NGT issues notice to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on contempt plea

New Delhi, Apr 27 (PTI) The National Green Tribunal today issued notice to spiritual figure Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on a contempt plea against him for blaming the Centre and the panel for damaging Yamuna floodplains by allowing his NGO’s cultural extravaganza held there.

“Notice to the respondent,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said while seeking his reply before May 9, the next date of hearing.

However, Art of Living (AOL) spokesperson and legal adviser Kedar Desai said “No such order has been passed. It is factually incorrect to report that any notice has been issued.

The matter has been simply adjourned to May 9.”

Desai’s stand was contradicted by petitioner’s counsel Rahul Choudhary who said the bench has issued notice to the AOL founder and sought his reply by May 9.

During the hearing, the bench also pulled up petitioner Manoj Misra over his plea, asking him “how this has come in the press before coming to us.”

Misra has sought action against Ravi Shankar alleging that his remarks on social media had interfered with free and fair dispensation of justice.

AOL’s World Cultural Festival was held on the Yamuna floodplains from March 11-13, 2016, to celebrate 35 years of its service.

In a statement published on the AOL’s website, Ravi Shankar had blamed the government and the NGT for permitting AOL to hold the function and said his foundation had obtained all necessary permissions, including from the green panel, and the event could have been stopped in the beginning itself if the river was so “fragile and pure”.

In a Facebook post, Ravi Shankar had said, “If, at all, any fine has to be levied, it should be levied on the Central and state governments and the NGT itself, for giving the permission. If the Yamuna was so fragile and pure, they should have stopped the World Culture Festival”.

In the plea filed through advocates Ritwick Dutta and Rahul Choudhary, Misra had said the AOL head’s statements “denigrated the dignity and status of this tribunal, which was an interference in the fair dispensation of justice”.

He had asked NGT to take appropriate action against Ravi Shankar for making the statements which “on the face of it, scandalises/tends to scandalise and interferes/tends to interfere with the free and fair dispensation of justice by the apex green tribunal.”

The NGT had earlier termed as “shocking” the charge levelled by Ravi Shankar and the AOL against the government and the green panel for the damage to the Yamuna floodplains, saying they had “no sense of responsibility”.

An expert committee had told the NGT that a whopping Rs 42.02 crore would be required to restore the floodplains which was ravaged due to the cultural extravaganza last year.

The expert panel had suggested that there would be two components of rehabilitation plan — physical and biological, which would cost Rs 28.73 crore and Rs l3.29 crore respectively, besides additional ancillary expenses.

The AOL had alleged that the findings of the panel were “biased” and made allegations against Prof C R Babu, a member of the expert panel which had quantified the damage to the floodplains.

“The Art of Living is a responsible and environment- sensitive NGO. We have never caused any damage to the environment but have in fact worked for preserving and reviving it through various environment-related projects over the years,” it had said.