Kulbhushan Jadhav's death sentence stayed by ICJ: Here's what could happen next for India and Pakistan

The International Court of Justice on Tuesday stayed the execution of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, who has been sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of "spying".

The order by the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) came a day after India approached it against the death sentence handed down to Jadhav by Pakistan's Field General Court Martial last month, official sources said.

The Indian government was represented by senior advocate and eminent lawyer Harish Salve.

India, in its appeal to the ICJ, accused Pakistan of "egregious" violations of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and asserted that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he was involved in business activities after retiring from the Indian Navy but Pakistan claimed to have arrested him from Balochistan on 3 March, 2016.

What happens next?

With the apex international court ordering a stay on the death sentence given to Jadhav, it seems that Jadhav has received a temporary relief. However, there is another verdict which is expected from the International Court of Justice and that pertains to the violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular  Relations, which grants consular access to people detained in foreign countries.

India has been alleging that Jadhav, a former navy officer, was not granted access to officials from the Indian High Commission in Pakistan. India's consular access to Jadhav too have been denied 19 times since 2016.

According to India Today, a 15-judge bench will now hear the case whether Jadhav was denied consular access by Islamabad. The report also noted that if the verdict is unfavourable to Pakistan, then the issue might spill over to the UN security council too.

The ICJ's judgement are binding on all countries which are signatory to the Vienna Conventions. However, the top court does not have direct role in implementation of its ruling. The onus of ensuring the implementation of the verdict lies with the aggrieved party, who can move to the UN Security Council for relief.

In Jadhav's case, an unfavourable verdict for either parties will lead to a diplomatic standoff in the UNSC, where at least China is expected to veto any anti-Pakistan measure.

Kulbhushan Jadhav. PTI

File image of Kulbhushan Jadhav. PTI

India and Pakistan at the ICJ

The case in The Hague is complicated by Pakistan's insistence that ICJ verdicts won't apply on issues which take place within the borders of Pakistan. Its refusal to allow consular access to Jadhav lies on the premise that he was caught on the charges of espionage, an act which does not allow anyone to enjoy consular access according to Pakistani law.

However, India and Pakistan are signatories to the "optional protocol" of the Vienna Convention, which makes it mandatory for both countries to accept the verdict of the top UN court.

As noted by Hindustan Times, India has never been keen to go to the ICJ on matters relating to Pakistan, owing to fear of internationalisation of the Kashmir issue as well as New Delhi's declaration that issues involving another Commonwealth nation won't be binding on it.

However, the 8 May decision is major break from New Delhi's 1974 declaration.

Long journey at the ICJ

The legal process however is a long one at the ICJ. With the case now formally open, the India Today report stated that the court will take written statements from both parties before it hears the oral arguments of both sides.

The final judgement then takes place in a public sitting. However, both countries can't appeal for a repeal of the judgement, like it is the case in most countries. The ICJ verdicts are only subject to revisions and subjective interpretations.

Other options with India 

On 26 April, the Indian envoy to Islamabad, Guatam Bambawale met Pakistan foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua to hand over  the appeal made by the mother of Jadhav. If the Pakistan authorities allow India's appeal against the 11 April verdict, then it would go through the Pakistani justice system.

If the appeal is squashed by the Pakistan Supreme Court, then Jadhav can file for a mercy petition with Pakistan president Mamnoon Hussain.

With the latest ICJ verdict, India might have bought some time on its side to save Jadhav.

With inputs from agencies 

Updated Date: May 10, 2017 14:24 PM

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