New Delhi: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will begin hearing India’s plea – seeking an immediate suspension of the death penalty awarded to its national Kulbhushan Jadhav by a military court in Pakistan.
The hearing in ICJ will begin around 1:30 pm Indian Standard Time (IST).
“The hearings will be devoted to the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by India,” the ICJ had said in a release.
Pakistan had earlier said that it will make a decision within the “next few days” on India’s appeal before an international court to stay the execution of the Indian national accused of spying, even as New Delhi defended its move saying an innocent man’s life was under threat.
Islamabad’s reaction came after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) stayed on Tuesday the execution of former Indian naval officer Jadhav, who was convicted of espionage and sabotage by a Pakistani military court on April 10.
The ICJ’s intervention is being seen by some as a reprieve for Jadhav. But efforts by India to secure the 46-year-old man’s release will have to navigate increasingly tense ties with its arch rival.
“Pakistan is reviewing the move by India… and a decision in this regard will be issued accordingly,” Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said, adding a statement will be issued in the next few days.
He also said the Pakistani government will review the ICJ’s jurisdiction in the case. But the Pakistani Army appeared defiant.
Pakistani military spokesman Asif Ghafoor said it will respond at an “appropriate level” to any query by the ICJ on Jadhav. His comments came shortly after their army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa met Sharif to discuss the court order.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif also accused India of using Jadhav’s death sentence to divert attention from what he said was New Delhi’s “state-sponsored terrorism” in Pakistan.
Jadhav was allegedly arrested in Balochistan in March 2016. Pakistan accused Jadhav of spying for his country’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
India had warned that if Jadhav was hanged, it would be considered “premeditated murder”.
In New Delhi, the foreign ministry defended its decision to move the international court for the first time since 1971.
“We made 16 requests for consular access to Jadhav but there was no response from Pakistan on the demand.”
India believes the ICJ can look into Jadhav’s case as the two countries are signatories to the optional protocol of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR). The protocol says any dispute arising out of the interpretation or application of VCCR shall lie within the jurisdiction of the ICJ.
Indian lawyers seemed divided over India’s decision.
“I am not sure it is a wise move to go to the ICJ. Pakistan could cite precedence when India said the ICJ has no jurisdiction in a case in 1999 involving Pakistan,” said Narendra Singh, the secretary general of the Indian Society of International Law.
New Delhi listed in 1974 subjects linked to India that the ICJ can adjudicate. India does not accept the ICJ’s jurisdiction on “disputes with the government of any state which is or has been a member of the Commonwealth of Nations”.
In 1999, a Pakistani military plane was shot down in Indian airspace over the Rann of Kutch. When Pakistan approached the ICJ, India said the international court didn’t have the jurisdiction to hear the case. The court accepted the argument.
Shashank Kumar, who previously worked with the ICJ said: “As the bases for jurisdiction are separate, a comparison with what happened in the aerial incident case, in my view, does not really answer whether Pakistan may at present comply or not.”
Senior lawyer Harish Salve will represent India when the ICJ hears the Jadhav case. India will seek directions to Pakistan to annul the execution order issued in violation of international law.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, said to be instrumental in moving the international court, tweeted that she spoke to the Jadhav’s mother about the ICJ order.