Uttarakhand Govt Draws HC Ire as Controversial Gupta Brothers Get to Hold Weddings in Ecologically Fragile Auli
South African businessmen Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta, who are facing corruption probes back home, will host the weddings of their sons in Auli this week.
File photo of Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta. (Getty Images)
Dehradun: The Uttarakhand High Court on Monday rebuffed the BJP government for permitting controversial South African businessmen Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta to hold weddings of their respective sons in ecologically sensitive Auli.
While extravagant pre-wedding celebrations are already underway, the main ceremonies will begin Tuesday and last till Saturday.
Chief Justice Ramesh Rangnathan, while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), asked how and who gave permission for the weddings. According to Rakesh Bhatt, the litigant's advocate, the Chief Justice ordered the Uttarakhand Pollution Board to visit the wedding site and file a status report on the damages by Tuesday. The court said that the state government's permission to organise the wedding will set the wrong precedent.
The Chief Justice said granting the Guptas, who hail from Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh, permission to organise the weddings in Auli came at an ecological cost to the country.
The PIL filed by Rakshit Joshi has sought an environmental compensation of Rs 200 crore. The PIL also mentioned that the Uttarakhand High Court in an earlier order had prohibited night stays in the alpine meadows. The court was scheduled to hear the PIL at noon on Monday.
The Guptas had hit headlines last year for their proximity to Jacob Zuma who was ousted as South African president and is now facing corruption charges. Their posh home in the plush Johannesburg suburb of Saxonwold was raided by South Africa’s elite police in February last year.
The embattled Gupta family own a range of business interests in South Africa, including computing, mining, air travel, energy, technology and media.
The three brothers, Atul, Rajesh and Ajay, moved to South Africa in 1993 from India, just as white-minority rule was ending.
The Gupta brothers have been accused of wielding enormous political influence in South Africa, with critics alleging that they tried to "capture the state" to advance their own business interests. The family has denied all wrongdoing.
The tourism department and local administration gave clearance to host the ceremonies in Auli, a celebrated ski resort and hill station, a few days ago.
Several helicopters have also been hired and temporary helipads constructed to ferry wedding guests to and from the Dehradun airport. The court has also sought details on the helipads.
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