In a major diplomatic, moral and legal victory for India, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Thursday asked Pakistan not to execute former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is currently facing charges of spying by Pakistan Military court, pending its final decision and inform it of the steps being taken to implement the order.
“This court unanimously decides that Pakistan shall take all measures at its disposal so that Kulbushan Jadhav is not executed pending a final decision of this court in the matter. It also unanimously decides that the court must be told of the measures Pakistan takes to implement this order,” ICJ President Ronny Abraham said in the operative portion of the order which he read out in the open court for nearly 30 minutes.
Officials of both the countries were present when the judge asked the registrar to communicate the order to both the parties. In the detailed order, the court said prima facie it felt that it had jurisdiction to go into the matter given the details of the present case.
The court also found that there is a line between the rights India seeks to assert and the provisional measures the court can deploy. Justice Abraham noted the Pakistan counsel’s argument that Jadhav would not be executed till August but there was no assurance that he would not be executed after that.
The court also noted that Jadhav should have been given consular access as sought by India.
The decision comes after India sought the court’s intervention for an immediate suspension of Jadhav’s death sentence, fearing that the Indian national may be executed even before the ICJ decided the case. India also accused Pakistan of violating the Vienna Convention by denying consular access to Jadhav and pronouncing him guilty of espionage in a “farcical trial”.
Indian lawyer Harish Salve alleged that the trial of Jadhav was held under “farcical” circumstances in violation of the Vienna Convention.
The lawyer told the court that Jadhav was kidnapped in 2016 from Iran where he was pursuing his business after retiring from the Indian Navy, brought to Pakistan and was shown to have been arrested in Balochistan and presented as an alleged Indian spy.
His alleged confession admitting he worked for India’s external spy agency R&AW and his involvement in terror activities was extracted in a military custody, Salve said.
He urged the court to direct Pakistan to see that Jadhav was not executed and “no action is taken that might prejudice the rights of India or Jadhav with respect to any decision the court may render on the merits of the case”.
Jadhav was awarded the death sentence by a Pakistani military court last month, a year after he was arrested on espionage charges. Islamabad has rejected 16 Indian requests for consular access to Jadhav, held at an unknown prison in Pakistan.
Salve demanded that Pakistan should annul Jadhav’s death sentence as he was not even given a chance to defend himself.
Pakistan, however, rejected the plea on the ground that India had no right to invoke the jurisdiction of the UN’s highest court because the Vienna Convention does not provide for matters relating to spies, terrorists and those who indulge in espionage.
Islamabad also asked the court to reject India’s plea for provisional measure in the case.
India approached the ICJ on May 8, accusing Pakistan of “egregious violations” of the Vienna Convention in the matter of the detention and trial of Jadhav.
Denying the charges, Pakistan has maintained that it had requested an Indian assistance in the investigation of Jadhav’s alleged “involvement in espionage and terrorist activities in Pakistan”, which it said New Delhi did not provide.
The face-off over Jadhav has brought relations between the two rival neighbours to a new low.