No further cost on AoL for destroying Yamuna floodplains

World Culture Festival Art of Living Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

The National Green Tribunal on Thursday held the "Art of Living Foundation" of spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar responsible for causing damage and environmental degradation of the Yamuna flood plains here by holding a three-day cultural extravaganza past year.

Manoj Misra, a former forest service officer and convener of the non-government Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan who had filed a petition in the court expressing concern about the damage to the floodplains, said he was happy with the ruling.

The panel did not levy any additional penalty on the foundation, and said that the Rs 5-crore fine that Art of Living had paid in 2016 would be used for restoration work. However, if restoration costs less, the remaining amount of the already deposited Rs 5 crore will be refunded.

"We hold Art Of Living responsible for the damage to the Yamuna floodplains...." The judgment is erroneous and untenable. Our submissions have not been dealt with or considered. "It is important to note that one of the judges recused himself on the bench just before the judgment was pronounced". We will appeal to the Hon'ble Supreme Court. "We are sure that we will get justice there", it said.

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The bench further added, "DDA failed to exercise its powers with regard to maintaining the ecology and floodplain".

"In the event that the expenditure for that goal, is found to be in excess of ₹5 crore, the DDA would be at liberty to recover the said amount and respondent number 3 (Art of Living) shall be liable to pay the said amount on demand", read the judgment. Conversely, any excess amount would be returned to the foundation. An expert committee, headed by water resources secretary Shashi Shekhar had stated in April that it could cost as much as Rs 13.29 crore to restore the floodplains.

It, however, refrained from imposing environmental compensation on the DDA on the ground that it has already planned construction of a bio-diversity park and improvement of floodplains from its own funds.

The NGT bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justices Jawed Rahim, Raghuvendra S Rathore and Bikram Singh Sajwan observed "regulating the right to hold cultural meeting is beyond their jurisdiction".

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