Justice Jawad Hassan of the Lahore High Court (LHC) formed a committee on Wednesday to examine the loopholes in laws that allow keeping wild animals as pets.
Justice Jawad was hearing a petition – filed by the daughter of the Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed – that challenged Section 12 of the Punjab Wildlife Act 1974, through which wild animals were deprived of their natural habitats and kept in confinement.
The wildlife secretary will lead the committee, Justice Jawad stated, adding that the court would alter the act if need be.
During the proceedings, a wildlife officer told the court that no one issued the license to keep wild animals at home and that licenses were issued only for those animals which could easily be looked after at homes.
The petitioners, Sanita Gulzar and Syed Muhammad Ghazenfur filed the petition making the provincial government, wildlife department secretary, World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan (WWF) president and Ministry of Climate Change as respondents.
She maintained that due to Section 12 wild animals have been unnecessarily deprived and kept in confined spaces for the mere entertainment of humans, with little to no supervision from the concerned authorities.
Sanita further highlighted that the wild animals were often tortured, mistreated, starved, mishandled, drugged, agitated and exposed to bad living conditions, which is detrimental for their mental and physical well-being. Resultantly, the fundamental right to liberty – enshrined under Article 9 of the Constitution – of these wild animals is unjustifiably infringed.
She added that the right to life and liberty as written in Article 9 has been interpreted to extend beyond human beings and apply to animals in general as well.
Sanita stated that the respondent province of Punjab has more than 200 breeding farms across the province and more than 20 specialise in breeding exotic tigers and other big cats. Over the past five years, Pakistan has imported more than 85 big cats including pumas, tigers, lions and leopards to name a few. Out of the total, 15 ended up as trophies for hunters.
According to the respondent WWF, a leading organisation in wildlife conservation, the factors stated above played a significant role in shrinking the population of tigers globally.
Quoting some examples of the video clips which went viral, Sanita said that two lions met a terrible fate at the hands of unprofessional animal caretakers as they died while being transferred to a private lion farm.
She implored the court to declare that Section 12 of the Act is ultra vires the Constitution, and that it infringes upon the rights enshrined under Article 9 and Article 14 of the Constitution.
She further asked the court to suspend the operation of Sections 12 (b) prohibit respondent (no-2) from issuing licenses under the Act.
Section 12(1) states that “Certificate of lawful possession: 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.”