AoL asked to pay Rs 4.75 cr environment compensation

New Delhi, May 31 (IANS) The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday directed the Art of Living (AOL) Foundation to pay the remaining Rs 4.75 crore as environment compensation for damage caused to the Yamuna floodplains due to the World Culture Festival (WCF) it held in March.

The NGT had levied Rs 5 crore environment compensation on the foundation, which had deposited Rs 25 lakh before the three-day event kicked off on March 11 in the Yamuna floodplains in Delhi.

The principal bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar dismissed the AoL’s plea whereby the foundation offered to pay the remaining amount through a bank guarantee.

Meanwhile, the Art of Living said it is exploring the option of challenging the tribunal’s order in the Supreme Court.

“We find the verdict unjust and, if need be, after reviewing the order we will go to the Supreme Court. We have not violated any law or done any wrong,” said an AoL statement.

“We don’t agree with the tribunal’s observations. The Art of Living has neither polluted air, water or earth. We have left the WCF site in a better condition than what we got. We have an extensive repertoire for environmental work and find these allegations unacceptable,” said the statement.

“What a section of the media is enthusiastically calling a fine is not a fine but a compensation deposit.”

The AoL claimed that the NGT passed the order on a report prepared on the basis of a mere visual inspection and that no scientific assessment of the site was done.

“We have been asked to compensate an amount arrived at arbitrarily. The damage has not even been assessed,” the AoL said.

In another case related to the same event, NGT has directed the Principal Committee to inspect the venue of the WCF and submit its report to the tribunal before July 4.

Rejecting AoL’s plea to reconstitute the committee, NGT Chairperson Swantanter Kumar offered the foundation to add two more members to the four-member committee, which the foundation declined.

AoL had accused the existing panel, led by Sashi Shekhar that includes A.K. Gosain, Brij Gopal and C.R. Babu, of having a bias against the foundation.

“You can’t go lamenting allegations against everybody. We are not going to change the members. We may add two more members including one former IAS officer and one NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) officer provided you withdraw the application,” Justice Swatanter Kumar said while hearing the matter.

AoL declined the proposal and chose to argue its plea on the findings of the committee, when submitted to the NGT.

–IANS

vin/rn/vt

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