Reversing an official position that it confirmed in Supreme Court in 2013, India on Monday said it would look at approaching the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Pakistan over the brutal torture and death of Kargil martyr Capt Saurabh Kalia in 1999.
GOI willing to reconsider stance on case pertaining to Kargil martyr Capt. Saurabh Kalia http://t.co/JHyAAP7PDj
— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) June 1, 2015
Terming the “circumstances” surrounding the case “exceptional”, the Centre said it has “now reviewed” its position and was “open to invoking the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)”.
It added that it would request the Supreme Court to decide on the legality of its revised position.
This is in stark contrast to the stand taken by the NDA government last December when it responded to a Supreme Court notice on a PIL on the beheading of Indian soldiers at the LoC by saying that “no PIL could seek an action against a foreign state”.
In September 2013, the previous UPA government had informed Supreme Court that “it cannot invoke the jurisdiction of ICJ (in the Kalia case) since both India and Pakistan are members of Commonwealth”.
On Monday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told reporters in Udaipur that the government has reviewed the Centre’s stated position.
Swaraj was responding to a report quoting a recent reply by Minister of State for External Affairs Gen (retd) V K Singh, to a question by Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar, in which he said a solution “through international courts… was not found feasible”.
With TV channels taking up the issue, Vikas Swarup, spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, said in a statement: “This position, which was stated in the affidavit filed by the government on September 26, 2013, has now been reviewed.
(The) government will be requesting the Supreme Court to pronounce on the legality of the stand, taking into account the exceptional circumstances. Subject to the above, the government would be open to invoking the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.”
The statement said the government had “conventionally held the position that India and Pakistan cannot invoke the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in relation to disputes concerning armed conflicts, hostilities etc and as they are both members of the Commonwealth”.
This is the first time that the Centre has officially indicated a change in position that it had stuck to since 1999 when the first NDA government was in power under Prime Minister A B Vajpayee.
Reacting to the revised stand, the late Capt Kalia’s father said he would trust the government’s assurance only if it is backed with action.
“India must approach the ICJ against Pakistan. I have lakhs of countrymen with me, backing my demand. I am pinning my hopes on the Supreme Court, which has fixed the next hearing in August. I am confident of getting justice,” N K Kalia told The Indian Express.
In 1974, India had committed to ICJ that it would adhere to a number of conditions, one of which was it cannot invoke its jurisdiction on another Commonwealth country.
In 1999, when a Pakistan Navy aircraft was shot down by Indian missiles, India had questioned the jurisdiction of ICJ in such disputes.
Capt Kalia, from the 4 Jat Regiment, was captured along with five other soldiers by Pakistani soldiers on May 15, 1999. Their mutilated bodies, with signs of severe torture, were returned to India on June 9, 1999.