All eyes will be on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as it delivers its verdict in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case that is being contested between India and Pakistan before the world body. President of the ICJ, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, will read out the verdict at 6:30 pm (IST) today at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. The verdict comes after nearly two years of arguments in front of the ICJ by India and Pakistan.
Over the past few years, the Kulbhushan Jadhav case has gained much traction as India and Pakistan remained steadfast on their respective grounds. The verdict in this high-profile case comes nearly five months after a 15-member bench of ICJ led by Judge Yusuf had reserved its decision on February 21 after hearing oral submissions by India and Pakistan. The proceedings of the case took two years and two months to complete.
(The ICJ is an international body, part of the United Nations, which was set up after World War II to resolve international disputes.)
Here is an easy-to-understand guide on what the Kulbhushan Jadhav case is all about:
1. Who is Kulbhushan Jadhav?
Kulbhushan Jadhav is a 49-year-old retired officer of the Indian Navy. He was arrested by security forces in Pakistan on March 3, 2016. Pakistan claims Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border of Chaman in Balochistan over illegal entry into the country. On the other hand, India argues that Pakistan abducted Kulbhushan Jadhav from Iran.
In April 2017, a Pakistani military court (Field General Court Martial (FGCM)) sentenced him to death based on an “extracted confession”. FGCM is a military court consisting Pakistan Army officers. The judges on the FGCM aren’t required to possess law degrees.
India rubbished these charges and condemned the Pakistan military court’s verdict. India maintains that after retiring from Indian Navy, Kulbhushan Jadhav had business interests in Iran from where Pakistan abducted him.
2. What happened after Pak military court’s verdict?
India demanded consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav after he was awarded a death sentence by a military court in Pakistan. India argued that Pakistan violated the Vienna Convention and Kulbhushan Jadhav did not have adequate representation during the trial.
India also rejected Pakistan’s claim that Kulbhushan Jadhav had confessed to being a spy. India summarily rejected the “extracted confession” based on which he was sentenced to death.
3. How did the matter reach ICJ?
When Pakistan refused to grant consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav and faced with the likelihood that he may be executed anytime soon, India decided to move the International Court of Justice at The Hague on May 8, 2017.
In its plea, India accused Pakistan of “egregiously violating” provisions of the Vienna Convention by denying New Delhi consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav.
On May 18, 2017, a bench of the ICJ restrained Pakistan from executing Kulbhushan Jadhav till the court adjudicated the case.
4. What have India, Pakistan argued at ICJ?
India has argued its case on two broad grounds: 1) Pakistan breached the Vienna Convention as it repeatedly denied consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav; (2) the process of resolution of this case.
Harish Salve, who argued for India at the ICJ, questioned the functioning of Pakistan’s notorious military courts and urged the top UN court to annul Jadhav’s death sentence, which he said was based on an “extracted confession”. India argued that Pakistan violated international law by not allowing India to give diplomatic assistance to Kulbhushan Jadhav before he was convicted by a military court.
“It would be in the interest of justice, of making human rights a reality, to direct his (Jadhav’s) release,” said Harish Salve.
Pakistan’s counsel Khawar Qureshi meanwhile argued, “India’s claim for relief must be dismissed or declared inadmissible.”
Pakistan had rejected India’s plea for consular access to Jadhav at the ICJ, claiming that New Delhi wants the access to get the information gathered by its “spy”.
Pakistan has also refuted India’s argument that judges in Pakistan’s military courts do not have sound legal understanding because they are primarily military officers. It argued that Pakistan’s courts are “extremely independent”. Pakistan also claimed that its military had “sufficient evidence” to prove that Kulbhushan Jadhav was a spy.
(Field General Court Martial, the military court that sentenced Kulbhushan Jadav, consists of Pakistan Army officers. The judges on the FGCM aren’t required to possess law degrees.)
The Dawn, Pakistan’s leading newspaper, in a report said: “Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan had argued that Jadhav was an Indian spy sent to Balochistan to destabilise the country and therefore not entitled to consular access.”
According to the paper, Khan had told ICJ that Jadhav “ran a network to carry out despicable terrorism and suicide bombing, targeted killing, kidnapping for ransom and targeted operations to create unrest and instability in the country”.
These charges have been denied by India.
5. What is expected today?
India and Pakistan both are expecting favourable verdicts. The ICJ is the highest court where international disputes can be resolved. Technically, its verdict is binding on all member states of the United Nations. However, the US in the past has gone against ICJ rulings.
In its verdict, the ICJ may rule that Pakistan was wrong in denying consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav and hence his case should be reheard by the military court. It is also possible that ICJ rules that Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case should be heard in a civilian court in Pakistan and not by a military court.
For India, the worst scenario would be if the ICJ rules that the circumstances in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case and the manner of the trial did not violate international law. If this happens, there would be no change on the death sentence awarded by the military court.
For Pakistan, the worst scenario would be if ICJ holds Pakistan guilty of violating international law and hence hold that the trail and sentence is null and void.