NGT unhappy over Sri Sri's remark; Art of Living to pay Rs 25 lakh

New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal on Friday took strong objection to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's remark on refusal to pay Rs five crore fine in connection with the three-day cultural extravanganza on Yamuna flood plains but allowed more time to his organisation to pay up.

The panel was disturbed with Ravi Shankar's statement that he would not pay the penalty and would prefer going to jail, saying, "When a person of that stature makes such statements, it hits the rule of law. If anybody hurts the image of the tribunal, he will be taken to rule of law."

However, the NGT considered the plea of Ravi Shankar's Art of Living (AOL) Foundation that it was a charitable organisation and it was difficult for it to generate the huge amount of Rs five crore in such a short period and asked it to pay Rs 25 lakh immediately failing which the grant of Rs 2.5 crore sanctioned to it by Centre will be attached.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also clarified that the amount of Rs five crore be treated as environmental compensation and not as penalty. The bench said it will attach the grant of Rs 2.5 crore, sanctioned to AOL by Ministry of Culture for the extravaganza that commences today, if it does not pay Rs 25 lakh.

The tribunal, which had earlier directed AOL to pay a fine of Rs five crore before commencement of the event today, however, granted it three weeks time to pay remaining Rs 4.75 crore.

When the counsel appearing for AOL submitted that the statement refusing to pay was made in a context that it will be difficult to pay as the foundation is a charitable trust, the bench said adherence to the rule of law is not only the duty of government but citizens also. "Certainly adherence to the rule of law is the duty of not only the government but citizens also. The rule of law is a very foundation of administration of justice.

"If the rule of law is hurt, it will affect the justice dispensation system. This controversy loses its significance by the stand taken by the Foundation. We do not wish to go into the merits of the controversy," the bench said and fixed April 4 as the next date of hearing. The order of the tribunal came on a plea by environmental activists seeking stay on AOL's World Cultural Festival in Mumbai from today to March 13, alleging that they have not deposited Rs five crore fine.

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