A partial reprieve; an uncertain future: opinion
Kulbhushan Jadhav was granted a partial reprieve when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) agreed with India’s contention that his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations were violated by Pakistan’s decision to put him on trial in a military court on charges of espionage and subversive activities. But much about Mr Jadhav’s future remains uncertain, for the United Nations’ top court left the choice of means for a review and reconsideration of his case to the Pakistani side.
What Mr Jadhav has faced since he was arrested in March 2016 is a travesty of justice, and a complete upending of the meaning of due process. Indian consular officials were never given access to Mr Jadhav; he did not get the legal defence of his choice; and he was tried in secret by a Pakistani military court, part of a military legal system that has faced repeated accusations of rights violations and summary judgments. The fate of a mercy petition submitted by Mr Jadhav to the Pakistan army chief remains unknown. Given the current state of affairs in Pakistan, where the army is clearly in the driving seat as far as the Imran Khan administration is concerned, it remains unclear whether any petition sent by Mr Jadhav to the president will get a fair and patient hearing.
Much has been made of how both countries claimed victory after the ICJ’s verdict on Wednesday. In reality, the United Nations’ principal judicial organ has given a ruling that favours neither side. India’s call for annulling Mr Jadhav’s death sentence and repatriating him wasn’t addressed, and the Pakistani side was only asked to conduct a review of his case, without any mention of whether this process should be done within the framework of the civilian legal system. It would not be unusual if Mr Jadhav’s case were to be treated like those of other Indians who faced similar charges. He faces the possibility of his case being routed through an opaque system while he languishes in prison for years. India must now pull out all the stops to ensure Pakistan acts with alacrity on the ICJ’s ruling to carry out a review and to allow Mr Jadhav to meet consular officers. Pakistani officials saying that they will proceed according to the law isn’t enough and Islamabad must ensure that it acts on the verdict in letter and spirit.