PC: ICJ official website

In a grand victory for India, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on July 17 ordered Pakistan to review Conviction of Kulbhushan Jadhav and grant him consular access.  His death sentence “should remain suspended until Pakistan successfully reviews and reconsiders the conviction and sentence” said the court, agreeing with India’s claim that Pakistan had violated the Vienna Convention by denying consular access to Jadhav after his conviction in a “farcical” closed trial.

The Pakistani Military Court had sentenced Jadhav, a retired Indian Navy Officer to death on the charges of “espionage and terrorism” after a closed trial in April 2017. This sentencing stirred up a tension between the two neighbouring countries. 

The ICJ is the successor of the Permanent Court of International Justice that was established in the year 1920. ICJ was constituted in the year 1946 as an organ of the United Nations. India moved the ICJ on May 8, 2017, on the grounds of gross violations of the Vienna convention, when Pakistan repeatedly denied New Delhi consular access to Jadhav. ICJ had restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav till the adjudication of the case.

Pakistan claimed that its security forces had arrested Jadhav from Balochistan province on March 3, 2016, after he reportedly entered from Iran. However, India maintains that Jadhav was abducted from Iran, where he was conducting business after retiring from the Indian Navy. Pakistan had repeatedly rejected India’s plea for consular access to Jadhav contending that New Delhi was trying to get the information gathered by its “spy.” However, Pakistan facilitated a meeting of Jadhav with his mother and his wife in Islamabad on December 25, 2017.

A four-day public hearing of this controversial case took place in February amidst the rising tension between the two countries following one of the worst terror attacks in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-based terror group called Jaish-e-Mohammed that took lives of 40 CRPF Soldiers on February 14. During this hearing, both India and Pakistan submitted their detailed pleas and responses. India stressed over two broad issues; Violation of the Vienna Convention and the Process of Resolution.

Harish Salve, who represented India in this case, questioned the scandalous ways in which the Pakistan Military Court functions and urged the UN Court to annul Jadhav’s death sentence, which seemed to be based on an “extracted-confession.” In his Submission to the ICJ on the last day of the hearing on February 21, Pakistan’s counsel Khawar Qureshi pleaded, “India’s claim for relief must be dismissed or declared inadmissible.”

The ICJ observed that Pakistan had not informed Jadhav about his rights. “Pakistan deprived India of the right to communicate with and have access to Mr. Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, to visit him in detention and to arrange for his legal representation,” it noted. There was a three-week delay in conveying the information of Jadhav’s arrest to India, said the judge.

The verdict of this high profile case was fifteen to one in favour of India; the lone dissenting opinion came from the Judge from Pakistan. It has come nearly 5 months after the bench led by Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, reserved its decision upon hearing oral submissions from both India and Pakistan. The case took two years and two months to conclude.

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