New Delhi, April 22
The Art of Living (AoL) foundation on Friday expressed its inability to pay the “remaining green fine” of Rs4.75 crore, imposed on it for alleged environment destruction caused during World Culture Festival last month, to the National Green Tribunal.
The foundation said it could only give a bank guarantee for it.
Sanjay Parikh, lawyer of petitioner Manoj Misra, alleged that the foundation 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 by saying that they don’t have money to pay for the environment destruction their event had caused. Although the Ministry of Culture had released Rs1.5 crore for the event, they told the court that they don’t have any money and got away by paying just Rs25 lakh in place of Rs5 crore,” Parikh said.
The development comes amid reports of Islamic State 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 floodplains by the World Culture Festival” and instructed a principal committee” to verify the quantum of destruction occurred after inspection”.
“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 floodplains by their event,” Parikh said.
Meanwhile, officials from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) confirmed they were 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 had no hesitation in paying the fine. “We have only asked for a change in the modalities of payment.”
“We have no objection to pay the penalty if at all any damage has been done to the floodplains. We have just informed the NGT that we may like to pay in the form of a bank guarantee than cash in this case,” AoL lawyer Akshama Nath said.
On creating hindrance in the way of NGT committee’s inspection, Nath blamed the delay in preparing the report on “inter-departmental miscommunication”. “There was some confusion among the officials who visited the site for inspection and the higher-ups in the hierarchy of their department,” Nath said.
Meanwhile, Delhi Development Authority also expressed apprehensions that AoL may not pay the penalty to restore the damage done to the floodplains. They said a bank guarantee was not enough. — IANS
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