On 9 May, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living Foundation was served two contempt notices for violating the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) - in connection to the controversial World Cultural Festival that was organised by the foundation on the banks of the Yamuna in March.
The WCF was held between 11-13 March and was attended by lakhs of people.
The court has accepted the pleas of main petitioner, Manoj Misra, and another environmentalist Anand Arya, to club the contempt cases to a single case that will come up for hearing on 25 May, an NGT official told IANS.
Anand Arya accused Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of "wilfully disregarding and violating the 9 March NGT order by releasing enzymes into the River Yamuna".
In his application, Arya has referred to a verdict passed by the NGT where it had "prohibited any person from throwing pooja material or any other material like food-grain, oil, etc into River Yamuna".
"It is abundantly clear that the enzymes have been released into the drains going up to Yamuna and the Yamuna itself which was pre-meditated and in utter disregard and violation of the judgment," Arya said.
The Art of Living Foundation claimed that it had prepared "totally organic enzymes with brown sugar, kitchen green waste and water in over a period of three months" to cleanse the polluted water, which the AOLF used to clean the nearby Barapullah drain.
Arya also accused the foundation of going against its own undertaking to the NGT.
According to the environmentalist, the AOLF had "given an undertaking to the Tribunal that it will not release any kind of enzymes into river Yamuna, its tributaries or any water bodies without obtaining due permission of the Central Pollution Control Board and Delhi Pollution Control Committee".
In his application to the NGT, Manoj Misra said that Sri Sri has flouted the court orders by terming the Rs 5 crore environment penalty imposed by the Green Tribunal on him as "politically motivated".
"The Applicant came across various news articles in the last few days wherein the Chairman of Art of Living has given a statement that the National Green Tribunal's decision to fine the Foundation Rs 5 crore for allegedly causing environmental damage was politically motivated," Misra said in his application filed through his counsel Sanjay Parikh.
The Art of Living has termed both the applications as "baseless".
"At the NGT proceedings, it was specifically pointed out by the Art of Living that applications filed by Anand Arya and Misra were based merely on newspaper reports and that the tribunal ought not to entertain the same," the foundation said in a written statement shared with the IANS.
Gautam Vig, Director of the foundation, told IANS that the allegations about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar giving statements against the NGT were "totally misconceived and false".
He said the video of the Sri Sri's speech "was available with Art Of Living which can demonstrate that the allegation was completely false".
Vig said, "the NGT has said that if Mishra's allegations are found without credible basis, strict action would be taken in accordance with law".
Principal Committee rapped for failure to produce report
In a related development, the Principal Bench of the NGT - headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar - has pulled up the Principal Committee appointed by it to assess the damage caused to the fragile Yamuna floodplains because of the World Culture Festival (WCF) for not submitting its report, despite having crossed its deadline.
On 9 March, the NGT constituted a 'Principal Committee' comprising officials from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, National Pollution Control Board, ministry of environment and forest conservation, and the union water resource ministry to assess the damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains.
"Everything that comes to you has got stuck. Why have you not prepared the report?" Justice Kumar asked the committee during the proceedings of the case.