGT notice to Sri Sri for his alleged remarks against the green panel. The spiritual guru had said that the allegations against him were 'completely false' and based merely on 'newspaper reports'.
(Workers dismantle stadia temporarily erected for massive three-day cultural festival organized by the Art of Living Foundation on the banks of the river Yamuna in New Delhi, India, Monday, March 14, 2016. The three day event attracted a lot of flak from environmentalists with concerns that the sprawling construction of roads, ramps and pontoon bridges would irreparably damage the river's floodplains. AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
He also said that the fine imposed by the green panel was politically motivated. The NGT had asked why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against him.
(Volunteers of the Art of Living Foundation remove plastic and other waste from the River Yamuna in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, March 24, 2010. Hundreds of volunteers have been picking up garbage along the Yamuna River as part of an eight day long clean up campaign to offset what they say is government inaction that has left the waterway a putrid sewer. AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)
The AOL founder had earlier said he "will go to jail but not pay a penny."
"Not a single tree was felled. Trees were only pruned and we levelled the floodplain," he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the World Culture Festival, a three-day event attended by three million people from over 150 countries. Held over a weekend packed with cultural performances, yoga and meditation sessions, the WCF saw around 37,000 artists perform on a mammoth 7-acre stage.
(Hundreds school children present an Indian classical dance during the inauguration of a massive cultural festival on the banks of the river Yamuna, in New Delhi, India, Friday, March 11, 2016. AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
(With inputs from Agencies)