A top Pakistani court hearing the case of death row convict Kulbhushan Jadhav has asked India to cooperate in the legal proceeding over the matter, saying appearing before the court did not mean a waiver of sovereignty. A three-member Bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, on May 5 resumed hearing of the petition by Pakistan’s Ministry of Law and Justice seeking appointment of a lawyer for Mr. Jadhav.
Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan told the Bench that to comply with the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Pakistan last year promulgated the law, CJ (Review and Reconsideration) Ordinance, 2020, to enable Mr. Jadhav to avail himself of the statutory remedy, Dawn newspaper reported.
However, he argued, the Indian government deliberately avoided joining court’s proceedings and was raising objections to a trial before a Pakistani court and had declined to even appoint a counsel for the IHC’s proceedings saying it “is tantamount to surrendering sovereign rights”. “It appears the Indian government has objected, not for non-implementation of ICJ’s verdict but to engineer default on the basis of which it would [try to] justify going to the ICJ again,” he said.
The Chief Justice expressed surprise that the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, which had approached the IHC seeking the release of five prisoners and had secured a decision in their favour, was questioning the legitimacy of the same court, the report said.
He observed that despite negative remarks of the Indian government about Pakistani courts, the IHC was considering the Jadhav case on humanitarian grounds to ensure a fair trial for him. “We are not against sovereign immunity of the Indian government but they should at least tell us how we would proceed to implement the ICJ’s decision,” the Chief Justice remarked.
The Attorney General read out two notes verbale of the Indian government related to Mr. Jadhav and said India had rejected the suggestion (of the IHC) of appearing before the Pakistani court. The Chief Justice asked him to remind the Indian government that appearing before the court did not mean a waiver of sovereignty and the court had acknowledged their sovereign rights.
At one point, when Justice Aurangzeb remarked that if the Indian government would not respond, the court might dismiss the petition, the attorney general argued: “This is exactly what the Indian government wants.” The Attorney General believed if the matter “was not pending before the IHC, the Indian authorities would have filed a contempt of court [petition] against Pakistani government with the ICJ for non-compliance of the latter’s decision”.
Lawyer Hamid Khan was of the opinion that the government should not have introduced a Jadhav-specific law. The AG replied that the law was promulgated to comply with the ICJ direction. The court asked the attorney general to take up the matter with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its onward communication with the Indian authorities.
Further proceedings have been adjourned till June 15. Mr. Jadhav, the 51-year-old retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017. India approached the International Court of Justice against Pakistan for denial of consular access to Mr. Jadhav and challenging the death sentence.
The Hague-based ICJ ruled in July 2019 that Pakistan must undertake an “effective review and reconsideration” of the conviction and sentence of Mr. Jadhav and also to grant consular access to India without further delay. The ICJ, in its 2019 verdict, had asked Pakistan to provide a proper forum for appeal against the sentence given to Mr. Jadhav by a military court.