Uttarakhand HC Refuses to Stop Gupta Weddings in Ecologically Fragile Auli, But Slaps Rs 3 Crore Cost

Over 200 quintal waste had been collected from the wedding site between Sunday and Monday noon with the Municipality pressing in 7-8 trucks for the purpose, top government officials said.

Dehradun: The Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday refused to stop the weddings of two sons of controversial South African businessmen Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta in ecologically sensitive Auli, a day after pulling up the BJP government for granting permissions.

The HC, however, asked the Guptas to deposit Rs 3 crore as environmental compensation.

While extravagant pre-wedding celebrations are already underway, the main ceremonies will begin Tuesday and last till Saturday.

The court had on Monday 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 set the wrong precedent.

The court had said that 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 had 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 had also sought details on the helipads.