PM to attend Art of Living event; AoL can deposit fine till Friday

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New Delhi, Mar 10: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday will attend inaugural function of the three-day World Culture Festival being organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art Of Living (AoL) foundation.

AOL foundation has time till Friday to give initial environmental compensation of Rs.5 crore for holding its World Culture Festival on Yamuna flood plains, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) said on Thursday.

PM to attend Art of Living event

The organisation appeared to be softening its stance after initially saying that it will not pay the fine.

Spiritual Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's comments in the morning that he would not pay Rs.5 crore fine slapped by the NGT and was prepared to go jail if the court wanted him to, triggered speculation about the course likely to be adopted by AoL.

However, after a hearing at NGT during the day (Thursday), AoL said that things were changing every moment and they have time to comply with the tribunal's order.

"We have lot of time as the event is beginning tomorrow (Friday) evening. Things are changing every moment. We are focusing on things to make the event successful," Akshama Nath, counsel for Art of Living (AoL) told IANS when asked if the foundation was willing to pay the fine.

Read More: Sri Sri's Art of Living row: All you need to know about controversy-ridden event

In a related development, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a plea seeking to block the holding of three-day event which will have performances from artists of different countries.

The apex court also asked PIL petitioner Anil Kumar to approach the NGT as it was a specialised forum to address the issue and refused to hear the plea mentioned by a counsel in the post lunch sitting of the court.

The weather office's prediction of heavy rains for Saturday gave anxious moments to the organisers who were giving final touches to their preparation for the event that will conclude on Sunday.

"Heavy rain very likely at isolated places over Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi," said an official announcement for March 12 (Saturday) by the India Meteorological Department.

The NGT had on Wednesday imposed an initial fine of Rs.5 crore on AoL headed by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and said it should be held liable for restoration of "damage caused to environment, ecology, biodiversity and aquatic life of the river".

Read More: NGT warns Art of Living to pay Rs 5 cr fine by 4pm today

A day later, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said in a TV interview that he will not mind going to jail if the court wants him to.

Asked if he would go to jail for refusing to pay the fine for the three-day World Culture Festival here, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said: "Yes, I will."

"The structure created for the event is temporary and will be dismantled after the event. We wanted to create awareness about Yamuna through this event," he added.

During its brief hearing on Thursday, the NGT asked the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) if they had issued directions to AoL for the event in accordance with its Wednesday's order.

DPCC said in its reply that "directions will be issued soon after the expert committee completes the inspection of the site".

The expert committee comprising senior officials from Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ministry of Water Resources and DPCC inspected the Yamuna flood plains on Thursday.

"The Art of Living has not got the permission from the department of Water resources, Delhi Police, department of fire control and safety for the event. We will move the application in the tribunal regarding the safety of the stage and the venue tomorrow (Friday) morning if required," Sanjay Parikh told reporters after the hearing.

Parikh is counsel of Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan which filed a petition with the NGT against holding of the festival.

In Goa, Congress demanded an apology from Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for use of army in making pontoon bridges on Yamuna.

In its order on Wednesday, the NGT had also imposed a fine of Rs.5 lakh on Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and Rs.1 lakh on the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) for failing to discharge their duties.

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