NEW DELHI: Holding of religious and cultural events like the cultural extravaganza organised last year by spiritual guru Ravi Shankar's Art of Living cannot be banned or stopped as these form part of the 'Right To Live With Dignity' guaranteed by the Constitution, the National Green Tribunal was told today.
The argument that such events were guaranteed under Article 21 of Constitution on protection of life and personal liberty was advanced by some petitioners in support of the AoL event who were impleded by the NGT in the case last year.
The petitioners, quoting several articles of the Constitution, contended it was their right to organise and participate in events like Kumbh, Chhath or the 'World Culture Festival' of the AOL, subject to reasonable restriction and environmental concerns.
"It is most respectfully submitted that power and authority to interpret provisions of the Constitution only rests with Supreme Court or various High Courts. It is submitted that National Green Tribunal Act 2010 does not empower this tribunal with the writ jurisdiction power of the High Courts and thus NGT is not competent to interpret the Constitution read along with any other law in operation," the plea claimed.
The plea moved by Prajanya Chowdhry, Anil Kapoor and Anand Mathur has challenged the NGT's jurisdiction to decide the issue of damage to the floodplains of Yamuna caused by the holding of three-day cultural festival in March last year.
Advocate Anirudh Sharma, who appeared for them, said the Constitution allowed individuals to hold and participate in events like World Culture Festival and any restriction would deny them such rights. The plea was filed through advocates Piyush Singh and Nitesh Ranjan.
The matter is listed for hearing on november 2.
The AOL had in the last hearing raised doubts over the satellite images used by the experts committee headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, to estimate the damage.
"The committee while submitting its report on July 28 last year has relied on a single Google satellite image of September 15, 2015. There were multiple Google images available between 2000-2015, but the committee has chosen only one image out of all the pictures which was during peak monsoons.
"At that point of the year, there were heavy rains at that site and selection of that image to ascertain the damage is questionable," the AOL counsel had claimed. The three-day World Culture Festival was held in March last year.
It had said that the experts committee appointed by the NGT had admitted in the report, dated November 28, 2016, that it did not know the condition of the site before the event.
Earlier, the expert committee had told the NGT that a whopping Rs 42.02 crore would be required to restore Yamuna floodplains which was ravaged due to the AoL cultural extravaganza.