The Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Thursday sounded defiant saying he would rather go to jail than pay the fine imposed on his organisation by the national green tribunal (NGT) for environmental violations over a cultural extravaganza on the floodplains of Yamuna.
"We have not done anything wrong. We have been taintless and will remain so. We we will go to jail but not pay a penny," said Ravishankar.
The National Green Tribunal on Friday made it clear to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art Of Living (AOL) Foundation which is organising World Culture Festival that it has time till tomorrow to pay Rs five crore fine and law will take its own course if it fails to do so.
"They still have time till tomorrow to deposit Rs 5 crore fine as environment compensation in compliance with the directions of the tribunal," the Green Tribunal said on an application which said AOL has not paid the amount till Thursday.
The NGT on Wednesday had imposed a fine of Rs five crore on AOL as environmental compensation while clearing the decks for its three-day cultural extravaganza.
The organisation's chief Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also tweeted that AOL was not "satisfied" with the verdict of the NGT and would appeal against it. He urged political parties not to "politicise" the event.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also denied that any tree at the venue was felled and claimed that the trees had only been pruned and all they had done was level the floodplain.
"Not a single tree was felled. Trees were only pruned and we levelled the floodplain," he said on Friday.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also expressed confidence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the festival and claimed that people opposing it would "soon see sense".
"This is like a Cultural Olympics. 37,000 artistes from all over the world would come together at one single platform.
This is an event to bring people closer to each other. Event of this magnitude should be welcomed," he told NDTV.
Notwithstanding the raging row over environmental damage due to the 3-day festival, the NGT yesterday gave its go ahead to the event to be held on the Yamuna floodplains from March 11, expressing its helplessness in banning it because of "fait accompli".
Nevertheless, it imposed a fine of Rs five crore on AOL as environmental compensation after coming down heavily on the foundation for not disclosing its full plans. The green bench also criticised the DDA and Environment Ministry for their role.