New Delhi: In a big victory for India, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Wednesday stayed the execution of former Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav and allowed New Delhi consular access to him.
While India is likely to soon get consular access, Pakistan is expected to press for a review of the order.
Stating that Pakistan had violated the Vienna Convention by not providing India with consular access to Jadhav, the ICJ directed Pakistan to review the death sentence ordered by a military court at a closed trial.
"A continued stay of execution constitutes an indispensable condition for the effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence of Mr Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav," said the ICJ in its order.
The international tribunal ruled that Pakistan should review and reconsider the sentence through a means of its own choosing. Pakistan had argued, unsuccessfully, that Article 36 of the Vienna Convention does not apply to people involved in espionage.
In its judgement, the ICJ said Pakistan had breached its obligation by not informing Jadhav of his rights under the Vienna Convention.
The verdict is a victory of the rule of law that has "gladdened our hearts", India's lead counsel in the case Harish Salve said. The senior advocate said he hoped Pakistan would fully comply with the judgement and that its conduct will be under watch in case it chooses to "brazenly violate" the ruling in any way.
"There is relief, satisfaction and a lot of hope. The judgement has restored our faith in the rule of law, in the ICJ and in the systems which we as mankind put together to protect the citizens of the world,” Salve said.
"We had challenged the conduct of Pakistan in its brazen refusal to adhere to the Vienna Convention and allow consular access to Mr Jadhav... The court found Pakistan guilty of internationally wrongful acts and that it must cease those acts," he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the verdict and said that “truth and justice” had prevailed.
Former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who oversaw the appointment of lawyer Harish Salve to put forth India's case in the ICJ, “wholeheartedly” welcomed the order and described it as a "great victory for India”. Swaraj had also sought diplomatic access to Jadhav on November 20, 2018.
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP Working President JP Nadda were some of the other names from the ruling party who applauded the judgement.
Political leaders from opposition parties, including Congress party’s Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, P Chidambaram, Amarinder Singh, Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal, and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen's Asaduddin Owaisi, also hailed the verdict.
Validation, Says MEA
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the ICJ ruling by a vote of 15-1 upheld India's position in the case. "This landmark judgment validates India's position on the matter," Kumar said. "We will continue to work vigorously for Kulbhushan Jadhav's early release and return to India."
Kumar said India appreciated the direction given by the ICJ that Pakistan should review and reconsider conviction and sentence awarded to Jadhav.
Pakistan, meanwhile, said it will now proceed "as per law" after the ruling. In a statement, the Foreign Office said that Pakistan as a "responsible member" of the international community "upheld its commitment" from the very beginning of the case by appearing before the court for the provisional measures hearing despite a very short notice.
The statement claimed that the Hague-based ICJ in its judgement did not accept India's plea to "acquit/release" Jadhav.
Jadhav, a former naval officer, was arrested by Pakistan agencies on charges of spying in March 2017. Pakistan claimed to have arrested Jadhav from the restive Balochistan province and accused him of being a spy. India insisted he was illegally detained while in Iran on business.
India approached the ICJ in May 2017, following Jadhav's death sentence by Pakistani military court, in which India accused Pakistan of "egregious violations of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations".
The same month, ICJ put a stay on Jadhav's death sentence and asked both countries to make their final cases by December 2017. In that month, after months of requests by India, Pakistan allowed Jadhav's mother and wife to meet him.
(With inputs from agencies)