NEARLY FIVE months after India urged the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague to annul the death sentence handed by a Pakistani military court to former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, and order his immediate release, the court will deliver its judgment on July 17.
“A public sitting will take place at 3 pm (6.30 pm IST) at the Peace Palace in The Hague, during which Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, President of the Court, will read the Court’s decision,” a statement by the ICJ, which is the UN’s principal judicial organ, said Thursday.
India is likely to send its legal and official team, comprising lawyer Harish Salve and Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran), Deepak Mittal, to the Netherlands for the judgment.
Pakistan claims to have arrested Jadhav, a retired Navy officer, within its borders on March 3, 2016. India was informed of the arrest on March 25, 2016, when the Pakistan Foreign Secretary raised the matter with the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad. On that day, India sought consular access to Jadhav at the earliest.
In April 2017, 48-year-old Jadhav was sentenced to death on charges of espionage and terrorism. On May 8 that year, New Delhi moved the ICJ against the “farcical trial” by Pakistan’s military court. It also raised the “egregious violation” of provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963, by Pakistan, which repeatedly denied consular access to Jadhav.
A 10-member bench of the ICJ then restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav until adjudication of the case. It also set a timetable for the public hearing in the high-profile case from February 18 to 21 this year at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the Netherlands.
In February, the two countries presented their arguments before the full bench, which comprised of an ad hoc judge from Pakistan as well since former Indian judge Justice Dalveer Bhandari is on the bench.
In its plea, New Delhi told the court that, as a last resort, it could direct Pakistan to hold Jadhav’s trial in a “civilian court” and grant him all the legal recourse, including consular access. However, it maintained that its first plea remains that Jadhav should be released and given safe passage, and that the military court’s conviction be annulled. These options were spelt out by joint secretary Mittal at the ICJ.
India’s demand to nullify the military court’s decision indicated a marked shift from its earlier plea in May 2017, when New Delhi had sought “immediate suspension” of the death sentence, its anullment and if that was not possible, for ICJ to declare the decision as “illegal” and release Jadhav.
India had based its case on two broad issues — breach of Vienna Convention on consular access and the process of resolution.
Pakistan insists that the Jadhav is a “spy” and not a businessman. It claims that its security forces arrested him from the restive Balochistan province after he reportedly crossed over from Iran.
However, India maintains that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Navy. Jadhav’s sentencing had evoked a sharp reaction in India, especially after Pakistan rejected its ICJ plea for consular access, claiming that New Delhi wants to get the information gathered by its “spy”.
Pakistan finally facilitated a meeting of Jadhav with his mother and wife in Islamabad on December 25, 2017, after which India protested against Islamabad’s treatment of the two family members.