Faulting every concerned government agency over a cultural event on the fragile banks of Yamuna this weekend, a green court has slapped a Rs.5 crore fine on its organisers, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar-led Art of Living (AoL). But it did not stay the event.
Acting on petitions over alleged violation of environment laws, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) also fined the central government-led Delhi Development Authority (DDA) Rs.5 lakh and another Rs.1 lakh on the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.
“What is your primary duty? Do you believe Art of Living has not done any damage to the environment,” the livid bench said, even describing the city pollution committee “incompetent” and failing to discharge its duties.
“All (government) authorities have failed to fulfill their duties,” said the principal bench of Justice Swatanter Kumar, Justice M.S. Nambiar, Justice D.K. Agrawal and Justice B.S. Sajwan.
“For the damage caused to environment, ecology, biodiversity and aquatic life of the river, the foundation (AoL) should be held liable for its restoration in all respects,” said the bench.
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday also took note of news reports on the AoL’s cultural mega-event from March 11 to 13 and said that holding the World Culture Festival on the Yamuna flood plain appears to be a disaster from the ecological point of view.
“It’s (event) a disaster,” a division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva observed while hearing a public interest litigation on the unauthorised constructions on the river’s flood plain in Jaitpur and Mithapur areas of Delhi.
The AoL event figured in parliament on Wednesday with the some opposition parties questioning how the government deployed the Indian Army to construct pontoon bridges for the event.
Delhi Police have also flagged their concerns about managing security in view of large gathering on the Yamuna floodplains and also about the “structural stability” of the venue.
“We are not strictly concerned with the cultural event that is proposed to be held from 11-13 March, 2016,” it said.