LAHORE: Mr. Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of Lahore High Court has said that after the Bhurban Declaration, Chief Justice of Pakistan had directed formation of Green Benches in every High Court and District Court of the country and now 5 Green Benches are working in High Courts and 133 in District Courts of Pakistan for resolution of environmental issues.
Hon’ble Justice was speaking at the 2nd South Asian Judicial Roundtable on Environmental Justice, jointly organized by the Royal Court of Justice of Bhutan in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank ADB in Thimphu. More than 80 participants comprising Chief Justices, Senior Judges, ministry officials and legal & environmental experts across South Asia gathered to discuss the region’s most pressing environmental challenges and issues on environmental adjudication.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, adorning the Green Bench at Lahore High Court, represented the Judiciary of Pakistan at the conference. He highlighted the pros and cons of Bhurban Declaration in detail and presented the Pakistan perspective on environment human health and its economics as well as access to environmental justice and alternative dispute resolution.
At the inaugural session, Hon’ble Chief Justice Lyono Sonam Tobgye of the Bhutan Supreme Court welcomed the participants and threw light the importance of sustainable use of natural resources to achieve national economic development that is in the line with Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness. Mr. Christopher Stephens, General Counsel of ADB also made the opening remarks and dilated the importance of environmental governance for sustainable development.
At the culmination of the Roundtable, the participants unanimously adopted the Thimphu Declaration on Enhancing Environmental Justice in South Asia which recognized the judiciary’s importance and unique role in ensuring environmental preservation by upholding constitutional cases.
Participants agreed that the recognition of such role requires continued enhancement of the judiciary’s capacity and knowledge on environmental issues and appropriateness of the judicial structure should be reviewed to ensure that institutional gaps within the judiciary are dealt with.
The Thimphu Declaration also proposed to develop a regional approach for safeguarding the environment and share information on environmental justice. Participants unanimously agreed to work on and build consensus on a draft, Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation between South Asian Judiciaries to further enhance collaboration on information exchange, capacity building, and strengthening the judiciary’s focus on environmental issues.