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Green tribunal gives go-ahead to mega event on the condition that the initial payment is made by today evening
In a latest directive on Friday, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) allowed the Art of Living Foundation (AOL) to carry on with the World Culture Festival provided the latter initially pay Rs 25 lakh of the Rs 5 crore total penalty.
On Wednesday, the NGT had levied fine worth Rs 5 crore on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s organisation. The fine was to be later adjusted in accordance with the actual cost of damage at the venue and subsequent restoration work to be determined by an independent body. The NGT move has prompted the AOL founder to take a defiant stance and refuse payment.
In its defence, the AOL said that it sought permission to host the event from the Delhi Development Authority and had kept the authorities concerned informed of all the activities at the site.
The matter related to the payment of fine was heard again at the NGT in the morning with AOL counsel arguing that being a charitable trust it was not possible to arrange for such a big amount at a short notice.
The counsel also argued that the amount should be used for the creation of the proposed biodiversity park that the NGT had directed the AOL to construct in the area instead of being levied as fine.
In response, the green tribunal directed the AOL to deposit Rs 25 lakh not as penalty, but as “environmental compensation” while the remaining amount would be collected within three weeks.
The NGT added that if the initial payment was not made by Friday evening, grant worth Rs 2.25 crore given by the Ministry of Culture to the AOL for the event would be frozen.
The tribunal also directed the concerned authorities to ensure that there was no pollution at the Yamuna flood plains during the three-day long festival.
The festival is being held on the occasion of AOL’s 35th anniversary. According to the foundation’s counsel, the event would cost Rs 26 crore.
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