International Court of Justice to decide Kulbhushan Jadhav’s fate today

Kulbhushan Jadhav was apprehended on March 3, 2016 after he illegally crossed into Pakistan from Iran, according to Pakistani officials.

Nearly five months after India urged the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to annul the death sentence handed by a Pakistani military court to former Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, and order his immediate release, the top UN court will deliver its judgment today.

Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, President of the Court, will read out the verdict of the top international court at 3 pm (6.30 pm IST) todayin a public sitting at the Peace Palace in The Hague.

A team comprising lawyer Harish Salve, who was representing India in the case, and Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran), Deepak Mittal are expected to be in the Netherlands for the judgment.

Last week, Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Muhammad Faisal had said that his country cannot "prejudge" the decision of the ICJ in the Jadhav’s case. "We cannot prejudge the judgment," he was quoted as saying by PTI. He, however, said that Pakistan has fully contested the case before the ICJ.

(L-R) Indian Lawyer Harish Salve, Dr. V. D. Sharma and Deepak Mittal, Joint Secretaries, Indian Ministry of External Affairs are seen at the International Court of Justice. (Reuters)

The sentencing of 49-year-old Jadhav by the Pakistani military court on charges of "espionage and terrorism" after a closed trial in April 2017 had evoked a sharp reaction in India, especially after Islamabad rejected its ICJ plea for consular access, claiming that New Delhi wants to get the information gathered by its spy .

While Pakistan claims that its security forces arrested Jadhav from restive Balochistan province on March 3, 2016 after he reportedly entered from Iran, India maintains that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Navy.

Judges are seen at the International Court of Justice during the final hearing in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case in The Hague, the Netherlands. (Reuters)

India had moved the ICJ on May 8, 2017 for the "egregious violation" of the provisions of the Vienna Convention by Pakistan by repeatedly denying New Delhi consular access to Jadhav. In May that year, a 10-member bench of the ICJ, which was set up after World War II to resolve international disputes, had restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav till adjudication of the case.

Earlier this year, a public hearing took place with India and Pakistan arguing in the Court between February 18 to 21 amid heightened tension between the neighbouring countries following the Pulwama terror attack, in which 40 CRPF soldiers were killed. Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group claimed the responsibility of the attack.

(L-R) Attorney Anwar Mansoor Khan, Pakistani foreign office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal and Queen’s Counsel Khawar Qureshi at the International Court of Justice. (Reuters)

In its plea, New Delhi told the court that, as a last resort, it could direct Pakistan to hold Jadhav s trial in a civilian court and grant him all the legal recourse, including consular access. However, it maintained that its first plea remains that Jadhav should be released and given safe passage, and that the military court s conviction be annulled. These options were spelt out by joint secretary Mittal at the ICJ.