Three days after India and Pakistan presented their arguments at the Hague, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Thursday stayed the execution of former Indian navy officer Khulbhushan Jadhav, pending a final decision in the case.
In an unanimous decision, the 11-member court 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 present Order. The Court also decides that, until it has given its final decision, it shall remain seised of the matters which form the subject-matter of this Order.”
Saying that the matter, prima facie, falls under its jurisdiction, the court obeserved that India has presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Jadhav was at risk of being executed before they could complete the hearing in the case. “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 entire thing was a charade, Pakistan completely blown by this decision.The decision is certainly binding for both states,” the court said.
Dealing a blow to Pakistan, the court clarified that provisions of the Vienna Convention can be invoked even in cases of those charged with espionage. The court also made it clear that its order is binding to all parties of the case.
Expressing her delight in the ICJ order going India’s way, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted: “The ICJ order has come as a great relief to the familly of Kulbhushan Jadhav and people of India. We are grateful to Mr.Harish Salve for presenting India’s case so effectively before ICJ. I assure the nation that under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi we will leave no stone unturned to save. I compliment my team of officers in the MEA for their tireless efforts and hard work.”
Reacting to the temporary relief granted by the international court, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi hoped the final deciision would also come in India’s favour. “India stands victorious, congratulate all concerned persons, especially the External Affairs Ministry. Hope that final decision also comes India’s way and we can see Mr.Jadhav come back home,” he said. Rohatgi also appealed to Pakistan to allow Jadhav’s family members to meet him in prison.
Earlier, India had sought the ‘annulment’ of the death sentence awarded by a military court in Pakistan to the former Indian Navy officer calling it ‘farcical’. India had also asserted fears that Pakistan might execute Jadhav before the hearing of ICJ was over. Pakistan on the other hand had said that India was using ICJ as “a stage for political theatre”. Pakistan also claimed that they have solid evidence of Jadhav’s espionage activities.
On April 10, a military court in Pakistan awarded death sentence to Jadhav for alleged “espionage and subversive activities”. Following that, on May 8, India approached ICJ for an urgent hearing and sought suspension of the plea. Acting on the Indian petition, the ICJ two days later wrote to the Pakistan government to put on hold, effectively, the execution of Jadhav. In its petition, India had argued that Pakistan had violated the Vienna Convention with regards to consular relations and that he had been given “no right” to defend himself.
On May 15, the public hearing in the case was held in the ICJ with India and Pakistan producing arguments in the case of Jadhav’s death sentence. This was after 18 years that India and Pakistan had come face-to-face in the World Court. In the ICJ, Harish Salve, India’s counsel, reiterated India’s claim that the death sentence awarded by the Pakistani military court was a violation of the Vienna Convention on consular relations. Salve’s Pakistani counterpart, Khawar Qureshi said that India’s plea in the case was ‘irrelevant’ as the Vienna Convention did not apply in the case of a ‘spy’. While on the issue of consular access to Jadhav, Salve said that Pakistan had rejected 16 requests by India. Qureshi on the other hand said that “spies cannot get consular access” and that all information regarding Jadhav’s investigation was given to India.
While Salve argued that there was no evidence of Jadhav being a spy and that he was kidnapped from Iran, Qureshi responded by saying that Pakistan had “solid evidence” to prove with regards to his activities and that he was arrested from Balochistan. Ending their arguments, Salve demanded provisional measures from the ICJ to prevent damage to Jadhav, while Qureshi challenged his request saying no such relief be provided.