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Art of Living: NGT asks expert committee to study Yamuna damages within 2 weeks

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 25 May 2016, 20:39 IST

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) today told its expert committee to visit the venue of the World Culture Festival held by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) in March. The committee has to submit a report on damages caused by the festival within two weeks.

The festival, which was held from 10-13 March, has been charged with damaging the Yamuna floodplains. Holding that the festival caused permanent damage, the NGT in an order on 9 March said that it will decide to impose a monetary penalty on AOLF based on the report of the committee. The report will not just assess damages but also give a rejuvenation plan for the floodplains, and come to a monetary value for both.

The committee is headed by Shashi Shekhar, an IAS officer currently serving as the Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. Its members include Professors Raju Gosain and CR Babu.

The committee had visited the venue in mid-April but was not allowed to enter it by AOLF volunteers, who said that the Committee should visit only after the foundation had vacated the land. The NGT pulled up the foundation in a hearing on 22 April for this.

There was some confusion about whether AOLF had vacated the land, and the committee head had written to the NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar about this.

Today the advocates appearing for both DDA and the AOLF conceded that the land had been vacated by the foundation, following which the NGT passed directions to the principal committee.

The NGT has also asked AOLF to respond within three days to a contempt application against Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for allegedly making derogatory comments about the tribunal, which were reported in a national daily. The contempt applicant has been asked to respond to the foundation's response within two weeks.

The NGT had imposed an interim environment compensation charge of Rs 5 crore on AOLF before the festival was held. The foundation paid only Rs 25 lakh, asking the NGT to accept the rest as a bank guarantee, which can be availed if the expert committee finds that damage has been done to the floodplains.

The NGT had reserved its order on whether such a bank guarantee is acceptable, and did not pass any order today.

The next hearing is set for on 2 August.

First published: 25 May 2016, 20:39 IST