The National Green Tribunal slammed Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living (AOL) Foundation on Thursday and called it "irresponsible." The self-styled guru responded saying that "those who say the Art of Living is irresponsible simply don't know us or have gained a sense of humour."
The case regarding damage to the Yamuna floodplains, where the World Culture Festival was held in March 2016, has been ongoing. A report by experts submitted to the NGT claimed that it would take 10 years and Rs 13 crore to reverse the damage done to the area. The AOL have denied the claims and called it a biased report due to the proximity of the petitioner to the expert panel.
"The truth is we have caused no damage to the Yamuna. When lies are exposed, it is shocking," Shankar said. The green court on Thursday said it was "shocking" that Shankar called the report by experts as "biased."
Shankar had said on Tuesday, "The Art of Living that has rejuvenated 27 rivers, planted 71 million trees, revived several ponds is being projected as destroying a dead river. What a joke! The silence of the so-called experts, on the debris being dumped there and permanent structures coming around exposes their malafide intentions. Over and above this, the closeness of the petitioner to the committee raises serious questions for which The Art of Living has filed a bias application, which is pending."
In response, the NGT said on Thursday, "You have no sense of responsibility. Do you think you have the liberty to say whatever you want?"
Shankar had also said, "The NGT can never get over the blot it has brought on itself by delaying natural justice to The Art of Living and allowing its own committee to malign the law-abiding organisation in the media. The Art of Living had obtained all the necessary permissions including one from the NGT. The NGT had the application file for two months and they could have stopped it in the beginning. It defies all principles of natural justice that you give permission and slap a fine for not violating any rules!"
Meanwhile, the NGT told the petitioner Manoj Mishra to file an application with the details of Shankar's statement so that the court could take it on record.
The AOL's spokesperson on April 13 called the report "completely flawed, unscientific and biased."
The AOL had alleged that the environmental compensation that they had to pay was "random." "From damage to wetlands they are now saying damage to floodplains. Their inconsistencies expose their lies," the AOL said. They also claimed that the report was not signed by the Expert Committee Chairperson Shri Shashi Shekhar.
The foundation has now said that their legal team will study the NGT report and decide on the course of action. However, it is interesting to note that the AOL foundation dubbed the report as "biased" though it was yet to study the report.
BJP, AAP united in supporting the Art of Living
Meanwhile, the BJP and the AAP have supported the foundation.
Delhi BJP's spokesperson Tajinder Bagga, who claimed to be an "AOLite", said, "The NGT's statement on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is regretful and shocking. He has committed his life to rejuvenate the society, environment and 27 rivers."
Delhi Water Minister Kapil Mishra, from AAP, also invited AOL to hold another World Culture Festival at the same location despite the NGT's stern messages about the damages to the floodplains.