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Art of Living may move SC against NGT’s ‘unjust verdict’

Workers load chairs on a truck at the venue after the three-day long World Cultural Festival in New Delhi, India, March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
Workers load chairs on a truck at the venue after the three-day long World Cultural Festival in New Delhi, India, March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

New Delhi: After the National Green Tribunal (NGT) dismissed a plea of The Art of Living (AOL) Foundation seeking to furnish a bank guarantee of the balance compensation amount of the environmental compensation levied on them for damage to the Yamuna floodplains during the World Culture Festival (WCF) held in March, the foundation said they found the verdict unjust and after reviewing the order they would go to the Supreme Court.

The NGT also directed AOL to pay the remaining Rs 4.75 crores as environment compensation.

“We find the verdict unjust and, if need be, after reviewing the order we will go to the Supreme Court. We have not violated any law or done any wrong,” said AOL.

“The Art of Living has never said that we don’t have funds. We were ready and willing to give a bank guarantee which served the purpose, but our application has been wrongly dismissed. We will test the legality and see how we can correct the judgement,” said the foundation in a statement.

“We don’t agree with the observations of the Tribunal. The Art of Living has neither polluted air or water or earth. We have left the WCF site in a better condition than what we had got. We have an extensive repertoire for environment work and find these allegations unacceptable,” it further said.

No scientific assessment of the site has yet been done, claimed AOL, adding: “On a brief visual inspection, allegations have been made and we have been asked to compensate an amount arrived at arbitrarily. The damage has not even been assessed. We are, therefore, not happy and will consider all options.”

We would like to point out that what a section of media is enthusiastically calling a fine is not a fine but a compensation deposit, it added.

On Monday, the NGT had issued notice to petitioners – environmentalist Manoj Misra, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and other respondents – on a plea filed by The Art of Living Foundation, seeking reconstitution of principal expert committee to examine the alleged impact of the World Culture Festival on the Yamuna floodplains.

The foundation filed an application to reconstitute an independent and an unbiased expert committee to examine the allegations. The foundation alleged, “The committee has pre-judged the issue and are under self-imposed pressure to justify that figure, creating a bias for itself.”

“The Art of Living objects to the existing committee comprising Brij Gopal, Prof. Gosain, C.R. Babu and headed by Sashi Shekhar, who arrived at an arbitrary figure of Rs. 120 crore based on a very brief ‘visual’ assessment without following a scientific process,” the foundation said in a statement.

The court, which heard the preliminary arguments to change the committee, issued notice to Mishra, the other petitioners as well as the respondents. The court will tomorrow consider the request for another independent body to simultaneously assess the site pending the final disposal of the application.

On March 9, the NGT had refused to prohibit the World Culture Festival on the bank of Yamuna, but slapped a fine of Rs. 5 crore on the foundation for damaging biodiversity of the ecologically sensitive Yamuna floodplains.

On May10, the foundation had issued a clarification over a NGT notice to its founder Ravi Shankar for his alleged remarks against the green panel, saying the allegations against the spiritual leader were ‘completely false’ and based merely on ‘newspaper reports’.

The NGT issued a notice to Ravi Shankar for his alleged remarks that the fine imposed by the green panel for organising an event on banks f river Yamuna was politically motivated.

“At the NGT proceedings, it was specifically pointed out by The Art of Living lawyers that applications filed by Anand Arya and Misra were based merely on news paper reports and that the tribunal ought not to entertain the same,” the Art of Living statement said.

“It was also clarified by The Art of Living that the allegations about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at the NGT was misconceived since the video of the speech was available with Art Of Living and demonstrate that the allegation was completely false,” it added.

The Art of Living further said that it would respond to NGT’s notice and warned the complainant of strict action if allegations are found without credible basis.

“Court in fact warned Misra that if he is not able to prove his allegation, he will be penalised,” the statement added.

The NGT in a notice to Ravishankar had asked why should not contempt of court proceedings be initiated against him and has directed him to file a reply to it latest by May 25. (ANI)

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