The National Green Tribunal (NGT) blamed spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) for going back on its commitment to pay the balance compensation amount for causing ecological damage to the floodplains of the Yamuna. It ruled that AOL had no other alternative but to pay the balance amount and struck down its plea for a bank guarantee on the remaining amount.
The NGT further ruled that AOL must pay the money within a week. The green court also asked AOL to pay Rs 5,000 for its application seeking approval for a bank guarantee. It felt that the application did not have any basis whatsoever.
AOL’s request for a change in expert committee that is evaluating the damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains was also rejected by NGT.
Amidst huge controversy surrounding the three-day mega function, World Culture Festival, organized by AOL on the banks of Yamuna in March this year, the NGT had given the green signal to the event, but on the condition that AOL would pay Rs 5 crore as penalty.
After AOL requested NGT for more time to pay the amount, the green court had allowed the organizers to go ahead with the event by paying Rs 25 lakh, but with the condition that the rest of the amount must be paid within three weeks.
However, after the event was over, the Art of Living agreed to pay the rest of the amount—Rs 4.75 crore—only as a bank guarantee, instead of paying the balance amount.
The green court almost questioned the Art of Living’s integrity, noting that the organization had tried to use various legal avenues so that it could get away without paying the stipulated fine.
Despite being accused of causing irreparable damage to the Yamuna’s ecosystem, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has showed no remorse for holding the event and feels that the site vacated by AOL is in much better condition than what it was before the event.
AOL is likely to challenge the NGT decision in the Supreme Court.