The Hague: Pakistan on Tuesday urged the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to dismiss India’s plea in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case, as it accused New Delhi of using the top UN court for “political theatre”. Jadhav, a retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of “espionage and terrorism” after a closed trial in April 2017. His sentencing evoked a sharp reaction in India.
India moved the ICJ in May the same year for the “egregious violation” of the provisions of the Vienna Convention by Pakistan by repeatedly denying New Delhi consular access to the 48-year-old Indian national. The four-day hearing in the Jadhav case opened Monday at the ICJ headquarters in The Hague amidst heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following one of the worst terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terror group that killed 40 CRPF soldiers.
Opening the arguments on the second day, Pakistan’s Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan claimed that Jadhav was a serving Indian Navy officer and spy who entered Pakistan on an authentic Indian passport carrying a Muslim name when arrested in March 2016. He accused India of interfering in Pakistan by training and arming anti-Pakistan militias to create trouble in Balochistan and Sindh and other places in the country.
“Jadhav, a serving officer of Indian Navy working with RAW, entered Pakistan with a predetermined aim on the instructions of the Government of India to assist, plan and cause terrorism in Balochistan and Sindh and other places in the country,” he claimed. Khan said that Jadhav had admitted it before a judicial magistrate.
Making submissions on Pakistan’s behalf, counsel Khawar Qureshi said, “India’s application should be declared inadmissible by reason of India’s conduct in this context manifesting abuse of rights, lack of good faith, illegality, lack of clean hands and misrepresentation. “These are proceedings launched for political theatre, making a claim for relief that is unsustainable and that should be dismissed,” he told judges.
His arguments came a day after India on Monday urged the ICJ to annul Jadhav’s death sentence by the Pakistani military court and order his immediate release.
“India seeks relief in declaring that the trial by the military court in Pakistan hopelessly fails to satisfy even the minimum standards of due process… and should be declared unlawful,” said Harish Salve, the former solicitor general of India, who was presenting India’s case before the ICJ. He said the military courts of Pakistan cannot command the confidence of this court and should not be sanctify by a direction to them to review and re-consider the case.
“India seeks annulment of Jadhav’s conviction, and directions that he be released forthwith,” said Salve. Pointing out that under the international law Pakistan was bound to grant consular access to Jadhav without delay, Salve said India sent 13 reminders to Pakistan for consular access to Jadhav, but Islamabad is yet to accede.
Responding to his arguments, Pakistan’s counsel Qureshi said customary international law provided for an exception to counsellor access in the case of an individual reasonably suspected of espionage and added that a redline exists and it should be clearly shown. He said that “a decision regarding Jadhav’s nationality has not yet been made” and “India did not state whether he is Kulbushan Jadhav or Hussain Mubarak Patel.”
“How can India demand consular access when it did not confirm Jadhav’s nationality?” he questioned.
Qureshi, who gave an electronic presentation in the court, said Jadhav was arrested by Pakistani authorities in Balochistan and not in Iran, as claimed by India. Earlier, as the court resumed the hearing Pakistan submitted a request for the appointment of a new judge in place of ad hoc judge Tasadduq Hussain Jilani who fell ill on Monday. The ICJ allowed Pakistan to present its arguments without the ad hoc judge.
After the hearing, the chief judge adjourned the court till Wednesday when India will have a maximum of 90 minutes to submit its final arguments in the case. Pakistan will also get 90 minutes to respond to India’s arguments on Thursday.
The ICJ is expected to deliver its verdict in the summer of 2019.