The Hague: India on Monday put up a spirited defence and urged the international court to immediately suspend the death sentence awarded to alleged spy Kulbushan Jadhav in Pakistan, saying “the situation is grave” and there was fear that he may be executed even before the court decides the case.
Lawyer Harish Salve, who led the Indian legal team at the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ), said the matter was “urgent and hence India approached this court” that took up the case “at such a short notice”.
Salve told the court that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran in 2016, brought to Pakistan, presented as an alleged Indian spy and confession was extracted in a military custody.
“Pakistan did not inform India of the arrest,” Salve said, pointing out that India had moved the ICJ seeking suspension of the sentence awarded to Jadhav by a military court following a “farcical trial”.
The former Indian Navy officer was awarded the death sentence by a Pakistani military court last month, a year after he was arrested on espionage charges. India says Jadhav has been kidnapped and framed.
Islamabad has rejected 16 Indian requests for consular access to Jadhav, who is held at an unknown prison in Pakistan.
Salve said a communication from Pakistan dated May 12 didn’t clarify what the charges against Jadhav were.
“Pakistan said Jadhav’s sentence is based on credible evidence in espionage against Pakistan. India refuses these allegations. India has taken measures to ensure appropriate legal measures for Jadhav. It is not known whether Jadhav will seek clemency in the present circumstances.”
Salve cited three past similar cases in which the ICJ had intervened. These cases include Paraguay versus the US in which the court decided that the American government needed to take steps to give rights of access of a Paraguayan national.
In Germany vs the US, Salve said, the court held that execution of a German national was “an irreparable damage to justice”.
Deepak Mittal, an Indian official, told the court in his opening remarks that there was a fear that Jadhav may be executed soon even before the decision of the UN court. “Jadhav has not got the right to get proper legal assistance and the right to consular access. There is an immediate threat to him to be executed even before a decision is passed.”
Mittal told ICJ President Ronny Abraham, who presided over the proceedings, that India’s repeated requests to Pakistan on consular access to Jadhav were denied.
“India learnt from press reports that the death sentence was awarded to Jadhav on the basis of an alleged confession. Pakistan has not provided the chargesheet, any documents on the case despite repeated requests.
“It is clear that Jadhav has been denied of his right to seek legal counsel. Jadhav’s parents have applied for visa to travel to Pakistan which has fallen on deaf ears.”
VD Sharma, a Joint Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry and co-agent, said Pakistan had failed to comply with all its legal obligations by denying consular access to Jadhav ever since he was arrested in March 2016.
Sharma also urged the court to restrain Pakistan from “giving effect to the sentence awarded by the military court” and to direct it to annul its decision.
The day-long hearing, which began on Monday morning, involves two sessions of an hour-and-a-half each to India and Pakistan to make their cases. Pakistan’s session will begin in the afternoon.