CP No. 5421 of 2014 – [WWF and Others Versus Federation of Pakistan and Others]
The aforementioned Constitutional Petition was filed by various NGOs, human rights activists and an animal rights group namely ‘PAWS’ who approached the Honourable Sindh High Court at Karachi against the seminal issue of animal trafficking, when Black Spotted Turtles were illegally being smuggled from Pakistan to Thailand. This incident had occurred in Karachi on 20th September 2014, when the Pakistan Customs officials caught the turtles from the International Departure Hall at Jinnah International Airport. The accused tried to smuggle 218 turtles out of which 45 died while in custody of the Wildlife Department and the rest were release into the sea. It is pertinent to note that both turtles and tortoises are endangered, exotic and declared to be under serious threat of extinction, hence protected under the law and accordingly any kind of export relating to them is restricted. The Petitioners, through the Petition sought enforcement of ecological rights, including a right to clean environment with natural habitat and wildlife, directions to the concerned authorities to take appropriate legal action against the accused in the form of civil and criminal proceedings and to conduct investigations and penalise government as well as private officials who take part in such illegal export of wildlife species in order to curb such criminal acts.
The accused was brought before the criminal courts but the Petitioners stressed that the Customs officials should also initiate separate proceedings under Customs law according to procedure. During the course of proceedings it was revealed that the accused was eventually brought before the Customs authorities, who had only imposed a fine of Rs. 2,00,000/- on the accused, where under the law the prescribed punishment for such Act is upto 14 years.
Subsequently, the Honourable High Court vide Order dated 25.03.2015, disposed of the Petition endorsing the right to life inclusive of a constitutional right to clean environment with a natural habitat; declaring that inaction by Customs officials against private persons for smuggling is a violation of Customs laws as well as the Constitution, 1973; that the federal and provincial governments are to publish a detailed programme of measures to be taken in helping prevent the menace of smuggling native wildlife species and to take such measures as to develop and enforce the methods of complying with the safety and protection of the wildlife species.
Note: PILER was not a party to the case but this case was initiated and pursued with the help of PILER.