The heat generated by the World Culture Festival organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) reached a flashpoint on the event’s eve with the National Green Tribunal being informed that the organisers were yet to obtain all clearances and the spiritual leader saying he would go to jail rather than pay a fine of Rs 5 crore levied on the organisers.
Environment activist Manoj Mishra, who had petitioned the NGT for a ban on the event, approached the Tribunal Thursday, complaining that AOL has not yet obtained clearances from the police, fire department and CPWD.
Mishra said that the organisers were yet to pay the fine imposed by the NGT as interim compensation for the environment damage that the event on the Yamuna floodplains may likely cause.
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The NGT bench, headed by chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, responded that AOL had time to pay the fine till Friday and that the law would take its course otherwise. Late on Thursday, however, the fire department confirmed that it had given permission for the event to go ahead.
Reacting to the NGT’s fine, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar told NDTV that AOL would appeal the order. Asked what he would do if the Supreme Court upheld the NGT order, he said, “We will go to jail but will not pay the fine.”
Stressing that AOL would respect the orders of the apex court, Sri Sri said, “But we have not done anything wrong.”
Meanwhile, during a hearing on the issue of air pollution in the city, a Delhi High Court bench of Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva remarked that the Rs 5-crore fine imposed on Art of Living was “peanuts” and asked whether any fine had been paid at all.
The observation was made after the court was informed that senior officials of the Forest Department were not present for the hearing before court as they were required to appear before the NGT.
The bench had observed on Wednesday, during a hearing on unauthorised constructions on the Yamuna’s banks, that the event appeared to be an “ecological disaster”.