In a ruling which brought “great relief” to New Delhi on Thursday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague stayed the execution of former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who had been sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court on charges of espionage and subversive activities. Reading out the verdict, ICJ president Ronny Abraham said: “Pakistan shall take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Mr Jadhav is not executed pending the final decision in these proceedings and shall inform the court of all the measures taken in implementation of the order.”
The United Nation’s highest judicial body, which had earlier been approached by India, noted: “… the mere fact that Mr Jadhav is under a death sentence and might therefore be executed is sufficient to demonstrate the existence of a risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights claimed by India”. “Pakistan has indicated that any execution of Mr Jadhav would probably not take place before the month of August 2017. This means that there is a risk that an execution could take place at any moment thereafter, before the court has given its final decision in the case.”
“The court also notes that Pakistan has given no assurance that Mr Jadhav will not be executed before the court has rendered its final decision. In those circumstances, the court is satisfied that there is urgency in the present case… The court also decides that, until it has given its final decision, it shall remain seized of the matters which form the subject matter of this order.” As soon as the order came, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj who described the verdict as a “great relief”. They thanked senior lawyer Harish Salve, who headed the battery of lawyers presenting India’s case.
While Swaraj said the government “will leave no stone unturned to save Jadhav”, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the verdict “endorsed the relevance and necessity of procedural and substantive fairness that was denied by Pakistan”. Officials in South Block, glued to their TV screens from 3.30 pm when the verdict was read out at The Hague, said the fact that the ICJ had endorsed India’s legal position on all counts was a “major sense of satisfaction”.
Gopal Baglay, spokesperson for the ministry of external affairs, said, “The provisional relief provided by the ICJ is the first step in ensuring justice to Jadhav. The order by the ICJ is unanimous, favourable, clear and unambiguous. The verdict a matter of great relief for people of the country.” In her tweets, Swaraj said: “The ICJ order has come as a great relief to the family of Kulbhushan Jadhav and people of India. I assure the nation that under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi we will leave no stone unturned to save Kulbhushan Jadhav.” Asserting its jurisdiction over the case, the ICJ backed India’s contention that there has been violation of the Vienna Convention on consular relations since its requests for consular access to its national had been denied.
“The court then turns to the question whether the rights alleged by India are at least plausible. It observes that the rights to consular notification and access between a state and its nationals, as well as the obligations of the detaining state to inform the person concerned without delay of his rights with regard to consular assistance and to allow their exercise, are recognised in Article 36, paragraph 1, of the Vienna Convention, and that India has alleged violations of this provision. In the view of the court, therefore, it appears that the rights alleged by India are plausible,” the court order stated. — (With agencies)