The National Green Tribunal (NGT) said on Thursday that the Art of Living (AoL) Foundation “has time till tomorrow [Friday] to pay Rs. five crore in initial environmental compensation, and the law will take its own course if it fails to do so.”
Giving the go-ahead for the three-day World Culture Festival, being organised on the fragile floodplains of the Yamuna, the tribunal had asked the foundation to pay the Rs. 5 crore fine before the start of the event on Friday evening.
But Art of Living founder Ravi Shankar told NDTV on Thursday afternoon that he would rather go to jail than pay the fine. He argued that he had not violated any rule, hence was not liable to pay any penalty. He said the foundation would challenge the tribunal’s order in the top court.
Arguing against the festival, Sanjay Parikh, counsel for the petitioners, however, said: “He is a spiritual guru and a leader. It would only set a good example if the law of the land is followed. We will of course take legal action as required if they go on appeal against the NGT’s order or fail to pay the penalty.”
According to the organisers, 3.5 million people from across the world will take part in the event.
No urgent hearing
The NGT was informed by counsel for the Delhi Development Authority that the Art of Living Foundation had not deposited the initial penalty that needed to be paid ahead of its World Culture Festival.
On an application which said the foundation had not paid the amount till 5 p.m., the tribunal said they still have time till Friday. Refusing to have an urgent hearing of a fresh petition for a stay on the event alleging that the AoL had not taken permissions from the competent authority as directed by the tribunal, chairperson Swatantar Kumar said: “There is no urgency in it.”