Despite a high rate of environmental wrongs, Sindh lacks a green court
KARACHI: While courts continue do an admirable job in prosecuting violent criminals, there seems to be a glaring lack of ‘green courts’ in the province as environmental rights offenders go unpunished.
In April 2012, Mushir Alam, who was the provincial chief justice at the time, announced that special green benches will be established in the high court along with several district courts across the province. The high court registrar, Faheem Siddiqui, confirmed that former SHC chief justice Mushir Alam also gave orders to set up green courts but the orders have yet to be implemented.
Justice Alam had stated that the idea of constituting green benches or courts was to ensure that those found guilty of violating environmental standards do not go unpunished.
The decision to establish green courts and tribunals was decided in the Bhurban Declaration, which was adopted by judiciaries of various countries in April 2012. The idea was agreed upon after representatives of Pakistan, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Brazil and Malaysia discussed the deteriorating environmental conditions and sought solutions.
“In accordance with the Bhurban Declaration, special green benches have been established in the Supreme Court of Pakistan as well as the high courts of Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad and Quetta,” environmental lawyer Qazi Ali Athar told The Express Tribune. However, no such bench has been established in Sindh.
The need for a green court
Windy storms have become the norm in some areas of Sindh as the timber mafia cuts down forests at an alarming rate, Athar revealed. “Despite a notification from the provincial chief justice regarding the constitution of ‘green benches’ in the province, no action has been taken to implement it,” he pointed out. “The number of anti-terrorism courts in Karachi has increased from three to 25 but a green court has yet to be established.”
However, the environmental lawyer informed The Express Tribune that the Sindh government is working on establishing these courts, revealing that a draft is being prepared.
He remains optimistic about their positive impact on the environment. “Once the proposed law is passed by the provincial parliament, it will pave the way for a pollution-free environment.”
Pakistan Muslim League-Q provincial president Haleem Adil Shaikh believes that the lack of specialised environmental benches shows that the judiciary needs to focus more on environmental issues. “It is very unfortunate that environmental cases usually attract the least amount of interest in the courts,” he stated.
A total of three petitions have been filed against the high level of contamination and pollution in Manchhar Lake, which is believed to be the one of the largest fresh-water reservoirs in Asia, and Keenjhar Lake, which is the main source of Karachi’s water supply. Other environmental petitions have also been filed including petitions against the illegal cutting of forests in interior Sindh and mangroves deforestation along Karachi’s coastal belt. Due to the lack of a specialised green court, these cases are being heard in different courts across the province.