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You don't deserve any sympathy: NGT to Art of Living Foundation

Nihar Gokhale | Updated on: 21 April 2016, 19:08 IST

The Art of Living Foundation was sued by the National Green Tribunal for holding a three-day cultural event on land which is a part of the eco-sensitive Yamuna floodplains, in March.

The NGT had held that the event caused permanent damage to the floodplains, but allowed it against a Rs 5 crore payment.

During hearings on 21 April, the counsel for AOLF said a letter was given to the DDA on 18 April which says it returned the land. AOLF claims that they have returned the land "in a better condition than before." The DDA counsel interjected that the land authority's officials have not received the letter since the letter was only deposited at the DDA office's reception.

The NGT did not take too kindly to the confusion.

"This is very disappointing. What kind of conduct is this? You don't deserve any sympathy," NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar told the AOLF counsel.

The bench was also incensed because its expert committee was not allowed to enter the event location by AOLF last Friday. The committee, headed by water resources secretary Shashi Shekhar, is tasked with assessing how much damage the AOLF caused to the floodplains.

Posting the matter for hearing on 22 April, the NGT has asked for a final clarification from the DDA on whether it has received the land. It has also asked the relevant DDA official to be present before the tribunal.

Contempt Application

A contempt application has also been filed against AOLF. The application accuses Art of Living Foundation of violating the NGT's January 2015 order that prohibited any activity on the floodplains of the Yamuna, as well as for violating the conditions on which the NGT allowed the event to take place.

While AOLF was allowed to conduct the event against a payment of Rs 5 crore, the Foundation has only paid Rs 25 lakh and requested to pay the rest by a bank guarantee.

The question of whether such a bank guarantee is acceptable will also come up in the hearings on 22 April.

The Ministry of Culture had sanctioned Rs 2.5 crore for the AOLF event to take place, but the government's counsel told the NGT that the money has not yet been disbursed. The NGT had said that it will freeze the amount if AOLF does not pay the remaining Rs 4.75 crore.

First published: 21 April 2016, 18:28 IST
Nihar Gokhale @nihargokhale

Nihar is a reporter with Catch, writing about the environment, water, and other public policy matters. He wrote about stock markets for a business daily before pursuing an interdisciplinary Master's degree in environmental and ecological economics. He likes listening to classical, folk and jazz music and dreams of learning to play the saxophone.