New Delhi: For its massive festival held on the banks of the River Yamuna in Delhi, the Art of Living, led by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, must pay nearly Rs 5 crore as a fine, the country’s top environment court said today, offering strong criticism of the organization, reports media.
The Art of Living had been allowed to go ahead with the three-day “World Culture Festival” on the banks of the River Yamuna on the condition that it would pay a five-crore penalty for damage to the area’s delicate ecosystem. Hundreds of thousands of devotees attended the event which included what was billed as the world’s largest stage, spreading over seven acres.
The organisers paid Rs. 25 lakh at the time, and said the rest would be given later. They then asked that the Rs. 4.75 crore that they owed be treated as a bank guarantee and that it should apply towards their efforts to create a biodiversity park in the area. The Art of Living “used the order of the court to hold the event and then went back on its commitment,” the National Green Tribunal said today, adding that the organisers have tried multiple legal cases “in order not to pay the fine” as a result of which the “conduct of the foundation has been called into question.”
Environmentalists had accused organisers of ripping up vegetation and ruining the river’s fragile ecosystem by damaging its bed and disrupting water flows.
The opening of the event was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, though President Pranab Mukherjee dropped out after the controversy over environmental clearances erupted.