Kulbhushan Jadhav death sentence: Approaching the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was a masterstroke by the PM Narendra Modi-led NDA government in which Union Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj played a stellar role. And the pay off was virtually immediate. The ICJ stayed the death sentence imposed on retired Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, which fixed its next hearing on May 15. But the decision to approach ICJ was not so quick. Here’s how it went step by step.
The pressure was immense on South Block officials as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had told Parliament on April 11 that the government will “go out of the way” to ensure justice for the “son of India” and the decision to approach ICJ involved a series of meetings and events and planning, reported The Indian Express.
According to a top source, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad initially sent an SOS to South Block stating no lawyer in the Pakistan court was willing to take the case of the Indian. The message said the reason behind it was the Lahore High Court Bar Association ordering lawyers not to accepting the brief, and it even sent a warning that whoever did so would have his membership cancelled. It was followed by a series of meetings at various levels discussing every scenario with regard to it. It was only on April 15, India realised that it would be difficult to get a lawyer for Jadhav.
After this, it was decided to exercise all available diplomatic options so that a case could be built for approaching the ICJ. Summons were sent to Pakistan envoy Abdul Basit. Provision of certified copies of the charge sheet, proceedings of the Court of Inquiry, the judgment and the summary of evidence; provide the procedure for appeal to the relevant court; facilitate the appointment of a defence lawyer; provide a certified copy of medical report; issue visas to members of the family were also highlighted.
Meanwhile, the defence adviser at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, Brigadier Arvind Bhatia and his team suggested there was no point appealing since the appellate court was unlikely to give a decision contrary to what the chief had already approved. As tensions built up, the government asked for consular access again and got Jadhav’s mother Avanti to file a mercy petition, as well as visas for travelling to Pakistan. The appeal and the petition were sent to Pakistan foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua on April 26 followed by Swaraj wrote to her Pakistan counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, requesting his personal intervention in visas and the petition of Jadhav’s mother.
Since the appeal period for Jadhav was due to end on May 19, in early May South Block finally decided to go to the ICJ. Harish Salve was roped in to fight the case because of his reputation in international legal circles, while Joint secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) Deepak Mittal and director Vinod Jacob were among the key drafters of the petition, with help from Indian envoy Gautam Bambawale. In May first week, South Block finalised the petition. As a result of all the efforts behind India’s petition on May 8, the ICJ asked Pakistan on May 9 to put the execution on hold.