A day after it acted on an Indian petition and asked Pakistan to put on hold the execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague announced it will hold public hearings on May 15 in the case of the retired Indian Navy officer who was convicted of espionage charges by a Pakistani military court.
“The hearings will be devoted to the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by India,” the ICJ said in a release.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa discussed the ICJ letter to Pakistan while Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, said they were “analysing” the Indian petition and the “ICJ’s authority” in the case.
Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor told reporters that Jadhav’s sentencing by a military court was done after “due process of law”.
“If the ICJ requests Pakistan anything about Jadhav, then the government of Pakistan will respond to it at an appropriate level,” Ghafoor said. He said “the process is continuing within the Army” over the court’s decision on Jadhav. He did not, however, explain the “process”.
New Delhi said it had taken the decision to approach the ICJ after “careful deliberation” to save the life and ensure justice to a “son of India” — a phrase used by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj after Jadhav’s sentencing was announced.
Gopal Baglay, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said the issue of jurisdiction is for the ICJ to decide, and cannot be decided by anyone else.
In an order late Tuesday night, ICJ president Ronny Abraham had written to the Pakistan government: “In my capacity as President of the court, and exercising the powers conferred upon me under Article 74, paragraph 4 of the Rules of Court, I call upon your excellency’s government, pending the court’s decision on the request for the indication of provisional measures, to act in such a way as will enable any order the Court may make on this request to have its appropriate effects.” The “urgent communication” from the ICJ to Pakistan government was made public on Wednesday night.
The MEA spokesperson refused to go into more details, saying he cannot disclose “privileged communication” between the ICJ and Pakistan.
“Jurisdiction issue is not for me to decide. It is for ICJ to decide, they have admitted application and initiated action. I would again refer you to article 74 and 73 which enjoin action on the President of ICJ forthwith. Jurisdiction is a matter of any court. Like in any national or country court, if the first challenge is jurisdiction, then the court will consider it. It is within the competence of the court. Not within my or your competence to pronounce ourselves on the jurisdiction,” the MEA spokesperson said.
Articles 73 and 74 come under “incidental proceedings” of the Rule of ICJ, which deals with “interim protection”.
Baglay pointed out that Jadhav was in illegal detention in Pakistan and his life was under threat. He said India had made 16 requests for consular access to Jadhav but there was no response from Pakistan. Islamabad had also not responded to India’s request for papers — chargesheet, court documents, evidence etc relating to Jadhav’s case.
There was also no information on the status of appeal by Jadhav’s family against the order of the military court which sentenced him to death. Baglay said Swaraj had written to Sartaj Aziz on April 27, requesting visa for Jadhav’s family.
“So, in this situation where life of an Indian who was kidnapped and is in illegal detention and was not given a fair trial and about whose well-being our concern persist, what we have done is approach ICJ in these circumstances. This is for a consular matter,” he said.
(With PTI from Islamabad)