The Hague/New Delhi
The International Court of Justice on Wednesday ordered Pakistan to make an “effective review and reconsideration” of the conviction and death sentence of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav and also grant consular access, in a verdict that was hailed in India as a “big victory” for the country.
In a reprieve for Jadhav (49), a retired Indian Navy officer sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of “espionage and terrorism” after a closed trial in April 2017, a 16-member bench by a 15-1 vote continued the stay on the execution and held that Islamabad violated New Delhi’s rights to consular visits after his arrest.
A Chinese judge was part of the majority verdict while the ad hoc judge from Pakistan on the bench headed by president of the court judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf of Somalia gave a dissenting opinion.
Rejecting Pakistan’s objection to admissibility of the Indian application in the case, the court in its 42-page order held that “a continued stay of execution constitutes an indispensable condition for the effective review” of the sentence of Jadhav that had strained relations between the two neighbouring countries.
The bench, however, rejected some remedies sought by India, including annulment of the military court’s decision convicting Jadhav, his release and safe passage to India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the verdict, saying “truth and justice” have prevailed while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj described it as a “big victory” for India.
Modi said he is sure that Jadhav “will get justice”.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said he spoke to Jadhav’s family and applauds their courage. “Satyameva Jayate,” he tweeted.
The external affairs ministry said the “landmark judgment” validated India’s position on the matter “fully” and asked Pakistan to implement the directive of the ICJ immediately.
“We will continue to work vigorously for Kulbhushan Jadhav’s early release and return to India,” said the spokesperson in the external affairs ministry Raveesh Kumar.
Opposition parties, including the Congress, also hailed the ICJ decision.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said she was “heartened” by the verdict.
“At last justice has prevailed. All of India joins his family in their joy!”
Pakistan on its part said it will now proceed “as per law” .
With relief writ large on their faces, Jadhav’s childhood friends in Mumbai released colourful balloons.
At Parel in south Mumbai, where Jadhav spent his childhood, his friends watched the ICJ proceedings live on a TV, with a prayer on their lips.
They watched the telecast wearing ‘India with Kulbhushan’ T-shirts and also offered special prayers ahead of the ICJ verdict.
Recalling that it had directed Pakistan to take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Jadhav is not executed pending the final decision in the case, the ICJ said Islamabad “deprived the Republic of India of the right to communicate with and have access to Mr Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, to visit him in detention and to arrange for his legal representation”.
Pakistan was under the obligation to inform India about the arrest and detention of Jadhav under the Vienna Convention, the court said.
The bench observed that there was a three-week delay in informing India about Jadhav’s arrest on March 3, 2016, leading to a “breach” of Pakistan’s obligations under the convention.
Noting that India has made a number of requests for the consular access, which was denied by Pakistan, the court said it was “undisputed” fact that Pakistan did not accede to India’s appeals.
The court said Pakistan has not explained how any of the wrongful acts allegedly committed by India may have prevented it from fulfilling its obligation.
The judges said there was no basis to conclude that India abused its procedural rights when it requested indication of provisional measures in this case.
On Pakistan’s argument that India has failed to prove Jadhav’s nationality, the court said it was satisfied that the evidence before it leaves no room for doubt that Jadhav is of Indian nationality.
The court ruled that Pakistan is under an obligation to inform Jadhav without further delay of his rights and to provide Indian consular officers access to him in accordance with Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.