March 19, 2021
The Sindh High Court’s (SHC) Sukkur Bench on Thursday, March 18, ordered the suspension of memberships of two Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MPAs for failing to ‘ensure people’s safety in their constituencies against dog bites’.
The bench, comprising Justice Aftab Ahmed Gorar and Justice Faheem Ahmed Siddiqui, also directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to issue a notification in this regard to Faryal Talpur of Ratodero and Malik Asad Sikandar of Jamshoro.
“The remaining members of the provincial assembly are once again directed to supervise the ongoing drive against dog bite cases, and ensure that in future no dog bite case happens,” urged the bench, while also warning other MPAs that they will be held accountable for any dog bite incident reported in their constituency, and their memberships possibly revoked. The court has adjourned further proceedings till March 31.
“The courts can declare an MPA unfit for their duty, but to suspend a member of the provincial assembly based on their performance is not within the courts’ jurisdictions,” said Salauddin Ahmed, the President of the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA), who said that there did not seem to be any legal precedent for such an order. “The issue of stray dogs is a concern for the government, particularly the local government. I do not think MPAs have any role in this matter.”
But the former secretary of the ECP Kunwar Muhammad Dilshad disagreed, stating that the Supreme Court and the high courts had complete authority to order the suspension of an MPA for misconduct or failure to comply with the court’s orders.
“The Sindh High Court had warned the relevant lawmakers that in the event a dog bite incident is reported in their constituency, then they will be suspended,” he explained. “These MPAs have their foot in every door, they have control over the local government. Why don’t they just go to the Sindh High Court and file an appeal?”
He stated that once the ECP receives the order, it will issue the notification without much delay.
Nafisa Shah, Member of Parliament from PPP, expressed her befuddlement at the SHC bench’s order, which she termed ‘judicial overreach’. She questioned how MPAs could be held responsible for a task that does not even fall in their job description.
“MNAs and MPAs are legislators. There is no law that dictates the suspension of an MPA if even a single child in their constituency is bitten by a stray dog,” she clarified. “Suspension orders should rather be given to local municipal administrators and council officers. Ministers can be contacted in this regard as they are executives and have the authority to hire and fire officers. MNAs and MPAs have no power. They have no offices, no secretaries…how can they ensure that dog bites do not occur in their constituencies?”
Although Shah did not provide if Talpur and Siddiqui will challenge the order, she said that approaching the courts in this regard is their legal right. However, she urged all the sensible quarters of society to call to attention the fact that the order may set a worrying precedent.
“Dog bites occur in every part of the country. If MNAs and MPAs keep getting suspended for every incident in their constituency, our assemblies and parliament will soon be empty!”
Meanwhile, animal activists have been raising the issue of dog bites and rabies, and have been pushing for scientific methods to eradicate such incidents, including TNVR (Trap Neuter Vaccinate Release), which would control the dog population and aggression both.