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Kulbhushan Jadhav ICJ verdict: India wins case against Pakistan

LiveMint logoLiveMint 18-05-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: India on Thursday won its case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the immediate suspension of the death sentence handed to Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav for alleged espionage in Pakistan.

In its verdict, ICJ ruled “unanimously that Pakistan shall take all measures that Mr Jadhav is not executed” pending the court’s final verdict on the matter.

The ICJ verdict, read out by court present Judge Ronny Abraham of France, also was in favour of India on several other counts, including that Jadhav was entitled to consular access despite being tried as an alleged spy and that the Vienna convention was overridden by a bilateral pact signed between the two countries in 2008. The ICJ also said that its interim order were binding on Pakistan.

“The ICJ order has come as a great relief to the family of Kulbhushan Jadhav and the people of India,” foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said in a post on Twitter.

The Jadhav case has vitiated the atmospherics between India and Pakistan with ties at a low following a spate of terrorist attacks in 2016. In case Pakistan adheres to the verdict, it could provide an opportunity for a thaw between the two countries. If Islamabad does not adhere to the verdict, it is only expected to further exacerbate tensions between the two nations.

Also Read: Kulbhushan Jadhav ICJ verdict live: Court stays Pakistan’s death sentence till final order

Arguing its case before the ICJ on Monday, India had said it feared that Jadhav, a former naval officer arrested by Pakistan in March last year, could be executed before it concludes its arguments before the court.

In its verdict, ICJ’s Abraham said Pakistan had indicated that Jadhav would not be executed before August 2017 but had not said anything that would assure the court that the execution would not happen any time thereafter.

“There is no assurance that Jadhav will not be executed before the ICJ gives its final verdict,” Abraham said adding that this supported India’s argument for urgency in the case while approaching the ICJ.

The charges against Jadhav had been framed on the basis of confessional statements extracted from him when he was in Pakistan’s military custody, counsel Harish Salve had said.

India had on 8 May moved a petition before the ICJ, the United Nation’s principal judicial organ, to seek justice for Jadhav, 46, accusing Pakistan of violating the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by Pakistan after its 16 requests for consular access to the former naval officer were denied.

The last time the two subcontinental rivals faced off at the ICJ was nearly two decades ago when Islamabad sought the ICJ’s intervention over the shooting down of its naval reconnaissance aircraft by the Indian Air Force in Gujarat’s Kutch region on 10 August 1999, killing all 16 naval personnel on board.

Also Read: ICJ verdict: what India and Pakistan said in Kulbhushan Jadhav case

A Pakistani military court had handed the death sentence to Jadhav last month for alleged espionage and subversive activities in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province.

In a ruling last week, the ICJ put a stay on Pakistan’s military court verdict.

Opening India’s arguments, Deepak Mittal, joint secretary in charge of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran in the Indian foreign ministry, had described the charges against Jadhav as “concocted” and that he was been held “incommunicado” since his arrest— a reference to the 16 requests for consular access by India that were ignored by Pakistan.

Salve on his part described Jadhav’s situation as “grave” and said that Pakistan had not responded to Jadhav’s mother’s plea to see her son. He said that Pakistan’s military court had in April alone carried out 18 executions which had stoked India’s concerns that the death sentence on Jadhav would be carried out before the ICJ could pronounce a provisional ruling.

Pakistan in its argument said India’s application on Jadhav’s death sentence was “unnecessary and misconceived.”

Pakistan’s counsel Khawer Qureshi said while India had said Jadhav was an Indian national, New Delhi had not presented Pakistan with any evidentiary proof that he was Indian. The provisions of the Vienna Convention—a treaty that defines a framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries—do not apply to a ‘spy’ involved in terror activities, Qureshi further argued.

India claims Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he was involved in business activities after retiring from the Indian Navy. India acknowledges that Jadhav had served with the Navy but denies that he has any connection with the government.

Prior to approaching the ICJ, India had also handed over to Pakistan an appeal by Jadhav’s mother, initiating a process to get his conviction overturned. Swaraj had written to Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s foreign affairs adviser to the prime minister, requesting him to issue visas to Jadhav’s family members wishing to meet him. Pakistan didn’t respond to this request too.

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