NEW DELHI: The three-day long 'World Culture Festival' organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living (AOL) today crossed last minute hurdles as attempt to stall the mega show failed in the National Green Tribunal which gave more time to the organiser to pay Rs 5 crore fine.
However, the relief to the AOL Foundation came with a stinker from the green panel which took strong exception to the remarks of Ravi Shankar on refusal to pay Rs five crore environmental compensation and instead stating he would prefer to go to jail.
"When a man of his stature makes such statements, it hits the very rule of law. If anybody hurts the image of the tribunal, he will be taken to rule of law. Don't treat tribunal as subject to your controversy with regard to the event," a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar said.
During the over two-hour long proceeding in the jampacked court, the bench said that to maintain the dignity and majesty of the institutions, rule of law has to be upheld. The panel directed AOL to pay Rs 25 lakh immediately failing which the grant of Rs 2.5 crore sanctioned to it by Centre will be attached.
The direction came after the Foundation said it was a charitable organisation and it was difficult for it to generate Rs five crore in such a short period of time. NGT had earlier asked AOL to pay this amount prior to the event.
The counsel said Ravi Shankar's statements were made in a different context and they had no intent to disregard the conditions imposed by the tribunal. The bench said that the tribunal is only concerned with compliance of its directions with regard to the pollution of river Yamuna during the course of event and asked all concerned authorities to ensure that conditions are complied with by AOL.
The panel, however, granted it three weeks time to pay remaining Rs 4.75 crore after AOL gives Rs 25 lakh immediately. "Certainly, adherence of rule of law is the duty not only of the Government but of every citizen of the country. The rule of law is the very foundation of the administration of justice system.
"If the rule of law is undermined, it raises a challenge not only for the justice delivery system, but even on the capability of the Government to enforce the rule of law," the panel said. The bench also directed all the concerned authorities including DDA to take all necessary steps to hold the event, ensure no pollution is caused to the river Yamuna and devise mechanism for disposal of the municipal solid waste.
The order of the tribunal came on a plea by environmental activist Manoj Mishra seeking stay on AOL's World Culture Festival here from today to March 13, alleging that they have not deposited Rs five crore fine.
The petition has alleged that AOL has not taken mandatory permissions from competent authorities like fire department, police and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD). The hearing in NGT was held amid heavy deployment of CRPF and Delhi police personnel after some Rashtrawadi Shiv Sena members held demonstration against its order on imposing environment compensation on AOL.
Meanwhile, the Foundation in the morning mentioned before the bench an application seeking four weeks time to deposit the compensation amount and comply with all the directions of the tribunal. During the hearing, on being asked by the tribunal if the AOL had received the Rs 2.5 crore grant from the Ministry of Culture, the counsel for AOL informed that Rs 1.68 crore had been disbursed to it out of the total amount.
The tribunal also pulled up Ministry of Water Resources for not doing anything to protect river Yamuna from pollution despite directions. "What have you done? Have you inspected the river? Despite directions you have not checked pollution in the river," the bench said.
During the hearing, a member of Ojaswi Party was also thrown out of the court room for disturbing the proceedings with the NGT issuing a show cause notice to him for contempt of court. However, on the request of another member of Ojaswi Party, the green panel said it will not take contempt action but warned him that no unpleasant language should be used by anyone in the court room.
"If we give you liberty it doesn't mean that you can say anything. The prestige and decorum of the court has to be maintained. No one is allowed to use unpleasant language in the court room," the bench said.
The green panel was also informed by Ministry of Environment and Forests, Central Pollution Control Board and Delhi Pollution Control Committee that a team in compliance with the direction had visited the site and issued necessary directions with regard to disposal of municipal waste, usage of drinking water and power.
Counsel for AOL also informed the bench that all necessary pending permissions from competent authorities including the fire department have been received. Yesterday, the tribunal had directed AOL Foundation to pay the entire amount of Rs 5 crore by today saying law will take its own course if it fails to do so.
The NGT had earlier expressed its helplessness in banning the event, saying it was "fait accompli". The tribunal, which found several environmental violations by the organisers, blamed the delay on the part of environmental activists in raising the issue before it which compelled it to grant permission for event.