The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has ordered an interim stay on the meditation camp organised by Sri Sri Ravishankar at the Thanjavur temple in Tamil Nadu.
The event which was to take place over the span of two days was due to start on Friday, December 7, the same day the Madras High Court ordered the stay. The order came hours before the event was to begin. The Madurai bench has further ordered for the removal of the temporary structure set up to accommodate those attending the 'meditation camp' and adjourned the case to Monday.
The order came after a Public Interest Litigation was filed by N Venkatesh. Protests erupted after images were posted on social media of the large pandal set up to be used by the guests of the event. Questions were raised about the damage that these big structures could do to the 1000-year-old temple. Setting up tents could weaken its structure in addition to the threat of pollution at the site.
This is not the first time that the Art of Living organisers have been fined for causing damage to the environment. Art of Living had been fined by the National Green Tribunal for 'damaging' the Yamuna river bank during three-day event called the ‘World Cultural Festival’ held in March 2016.
Heritage experts and political parties have condemned the Archaeological Society of India's decision to permit the private event on Friday and Saturday. The petition questioned why such an event was allowed at a UNESCO world heritage site.
"The authorities are allowing a private party to conduct meeting and have allowed installation of tents very close to the temple without showing any sense of preserving a monument," the petitioner stated according to a report in the TOI.
After hearing these arguments, the court pointed out that a 'meditation camp' could be held at a private hall and questioned why it was being organised at a temple. Apprehensions regarding fire safety were also raised. Art of Living's counsel claimed that such private event had been allowed on temple premises before but the state government denied this.
Following this, the court placed a temporary stay on the event and reportedly ordered district authorities to ensure that the temporary structures be removed from the site.
A division bench of Justice K K Sasidharan and Justice P D Audikesavulu directed the Thanjavur district administration to ensure all temporary structures set up on the temple premises are removed.