Larger SC bench to hear review plea against Houbara hunting ban
ISLAMABAD: The top judge has formed a five-member larger bench to hear the government’s review petition against the apex court’s decision to ban hunting of the endangered houbara bustard in Pakistan. The case will be taken up today (Wednesday).
The Supreme Court chief justice will head the bench himself. The other members are justices Mian Saqib Nisar, Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, Umar Ata Bandial and Qazi Faez Isa.
The judge, who authored the August 19 verdict on banning houbara hunting, had opposed the formation of a larger bench to hear the review pleas filed by the federal and provincial governments.
Houbara bustard, an endangered migratory bird prized by hunters from the Gulf states, once flourished in the Arabian peninsula but has been hunted almost to extinction there.
Every winter, hundreds of Arab dignitaries flock to Pakistan on, what locally is termed, a killing spree of the bird, which is about the size of a large chicken.
The International Union of the Conservation of Nature estimates the global population of houbaras between 50,000 and 100,000 and has included them on its “red list” of threatened species.
Although Pakistan has banned its hunting, every year the government grants special permits for Middle Eastern sheikhs on “diplomatic grounds” as they bring “investment in the social sector”.
In August last year however, the top court ordered a complete ban on houbara hunting in response to petitions challenging a 2014 Sindh government order allowing hunting under special permits.
On December 10, a three-judge bench comprising justices Nisar, Isa and Sheikh Azmat Saeed of the apex court recommended the chief justice constitute a larger bench to hear appeals against the ban. Justice Isa objected to the majority judges’ suggestion and wrote a five-page note of dissent.
Opposing the constitution of a larger bench, he stated that no reason was given for recommending the formation of a larger bench. The matter, he added, was relatively simple and there was hardly any justification for forming a larger bench.
The judge wrote that neither an application was submitted nor a verbal request was made for the constitution of a larger bench. “I cannot bring myself to agree with the recommendation for the constitution of a larger bench,” he stated.
Referring to Supreme Court rules of 1980, Justice Isa said the application for review should be posted before the same bench which announced the judgment. “With utmost respect, the matters to be considered in these review petitions are not of a nature that may have required a departure from the rules and the longstanding continuous practice of this court.
“I humbly request the chief justice to let these matters be heard by the same number of judges, who had earlier heard the case,” he wrote.