IHC gives govt a week to implement order on animal rights

Published July 12, 2020
Chief Justice Athar Minallah on May 21 had ordered the release of the caged animals because mismanagement at the zoo posed a threat to them. — File Photo
Chief Justice Athar Minallah on May 21 had ordered the release of the caged animals because mismanagement at the zoo posed a threat to them. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has given the federal government a week to implement its order regarding moving the lone elephant in Marghazar Zoo, Kaavan, and other animals to their respective sanctuaries.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah on May 21 had ordered the release of the caged animals because mismanagement at the zoo posed a threat to them.

Earlier last week, the court also hinted at initiating criminal proceedings against Climate Change Minister Zartaj Gul and other senior officials from the ministry and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) for delaying the release of the animals, noting that with Kaavan and the other animals confined to the zoo and facing continued unnecessary pain and suffering, “the members of the wildlife board, which include the minister in charge of the climate change, appear to have exposed themselves to criminal proceedings under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1890 besides initiation of proceedings under the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003.”

On Saturday, the climate change secretary, Islamabad chief commissioner and IWMB officials appeared before the court.

Climate change secretary, chief commissioner and IWMB officials appear before court

Justice Minallah expressed displeasure with their lethargic attitude towards the wellbeing of the animals. He warned them not to politicise the matter for the sake of taking control of the zoo at the cost of the misery of the helpless animals.

He directed them to hold a meeting on July 13 to finalise the strategy to shift the animals to their respective sanctuaries.

Further hearing in this matter has been adjourned till July 18.

In May, the court had declared that the lone elephant Kaavan and all other animals were kept in confinement at the zoo illegally and that their condition and incarceration amounted to subjecting these living beings to unnecessary pain and suffering.

In pursuant to the order of May 21, the IWMB notified an expert committee, with WWF Senior Director Programme Pakistan Rab Nawaz as its chairman and biodiversity specialist Z.B. Mirza as the co-chairman.

As per the terms of reference of the expert committee, it would examine establishing a sanctuary in Pakistan which meets the behavioural, social and physiological needs of Kaavan.

In the landmark judgment, Justice Minallah held that like humans, animals also have natural rights which ought to be recognised, and that it was a right of each animal, a living being, to live in an environment that meets its behavioural, social and physiological needs.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2020

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