The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday stayed the proceedings before a judicial magistrate in turtle-smuggling case till further orders.
Headed by Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar, a division bench also issued notice to official respondents – interior secretary, secretary climate change division, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman, chief secretary, home secretary, secretary wildlife department and others to file their respective replies on a petition against smuggling of endangered species.
The World Wide Fund for Nature Pakistan and others non-governmental organisations (NGOs) approached the court against the federal as well as provincial authorities over their failure to take action against private persons under the customs laws for their involvement in illegal smuggling of turtles.
Advocate Faisal Siddiqui, representing the petitioners, submitted that smuggling of turtles and tortoises particularly black spotted turtles, declared vulnerable and endangered species had escalated in the past two years.
Recently, 218 fresh water black spotted turtles, which were being smuggled to Thailand, were confiscated from Karachi Airport. Subsequently, the custom authorities arrested the alleged smuggler and handed over to Sindh wild life department without registering a case against him under the Custom Act 1969.
The Sindh wildlife department registered a case against accused under the Sindh Wild Life Ordinance 1972 and produced him in court of Malir’s judicial magistrate. However, the alleged smuggler was later released by court on bail.
He argued that custom authorities had confiscated travelling document of the alleged smuggler under the custom laws but it did not institute proceeding against him which was required to be initiated under the Custom Act 1969.
He submitted that a judicial magistrate was adamant on framing charges against alleged smuggler without providing opportunity of hearing to him. He said he had also filed application for transfer of case from the court of present judge to another competent court.