Tuesday July 16, 2024

Court dismisses plea to lodge FIR against Karachi administrator, zoo officials

By Yousuf Katpar
May 11, 2023

A sessions court dismissed on Wednesday an application seeking registration of an FIR against Karachi Administrator Dr Saif-ur-Rehman and former as well as incumbent Karachi Zoo directors over alleged criminal negligence that led to the death of 17-year-old African elephant Noor Jehan.

Advocate Imran Aziz moved an application before the court under sections 22-A and 22-B of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), naming the SSP complaint cell and he Garden station house officer (SHO) as respondents, the Karachi administrator, and Khalid Hashmi and Kunwar Ayub, former and current Karachi Zoo directors, respectively, as proposed accused.

On Wednesday, Additional Sessions Judge Ashfaq Muhammad Awan announced his verdict after hearing arguments from both sides. He observed that no evidence of alleged negligence was provided with the application. On the contrary reports submitted by police and the proposed accused showed that measures were taken and a tusk surgery on the elephant was carried out by foreign experts.

“Be that as it may be, in my humble opinion, the death of Noor Jehan, the elephant, is a loss to the exchequer as Pakistan had paid about 40 million for acquiring the elephant from Tanzania, Africal; however, contributory to such death being the result of negligence on part of the official/proposed accused person is an element which requires deeper element,” the judge said, adding: “The contention that an FIR should be lodged and then it should be seen whether they have [committed] negligence or not is actually not correct proposition.”

The judge said the congnizable offence had to surface and that negligence might be there, but was it a criminal, the answer thareto was not available. He said a petition regarding treatment and proper care of elephants was also pending before the Sindh High Court.

The judge said that this court could be approached when there is a cognizable offence and a report thereto has been refused by the police. “No cognizable offence is made out and negligence whether it is criminal or otherwise is an element which is subjudiced before the honorable High Court of Sindh,” he maintained, adding that the sections of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1890 were otherwise a non-cognisable offence for which a direct complaint is to be filed under the law.

The state prosecutor argued that no cognisable offence was made out as the elephant died due to an ailment and had not been killed to invoke Section 429 of the Pakistan Penal Code. He said the offences under the animals cruelty act are non-cognisable for which a direct complaint is to be filed.

The counsel for the propsoed accused said that the applicant’s allegation didn’t constitute any cognizable offence. Neither any negligence nor any criminal act had been committed by his client, he added.

Earlier, the applicant had stated that on April 22, female elephant Noor Jehan, an asset to the Karachi Zoo, died due to criminal negligence and carelessness of the proposed accused. “The elephant was kept in unsanitary and inhumane conditions, which led to her deteriorating health,” he claimed.

He said the elephant was severely malnourished and had been suffering from various ailments, including arthritis and a foot infection, for a long time, and that despite repeated calls from animal rights activists and concerned citizens, the authorities didn’t take adequate measures to improve her living conditions or provide her with proper medical care.

The lawyer said, “The negligence and cruelty shown towards Noor Jehan amount to a criminal offence, and the individuals involved must be held accountable, and after the registration of an FIR, the law enforcement agencies must conduct a thorough investigation into the matter and take strict action against the culprits.” He maintained that he approached the police station concerned for the registration of an FIR, but to no avail.