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Law allowing possession of lions challenged in Lahore court

Punjab wildlife secretary instructed to submit report

SAMAA | - Posted: May 6, 2021 | Last Updated: 4 months ago
Posted: May 6, 2021 | Last Updated: 4 months ago

Photo: AFP

The Punjab law which allows people to keep wild animals as pets has been challenged in the Lahore High Court.

Petitioners Sanita Gulzar Ahmed, the daughter of Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, and Syed Muhammad Ghazenfur have said that Section 12 of the Punjab Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation And Management) Act, 1974 has “unconstitutional, illegal, detrimental, noxious, hazardous and devastating effects”.

The petitioners said that the court should declare that this act ultra vires the Constitution and infringes the fundamental rights of wild animals. They asked the court to suspend the law and prohibit the wildlife department from issuing licences.

Punjab, the wildlife department, WWF-Pakistan, and Pakistan have been named as respondents. The court has summoned a report from the wildlife secretary.

The Punjab wildlife law

Section 12 of the Punjab Wildlife Act says the following.

12 (1) No person shall be in possession of any wild animal unless he be in possession of a certificate of lawful possession granted in respect thereof by the officer authorized in this behalf: provided that any person importing any wild animal, trophy or meat of a wild animal of a kind specified in the Second Schedule in accordance with the provisions of this Act or acquiring such animal, trophy or meat in accordance with the terms of a permit issued under this Act shall apply to the authorized officer for such certificate within thirty days from the date of importing or acquiring the animal, trophy or meat.

The petitioners said that the law “legalises the possession of wild animals (legal persons), thereby, depriving them of their natural habitat”, adding that this is direct violation of the fundamental rights of wild animals (legal persons) protected/guaranteed under Article 9 & 14 the Constitution.

Article 9 of the Constitution guarantees and protects the fundamental right to life and liberty of all living beings. The Islamabad High Court has, in the Kaavan verdict, held that subjecting an animal to unnecessary pain and suffering is not only an offence under the law but a breach of the constitutionally guaranteed right to life under Article 9.

Section 12 has led to wild animals being “unnecessarily deprived of their natural habitats”. They are kept in confined spaces for “mere entertainment of humans with little to zero supervision from the concerned authorities”.

These animals are often “tortured, ill-treated, food-deprived, mishandled, drugged, agitated and exposed to worst living conditions” which affects their mental and physical well-being.

“Punjab has more than 200 breeding farms across the province and more than 20 specialize in breeding exotic tigers and other big cats,” the petition said. “Over the past five years, Pakistan has imported more than 85 big cats that include pumas, tigers, lions, and leopards. Out of the total, 15, ended up as trophies for hunters.”

They remarked that there have been various instances where “horrific videos have circulated of wild animals in private possession of people who are being tortured” among others have gone viral on social media.

They even quoted some examples of animal cruelty in Pakistan:

  • Two lions died while being transferred to a private farm. They died because of the negligence of their caretakers.
  • Many exotic animals were seen caged in scorching heat at a circus in Kot Addu.
  • A video showed a person hitting a chained cub.
  • Cubs and giraffes have been used props in wedding events, festivals, and rallies. They are sedated and used merely as props.

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