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How Art of Living managed to circumvent the NGT ruling and could get away paying only Rs 2.5 cr, despite its open defiance

Those who thought the NGT’s 9 March insistence that the AoL pay a fine ofRs 5 crores before going ahead with the event at the disputed site ofYamuna was too mild, compared to the kind of devastation which it is likelyto cause to the site, must today concede that the NGT order “being mild”was probably an understatement. In today’s order (read below), the NGTappeared too willing to accept AoL’s offer of Rs 25 lakh now, and pay thebalance within three weeks.

It appeared as if even this amount stood the risk of not being paid, if theNGT did not accept the latest offer from the AoL

Public interest lawyer and activist, Prashant Bhushan, tweeted: “NGT’sexpert panel said 120 cr. Yet NGT levied 5 cr fine. Even that deferred!Clearly SriSri like Mallya enjoys impunity!”

The prayer before the NGT today was that the concerned authorities shouldbe directed to take steps to stop all activities with respect to theproposed event being held at the site in question.

At the outset, the NGT accepted the undertaking given by the AoL, forcompliance of all the directions issued by the Tribunal. The NGT, in viewof this undertaking, chose to ignore what Sri Sri was telling the varioustelevision channels that he did nothing wrong, and therefore, would not paythe fine of Rs 5 crores imposed on AoL

The AoL’s counsel today contended before the NGT, that SriSri’s statementssuggesting of non-compliance with the NGT’s orders were made in a differentcontext. This too, the NGT considered it as “very fair”.

Secondly, the AoL, in view of what Sri Sri has been telling the media,sought the NGT’s indulgence to treat the amount of Rs 5 crore payable bythem as the restoration amount for a biodiversity project of the DDA,instead of being taken as compensation amount or a penalty.

This, too, the NGT readily agreed to, and took pains to point out that the9 March order only imposed Environmental Compensation under Sections 15and 17 of the NGT Act, 2010 and not a penalty.

But with a clear finding that the AoL caused damage to the environment,ecology, biodiversity and acquatic life of the river, and that it should beheld liable for its restoration in all respects, for the NGT to concludetoday that a penalty is not required to be imposed on the polluter underSection 26 of the Act – in view of the Environmental Compensation amountpayable by them -is indeed a travesty of sorts.

More significant, the NGT appears to have given a clean chit to the AoL,despite SriSri’s statements allegedly undermining public confidence in theadministration of justice.

According to the NGT, in view of AoL’s fresh affidavit, this controversyloses its significance.

One wonders what this fresh affidavit has revealed to the NGT about AoL’scredentials of commitment to rule of law, that it is so convinced about itssincerity. The order itself is silent on the specific averments made inthat affidavit.

Lastly, today’s order says that if the amount of Rs 25 lakhs is notpaid withinthe time now allowed, then the amount of Rs 2.5 crore to be paid by theMinistry of Culture and Tourism would stand attached in the hands of theMinistry and, or in the Bank.

The order is silent on how the remaining compensation of Rs 4.75 crores isrecoverable, if not paid by the polluter.

11 March AOL Order

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