Setback to Sri Sri, NGT says no bank Guarantee, AOL should pay Rs 4.75 crore fine

NGT rejected AOL's appeal to treat the fine as a bank guarantee, so that they can create a biodiversity park in the area, instead of payment

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) must pay the remaining Rs 4.75 crores as fine for flouting environmental norms while conducting World Cultural Festival on the banks of Yamuna, said the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday.

Rejecting a plea of AOL over the Rs 5 crore fine it was owed to pay for allegedly damaging Yamuna’s biodiversity, NGT stated that the organization has tired in many ways to escape from paying the remaining amount after it “used the order of the court to hold the event.”

NGT rejected the appeal of the organization to treat the money they owed as fine as a bank guarantee, so that they can create a biodiversity park in the area, instead of payment.

The organization has conducted the massive World Cultural Festival on the banks of Yamuna in March which was marked by the participation of several lakhs including multiple celebrities. Before the event was commenced, Green Tribunal had slammed a fine of  Rs 5 crore to the organization for damaging floodplains, in which it paid 25 lakhs and asked for more time to pay the full amount.

Earlier, the founder of AOL Sri Sri had said that he will rather go to jail than paying the fine and had claimed the organization “left the site in better condition than it found it.” He had also argued that no trees were cut during the event.

Many environmentalists had come forward that time criticizing the event for it badly affected on the river’s flow.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also took part in the opening session of the event, where President Pranab Mukherjee skipped it on the wake of controversies.

Earlier, on Monday the Foundation has accused an expert committee formed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) of bias and moved an application for its reconstitution.

“The Art of Living objects to the existing expert committee led by Sashi Shekhar, and including A.K. Gosain, Brij Gopal and C.R. Babu, who arrived at an arbitrary figure of Rs.120 crore based on a very brief and mere visual assessment without following the scientific process,” a statement issued by AOL’s chief spokesperson Sonia Madhok said.

Expressing doubts over the findings of the committee — appointed to examine the impact the World Culture Festival in March had on the ecologically fragile Yamuna floodplains — the AOL asserted: “The committee has pre-judged the issue and are under self-imposed pressure to justify that figure, creating a bias for itself.”