IN WHAT could be an incremental step towards providing legal remedy to former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is on death row in Pakistan on charges of spying and terrorist activities, the Islamabad High Court on Monday said India should be given “another chance” to appoint a lawyer to defend him.
Pakistan’s Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan told reporters on Monday that the court asked the Pakistan government to allow Indian authorities to appoint a lawyer who is licensed to practice in Pakistan.
“Now that the matter is in the high court, why not give India another chance,” said Chief Justice Athar Minallah, who headed the two-member bench, according to Geo News.
Asked if a team of Indian lawyers could assist the Pakistani lawyer, Khan said no such option has been given so far. The hearing has been adjourned till September 3.
“The government of Pakistan shall once again inform Jadhav regarding his rights…he shall be specifically informed of his right to avail the statutory remedy… and to authorise the Government of India to arrange legal representation on his behalf,” the court said in its written order.
“Pakistan government shall communicate this order to Govt of India, the latter shall be at liberty to make appropriate arrangements on behalf of Jadhav,” it said.
Last month, India said that Islamabad had “blocked all the avenues” for an effective judicial remedy. Indian diplomats were not allowed to get the “Power of Attorney” legal document signed by Jadhav during the consular access meeting on July 16.
On July 22, the Pakistan government filed a review petition, seeking appointment of a “legal representative” for Jadhav. The court constituted a two-member bench to hear the plea.
On Monday, the court said it would be appropriate to constitute a larger bench to hear the matter. It also appointed three prominent lawyers of Pakistan, including a former Attorney General, as amicus curiae.
In July 2019, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) directed Pakistan to allow consular access to Jadhav and undertake an “effective review and reconsideration” of his conviction and sentence.
The Pakistan government, in its petition, asked the court to appoint a legal representative for Jadhav so that it could implement the ICJ’s decision. It also claimed that Jadhav refused to file a review petition or an application to reconsider the verdict against him by the military court.
The Indian High Commission in Islamabad had hired a lawyer earlier and made repeated requests for access to documents related to the case. Pakistan had said the documents could only be handed over to an authorised Pakistani lawyer. Thereafter, India had appointed a Pakistani lawyer.
“To our surprise, as advised by the Pakistani authorities, when the authorised Pakistani lawyer approached the concerned authorities, they declined to hand over the documents to the lawyer,” the Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson, Anurag Srivastava, had said on July 23.
In the absence of “unimpeded” consular access to Jadhav, and to the relevant documents, India tried to file a petition on July 18. “However, our Pakistani lawyer informed us that a review petition could not be filed in the absence of a power of attorney and supporting documents related to Jadhav’s case,” the MEA spokesperson had said.
He said Pakistan also created “confusion” over the last date of filing a petition.
Sources told The Indian Express on Monday that there cannot be any headway until Pakistan provides unimpeded and unhindered consular access, where the Indian diplomats can “freely” discuss the case details with Jadhav and get the “Power of Attorney” signed by him, and the Pakistan government provides all the relevant documents – FIR, chargesheet, military court’s judgment etc.
Over the past year, India has requested consular access 12 times. So far, Pakistan has not provide unimpeded access. In September last year, consular access was provided, but the meeting was recorded and Pakistani officials were present in the room.
Last week, the MEA spokesperson had said: “We reserve our position in this matter and which includes the right to avail of further remedies, and we stand committed to protect the life of our national Kulbhushan Jadhav.”