Minister, senior officials may face court proceedings over lions’ death in Islamabad

Updated 04 Aug 2020

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The court was told that the lion and lioness of the zoo that died apparently because of negligence were shifted to a private farmhouse, not to a sanctuary as was directed by the IHC. — AFP/File
The court was told that the lion and lioness of the zoo that died apparently because of negligence were shifted to a private farmhouse, not to a sanctuary as was directed by the IHC. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) intends to proceed against Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Malik Amin Aslam, secretary of the ministry and officials of Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) for violating the court orders related to the shifting of animals from Marghazar Zoo.

The court was told that the lion and lioness of the zoo that died apparently because of negligence were shifted to a private farmhouse, not to a sanctuary as was directed by the IHC.

“This court had directed relocation of the caged animals to sanctuaries and not to the private farmhouse,” IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked.

Subsequently, he observed: “This court intends to proceed against the chairman and each member of the IWMB under the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003.”

The court directed Deputy Attorney General Syed Mohammad Tayyab to “submit the names of the minister for climate change, special assistant and secretary ministry of climate change and other members of IWMB.”

Justice Minallah sought a report from the IWMB chairman on the death of the lion and lioness.

The court was told that the lion and lioness were relocated to a private farmhouse near Lahore. The court observed that the ‘disturbing footage’ of the relocation of the animals reflected negligence, carelessness, unprofessional and brutal handling of the lions by the IWMB.

Moreover, the court also noticed that Himalayan brown bears were critically endangered species and their protection and conservation was the duty of the IWMB.

Justice Minallah observed that in pursuance of the court order of May 21 that directed the government to release the miserably detained animals to their respective sanctuaries, a board was notified, comprising the minister, special assistant, secretary climate change, the CDA chairman, the chief metropolitan officer Islamabad, inspector general forest and wildlife, secretaries forest Khyber Pakhtukhwa and Punjab.

He recalled that on the last date of hearing the court was told that the members were not taking interest in relocation of the animals.

As per the court orders, the “members mentioned in the notification of March 16, 2020, were made jointly and severally liable in case of harm caused to the animals during their relocation.

“This was in view of apathy on part of the officials who appeared interested in taking control of the management of Marghazar Zoo rather than accepting responsibility for the welfare and protection of endangered species kept in deplorable conditions,” the court order said.

“Moreover, the climate change ministry is responsible on behalf of the federal government to ensure compliance with the ratified international conventions.”

The court directed the IWMB chairman and the secretary climate change to appear in person, and adjourned hearing of the case to Aug 4.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2020