Kulbhushan Jadhav case: Oral submissions at ICJ over, Pakistan says dismiss India claim

Shubhajit Roy
(L-R) Indian Lawyer Harish Salve, Dr. V. D. Sharma and Deepak Mittal, Joint Secretaries, Indian Ministry of External Affairs at the International Court of Justice (Reuters Photo: Eva Plevier)

PAKISTAN ON Thursday asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to "dismiss or declare inadmissible" India's claim for relief to former Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav as it closed the four-day oral submissions at The Hague.

Rejecting India's arguments that the military courts don't have officers with judicial expertise and experience, Pakistan's counsel said that the military courts are "not above the law", and Pakistan's courts are "extremely independent".

India had on Wednesday questioned the functioning of Pakistan's notorious military courts and urged the top UN court to annul Jadhav's death sentence, which is based on an "extracted confession".

Making the final submission in the ICJ on the last day of the hearing, Pakistan's counsel Khawar Qureshi told the judges, "India's claim for relief must be dismissed or declared inadmissible. India's claim for relief (in the Jadhav case) remains as far fetched now as it was then (May 8, 2017)."

Closing the arguments, Pakistan's Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan said, "India seeks relief which they cannot claim from this court."

Asserting that the military court in Pakistan works according to the Constitution, he asked the ICJ to "dismiss India's request" in the case.

Khan also assured the court that the process of judicial review in Pakistan was robust and Jadhav can avail it if he chooses.

"Jadhav has been charged with terrorism for which an FIR has been registered with the police that is a civilian agency. The military courts have sufficient proof of espionage and the said military court on the available evidence and the judicial confession proceeded to convict him despite he being given the option of going for a judicial review, he has refused to do so," he told the court.

He said India claims consular access, "surely (it) was not allowed for good reason in terms of the agreement of 2008, specially for the reason that commander Jadhav being involved in espionage".

"India is hammering the fact to twist it, it is hammering the law to break it," Qureshi said.

Khan also raked up the Kashmir issue and said Pakistan was awaiting India's response on the Samjhauta train blast case and has sought evidence on his country's role in the Pulwama terror attack.

After his submission, ICJ top judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf adjourned the hearing and said a date for the judgment would be announced later.

Jadhav, a retired Navy officer, was arrested allegedly on March 3, 2016, and India was informed of this on March 25, 2016, when the Pakistan Foreign Secretary raised the matter with the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad. On that day, India sought consular access to Jadhav at the earliest. New Delhi then moved the ICJ in May in 2017 against the "farcical trial" by the military court of Pakistan against 48-year-old Jadhav. He was sentenced to death on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017.

India first approached the ICJ on May 8, 2017, for the "egregious violation" of the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 1963 by Pakistan by repeatedly denying it consular access to Jadhav. A 10-member bench of the ICJ had restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav until adjudication of the case.

On Wednesday, Harish Salve, who was representing India in the case, said that the time has come for the ICJ to make Article 36 a potent weapon for protecting human rights.

India has urged the ICJ to annul Jadhav's death sentence given by a Pakistan military court and order his immediate release, and as a last resort, it could direct Islamabad to hold Jadhav's trial in a "civilian court" and grant him all legal recourse, including consular access.