Uttarakhand HC orders monitoring of wedding in Auli for possible green damage

The Uttarakhand high court on Monday directed the state pollution control board to monitor the upcoming wedding of the sons of two South Africa-based tycoon brothers in the ski destination of Auli in Chamoli district for possible damage to local environment.

The court also said there would be no helicopter sorties to Auli and no helipads will be constructed or used in Auli area for the wedding. It, however, permitted event managers to use pre-existing helipads in neighbouring areas after getting required permissions.

The high-profile wedding of the sons of Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta – known as Gupta brothers — is scheduled to take place over four days from June 18 to June 22 at Auli, situated at an altitude of 2,505 metres. People monitoring the arrangements peg the wedding to cost an estimated Rs 200 crore.

MP Pant, counsel of petitioner Rakshit Joshi, said the court directed the state government to inform it on Tuesday morning whether the venue where the marriage is scheduled is a grassland/Bugyal as the Gupta brothers’ lawyer said it was not a grassland/Bugyal .

These directions were issued by a division bench of chief justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice Alok Verma after hearing the PIL filed by Kashipur-based lawyer Joshi. The bench heard both sides for hours on Monday.

The PIL alleged that the wedding and its preparations in the ecologically sensitive Auli area were being held in violation of various environmental norms. The PIL will heard again on Tuesday.

The court said it was of the view of that Rs 5 crore should be tentatively deposited by the Gupta brothers before the marriage for restoring the venue after assessing the environmental damage due to the marriage.

The court said once the marriage is over and the Gupta brothers return to South Africa, it can’t do anything as they would be out of their jurisdiction. The high court said after restoration, the rest of the amount would be refunded.

TS Bindra, counsel of the Gupta brothers, said his client had got the required permissions and the security amount was high and it should be reduced.

The HC also detected the event manager of the marriage to submit the details number of guests, heaters, air conditioners, manpower being used by them during the ceremony.

During the arguments, Pant told the court that Chamoli area was famous for Bugyals /meadows regarding which the high court had already passed a landmark judgment in August last year, restricting the number of visitors to such areas and ruling that no camping activity should be permitted on these grasslands.

Bugyal means high attitude meadows/pasture lands. But Bindra said the marriage was not in a meadow and as such the HC order of last year was not being violated.

Ecology of this state has bearing on whole country: Chief Justice

Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan was critical of marriages being held in such environmentally sensitive area of Uttarakhand.

He remarked that if the government allows such marriages, it would set a precedent and then more rich people will want to hold weddings in such areas.

“They want to be the first to hold a wedding in such an area… Why this area… why not somewhere else…. why can’t it be held in Nainital… or Serengeti in Africa… Just one state Uttarakhand is left to save this country… two-thirds of the country’s green cover is here…. you want to destroy this beautiful state… ecology of this state has a bearing on the whole country…,” the Chief Justice said.

First Published:
Jun 18, 2019 14:59 IST

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