With his Art of Living Foundation (AoL) yet to pay the major chunk of “environment compensation” for its cultural fest on the Yamuna floodplains, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was on Thursday slapped with a contempt suit for “alleged disrespect shown by him to the orders of National Green Tribunal (NGT)”.
The matter will come up for hearing before the Principal Bench of NGT headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar on May 10.
Advocate Sanjay Parikh moved the application on behalf of environmentalist Manoj Misra in the NGT on Thursday. Misra had filed cases in the NGT against AoL for violating environment laws.
Parikh in his application said, “It is being filed to draw the attention of the Tribunal to the gross disrespect shown in the public domain by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – Chairman of Art of Living (AoL) Foundation, by casting aspersions on the Tribunal and the dispensation of justice done by it under the Rule of Law.”
He added that statements issued by Sri Sri “tends to interfere with the administration of justice and lowers the authority of this Tribunal”.
Referring to some media reports, Parikh suggested that AoL has delayed the deposition of Rs.4.75 crore of “remaining environment compensation” imposed by the NGT despite the fact that “the founder of AoL heads over Rs.234 crore worth of assets, with over Rs.81 crore in latest revenues from the United States, United Kingdom and the Netherlands alone”.
The NGT had imposed an environment compensation of Rs.5 crore on the AoL for the destruction its event, World Culture Festival (WCF), had caused to the ecology at the fragile Yamuna floodplains.
The AoL cited its inability to pay the huge amount being a charitable organisation and deposited only Rs.25 Lakh on March 11, the day the WCF was to kick off.
It had pleaded to the tribunal for more time to deposit the remaining environment compensation.
Responding to its plea, the NGT had extended the deadline further to three weeks, which too lapsed on April 1 while AoL is yet to pay the balance amount.
On the other side, Akshama Nath, counsel for AoL, told IANS: “The foundation will respond to the suit in the court if at all it gets accepted.”
She maintained that when AoL had returned the land to the Delhi Development Authority, it was cleaner and greener in comparison to what the foundation had received when it held the event.
Chief spokesperson of the AoL Sonia Madhok in a statement to IANS said: “We would like to state at the outset that this is absolutely untrue.”
She surprisingly maintained “Art of Living has never claimed that it does not have Rs.5 crore”.
“We were unable to furnish the full sum on the very day (March 11) and sought some time from the court to pay the remaining amount. Subsequently, the Art of Living, following due process of law, asked for a change in modality of payment,” she said.