New Delhi: A green court here on Friday cleared the decks for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s controversial cultural festival and gave his foundation three more weeks to pay Rs.5 crore in damages for holding the jamboree on the fragile Yamuna floodplains in Delhi.
But heavy downpour wreaked havoc in parts of the national capital, including at the venue in east Delhi's Mayur Vihar. There was a complete chaos as thousands of people tried to enter the sprawling venue complex on the marshy floodplains of the river, witnesses said.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) earlier asked the Art of Living Foundation, which is organising the event, to pay Rs.25 lakh on Friday only. The remaining part of the compensation can be paid in the next three weeks, the court said.
The court ordered that if the foundation fails to pay Rs.25 lakh by Friday evening, the grant of Rs.2.5 crore given to it by the union culture ministry will be stopped.
“How much environment compensation you can pay today to maintain the sanctity of the order,” NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar asked the foundation’s counsel.
Counsel said that the foundation “will be able to deposit Rs.25 lakh” only before the event takes off.
In its application, the foundation said that it is a “charitable organisation and it is difficult" for it to generate Rs.5 crore in a short period.
The court also clarified that Rs.5 crore is not a penalty or fine as was widely reported but an amount imposed on the foundation as environmental compensation.
The court authorised the Delhi Development Authority and Delhi Pollution Control Committee to take an action against the organisers “if they are found violating any security or pollution norms”.
The tribunal also took an exception to Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shakar's statement that he would rather go to jail rather than pay Rs.5 crore. “Such a statement is not expected from a person of high stature like that of the AoL founder," the court said.
However, the spiritual guru's counsel replied that the comments by Ravi Shankar “were taken out of context".
Petitioner Manoj Misra, who had earlier sought cancellation of the event over environmental concerns, approached the green court Friday alleging that the foundation had not respected the tribunal's Wednesday order of paying the compensation before the event takes off.
The foundation in its affidavit submitted to the tribunal said it is complying with the tribunal's order and has implemented the directions received from the environment ministry and water resources department.
The next hearing has been scheduled for April 4.
The organisers have spent Rs.25.63 crore for the event, which is expected to attract some three lakh participants, including foreigners.