Kulbhushan Jadhav case: ICJ orders Pakistan to review death sentence

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Published: July 17, 2019 10:24:44 PM

The International Court of Justice(ICJ) Wednesday ordered Pakistan to make an "effective review and reconsideration" of the conviction and death sentence of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav and also grant consular access, in a verdict that was hailed in India as a "big victory" for the country.

Jadhav’s arrest at the time almost coincided with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Pakistan. (PTI File photo)Noting that India has made a number of requests for the consular access, which was denied by Pakistan, the court said it was “undisputed” fact that Pakistan did not accede to India’s appeals.

The International Court of Justice(ICJ) Wednesday ordered Pakistan to make an “effective review and reconsideration” of the conviction and death sentence of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav and also grant consular access, in a verdict that was hailed in India as a “big victory” for the country.

In a reprieve for Jadhav, 49, a retired Indian Navy officer sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of “espionage and terrorism” after a closed trial in April 2017, a 16-member bench by a 15-1 vote continued the stay on the execution and held that Islamabad violated New Delhi’s rights to consular visits after his arrest.

A Chinese judge was part of the majority verdict while the ad hoc judge from Pakistan on the bench headed by President of the Court Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf of Somalia gave a dissenting opinion.

Rejecting Pakistan’s objection to admissibility of the Indian application in the case, the court in its 42-page order held that “a continued stay of execution constitutes an indispensable condition for the effective review” of the sentence of Jadhav that had strained relations between the two neighbouring countries.

The bench, however, rejected some remedies sought by India, including annulment of the military court’s decision convicting Jadhav, his release and safe passage to India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the verdict, saying “truth and justice” have prevailed while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj described it as a “big victory” for India.

Modi said he is sure that Jadhav “will get justice”.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said he spoke to Jadhav’s family and applauds their courage. “Satyameva Jayate,” he tweeted.
The External Affairs Ministry said the “landmark judgement” validated India’s position on the matter “fully” and asked Pakistan to implement the directive of the ICJ immediately.

“We will continue to work vigorously for Kulbhushan Jadhav’s early release and return to India,” said the Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Raveesh Kumar.

Opposition parties including the Congress also hailed the ICJ decision.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said she was “heartened” by the verdict.

“At last justice has prevailed. All of India joins his family in their joy!”

Pakistan on its part said it will now proceed “as per law” .

With relief writ large on their faces, Jadhav’s childhood friends in Mumbai released colourful balloons.

At Parel in south Mumbai, where Jadhav spent his childhood, his friends watched the ICJ proceedings live on a TV, with a prayer on their lips.
They watched the telecast wearing ‘India with Kulbhushan’ T-shirts and also offered special prayers ahead of the ICJ verdict.

Recalling that it had directed Pakistan to take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Jadhav is not executed pending the final decision in the case, the ICJ said Islamabad “deprived the Republic of 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”.

Pakistan was under the obligation to inform India about the arrest and detention of Jadhav under the Vienna Convention, the court said.

The bench observed that there was a three-week delay in informing India about Jadhav’s arrest on March 3, 2016, leading to a “breach” of Pakistan’s obligations under the convention.

Noting that India has made a number of requests for the consular access, which was denied by Pakistan, the court said it was “undisputed” fact that Pakistan did not accede to India’s appeals.

The court said Pakistan has not explained how any of the wrongful acts allegedly committed by India may have prevented it from fulfilling its obligation.

The judges said there was no basis to conclude that India abused its procedural rights when it requested indication of provisional measures in this case.

On Pakistan’s argument that India has failed to prove Jadhav’s nationality, the court said it was satisfied that the evidence before it leaves no room for doubt that Jadhav is of Indian nationality.

The court ruled that Pakistan is under an obligation to inform Jadhav without further delay of his rights and to provide Indian consular officers access to him in accordance with Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

The verdict in the high-profile case comes nearly five months after the bench had reserved its decision on February 21 after hearing oral submissions by India and Pakistan. The proceedings of the case took two years and two months to complete.

India moved the ICJ in May 8, 2017 for the “egregious violation” of the provisions of the Vienna Convention by Pakistan by repeatedly denying New Delhi consular access to Jadhav.

A bench of the ICJ, which was set up after World War II to resolve international disputes, on May 18, 2017 restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav till adjudication of the case.

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

A four-day public hearing in the high-profile case took place in February amidst heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following one of the worst terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed(JeM) terror group that killed 40 CRPF soldiers on February 14.
During the hearing in ICJ, both India and Pakistan submitted their detailed pleas and responses.

India based its case on two broad issues — breach of Vienna Convention on consular access and the process of resolution.

Harish Salve, who was representing India in the case, questioned the functioning of Pakistan’s notorious military courts and urged the top UN court to annul Jadhav’s death sentence, which is based on an “extracted confession”.

In his submission in the ICJ on the last day of the hearing, Pakistan’s counsel Khawar Qureshi said, “India’s claim for relief must be dismissed or declared inadmissible.”

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