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World Culture Festival: AoL tells NGT it can’t pay remaining penalty of Rs 4.75 Cr

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AOL

Art of Living (AoL) foundation expressed its inability to pay the “remaining green fine” of Rs.4.75 Crore to the National Green Tribunal that was levied against it in leu of alleged environment destruction caused by its World Culture Festival on the Yamuna floodplanes last month.

The foundation said it can only give a bank guarantee for it.

Petitioner Manoj Misra’s lawyer, Sanjay Parikh, has alleged that Art of Living did not intend to pay the penalty and was only “beating around the bush” since beginning of the case.

“They are doing so consistently from the very beginning. First they lied to the court in a sense that they don’t have money to pay for the environment destruction, their event had caused. Although the ministry of culture had released Rs.1.5 Crore for the event, but they told the court that they don’t have any money and got away by paying just Rs. 25 Lakhs in place of Rs.5 Crore,” Parikh told.

The development comes amid reports of ISIS threats to AoL head Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Parikh also expressed the apprehension that AoL was trying to get the March 9 NGT order nullified. The NGT in its judgment had established that there was “environment destruction caused to Yamuna Flood plains by the World Culture Festival” and instructed a principal committee “to verify the quantum of destruction occurred after inspecting.”

“AoL knows that principle committee’s report will be against them. So they are creating hurdles in their inspection. Now they are saying that they will decide on their own if at all any destruction has been caused to the flood planes by their event,” Parikh Said.

Meanwhile, officials from Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) confirmed, “they are not ready with the inspection report yet”.

The NGT committee comprised officials from DPCC, National Pollution Control Board, ministry of Environment and Forest Conservation and union Water Resource ministry.

AoL, though, countered the allegations insisting they have no hesitation to pay the money. “We have only asked for a change in the modalities of payment.”

The change, according to them: “We have no objection to pay the penalty if at all any damage has been done to the flood planes. We have just informed the NGT that we may like to pay in form of a Bank Gurantee than cash in this case,” AoL lawyer Akshama Nath told.

Replying to the question on creating hindrance in the way of NGT committee’s inspection, Nath blamed the delay in preparing the report on “inter-departmental mis-communication.”

“There was some confusion among the officials who visited the site for inspection and the higher up in the hierarchy of their department,” Nath said.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Development Authority has also expressed apprehensions that AoL may not pay the penalty to restore the damage done to the flood planes. They said a bank guarantee was not enough.

“If they had to do so they would have done that long back. The three weeks for paying full fine of Rs. 5 crore lapsed on April 1. The NGT committee is not at a stage to submit its report within stipulated deadline of eight weeks. If there is no report AoL’s probability of depositing the penalty is bleak,” DDA officials concerned with the case, who did not want to be named, told.

In fact, a four-member expert committee of NGT had said in its report that World Culture Festival organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation had destroyed parts of the flood-planes of Yamuna and it would require at least Rs.120 crore to restore the area to its original state.

The expert committee headed by Water Resources Secretary Shashim Shekhar was assisted by A.K. Gosain, a professor of IIT-Delhi, C.R. Babu and Brij Gopal.

India

Sanjiv Bhatt Custodial Death Case : Kapil Sibal Seeks Consideration Of Pending Review First

Kapil Sibal suggested that it is better if the court hears that review first and consider the present plea in open court.

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Sanjiv Bhatt

The Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing of the petition filed by former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt to suspend his sentence in a custodial death case of 1990, at the request of his lawyer Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal.

A Bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah and R Subhash Reddy granted adjournment for six weeks after Kapil Sibal suggested that it is better for the court to first consider the pending review against the June 2019 order which dismissed the ex-IPS officer’s plea to examine additional witness in the trial.

He submitted that this was a case of “mistrial” and “travesty of justice”.

This is case of complete mistrial”, he told the bench. “I am saying that this is a case of complete mistrial because my witnesses have not been called.

How 23 witnesses have been examined?. I am not on merits at all. I am telling you the procedure adopted. It is binding on every court”, he said.

“Out of 300 witnesses, they called only 37”, the senior lawyer added.

He informed the bench that the Supreme Court had dismissed Bhatt’s plea for examination of additional witnesses in June 2019 and that review against that order is pending. He suggested that it is better if the court hears that review first and consider the present plea in open court.

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West Bengal assembly passes resolution against farm laws

Speaking about this decision of the West Bengal assembly, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the Centre’s 3 contentious farm laws are against farmers.

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Mamata Banerjee

West Bengal assembly on Thursday passed a resolution against the farm laws. Speaking about this decision of Bengal assembly, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the Centre’s 3 contentious farm laws are against farmers.

As Mamata Banerjee passed a resolution against the farm laws, West Bengal BJP MLAs opposed the decision by chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans while staging a walkout.

Mamata Banerjee had said that Jai Shri Ram slogans at an official programme to celebrate the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was an insult to the freedom fighter as well as the chief minister.

A censure motion is moved in a Legislative House to express strong disapproval of certain policies or acts. However, Congress and CPI(M) has said that they won’t support the censure motion. Mamata Banerjee had refused to speak at an event to honour Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s 125th birth anniversary after she was irked by ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chants being directed her way at Victoria Memorial.

Opposing the reform agricultural laws, the West Bengal Chief Minister during the assembly said that these laws should not be accepted. She also appealed to the opposition parties to support and stand beside the protesting farmers. As agitating farmers continue to protest against these farm laws, West Bengal becomes the 7th state in the country to pass a resolution against the laws in Vidhan Sabha. She said, “Either withdraw 3 farm bills or leave your seats.” The other states which have passed a resolution against these farm laws include Kerala, Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhatisgarh and Punjab.

According to sources, Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) is likely to join other opposition parties to boycott the President’s address on the ongoing farmers’ protest on Friday. Bengal CM in an assembly session said that BJP should be ashamed of themselves. She further mentioned that BJP should first answer farmers’ questions and then tackle Bengal.

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Congress seeks cash transfers, reduced GST in Budget

The party said the government should increase government capital expenditure and encourage public sector banks to lend without fear of investigative agencies probing every loan.

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P Chidambaram

Ahead of the Budget Session, the Congress on Thursday demanded that the government initiate cash transfers and reduce taxes.

Addressing a joint press conference, Congress leaders P. Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh and Mallikarjun Kharge said, “As regards the economy, what needs to be done to stem the decline and accelerate the recovery have been identified by a number of economists, including those who have supported the Modi government in the past.”

“The government must impart a large fiscal stimulus to the economy, even if it is belated. Such a stimulus alone will put money in the hands of the people,” they said.

The Congress leaders asked the Centre to make direct cash transfers to 20-30 per cent of the families who are at the bottom of the economy for a period of at least six months.

The Congress also asked the government to formulate and implement a rescue plan for MSMEs to revive closed units, recover lost jobs and create new jobs for those who have moderate education and skills, and also reduce tax rates, especially GST and other indirect tax rates on petrol and diesel.

The party said the government should increase government capital expenditure and encourage public sector banks to lend without fear of investigative agencies probing every loan.

The Congress prescription for the economy included abandoning protectionist policies, re-engage with the world, enter into bilateral trade agreements with as many countries as possible, and remove the bias against imports. Formulate sector-specific revival packages for Telecommunication, Power, Mining, Construction, Aviation and Tourism & Hospitality.

“Review and rescind amendments to tax laws that have been widely viewed as tax terrorism. Initiate a comprehensive and time-bound review of the regulations made by RBI, SEBI, TRAI, CERC and other regulatory agencies that have been widely regarded as over-regulation,” Chidambaram said.

However the Congress leaders said they had no expectations from this government.

“Our effort today is to highlight the wrong policies, the incompetent economic management and the missed opportunities, and the reality is that the economy is in a recession, the recovery will be slow and painful, and the rate of GDP growth in 2021-22 (in constant prices) will be modest — no more than 5 per cent.”

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