The verdict in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case will be delivered by the International Court of Justice on July 17 at 6.30pm (follow live updates here). It is likely to be a life-altering turn of events in the three-year-old case of this captured former Indian Naval officer who Pakistan alleges is a spy and a terrorist.
India had moved the ICJ in 2017 after a Pakistani military court awarded the death sentence to Jadhav. India had made two prayers in its petition before the ICJ. One, suspend the death sentence by way of immediate relief as Pakistan had violated provisions of the Vienna convention and two, declare the sentence of the military court as null and void as such courts are not recognised as legal entities as per international laws of jurisprudence.
This second prayer, to annul the sentence delivered by a domestic court of any one of the member countries — howsoever flawed it may have been — is tricky territory that the ICJ may want to stay out of. Territorial integrity and sovereignty of member countries goes beyond the remit of the international court and will indeed open a Pandora’s Box if the court were to tread that dangerous path.
The best case scenario that India can hope for is that the ICJ strikes down the death sentence given to Jadhav on humanitarian grounds and ensures that he lives on. But there is little chance that Jadhav will be freed from a Pakistani jail and returned to India’s custody.
India in its plea had also argued how Pakistan had violated the Vienna convention by denying consular access to one of its nationals despite close to a 100 such attempts made by India. Consular access is a basic tenet of the Vienna convention. Not only did Pakistan deny Jadhav this, but the way the Pakistan Army and other officials treated his wife and mother when they visited him in December 2017 does not show the failing state in good light.
While India would be happy if it is able to save Jadhav from the gallows, it is highly likely that he will end up spending the rest of his life in a Pakistani prison much like his fellow Indians who were caught in Pakistan earlier for alleged spying. Sarabjit Singh died in a Pakistani jail after 25 years despite the valiant efforts of his family and previous Indian governments. Ravindra Kaushik even managed to breach the ranks of the Pakistan Army, but he was caught and died in a Pakistani jail after 16 years. Unfortunately for Jadhav, history doesn’t give him much hope.