‘Remove Shortcomings’: India Tells Pakistan on Bill Permitting Jadhav to Appeal

Kulbhushan Jadhav File Photo
Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former Indian Navy officer, was arrested in March 2016 in Pakistan’s Balochistan province on charges of spying and sentenced to death the following year

India on Thursday asked Pakistan to remove shortcomings in a bill passed by the country’s Parliament to allow Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, sentenced to death for alleged involvement in spying, to appeal against his conviction.

The International Court of Justice (Review and Re-consideration) Bill of 2020 was passed by Pakistan’s National Assembly or lower house of Parliament on June 10. The bill, which is yet to clear the Senate or upper house, is aimed at ensuring consular access to Jadhav in line with an International Court of Justice (ICJ) verdict staying his death sentence and calling for a review of his conviction.

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External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a weekly news briefing that Pakistan needs to take “appropriate steps to address the shortcomings in the bill and to comply with the judgement of the ICJ in letter and spirit”.

On Tuesday, the Islamabad high court adjourned till October 5 the hearing of the Pakistan government’s petition regarding the appointing of a counsel for Jadhav following a request from attorney general Khalid Javed Khan.

Bagchi said the bill passed by Pakistan’s National Assembly “codifies into law” an earlier ordinance “with all its shortcomings”. He added, “It does not create a machinery to facilitate effective review and reconsideration of Jadhav’s case, as mandated by the judgement of the ICJ.”

He pointed out the ICJ had “ruled that Pakistan was in breach of its international obligations because of the failure to provide consular access to Jadhav”.

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“The ordinance, and now the bill, invites the municipal courts in Pakistan to decide whether or not any prejudice has been caused to Jadhav on account of the failure to provide consular access. This is clearly a breach of the basic tenet that municipal courts cannot be the arbiter of whether a state has fulfilled its obligations in international law,” Bagchi said.

“Not only this, it further invites the municipal court to sit in appeal, as it were, over the judgement of the ICJ,” he added.

Jadhav, a former Indian Navy officer, was arrested in March 2016 in Pakistan’s Balochistan province on charges of spying and sentenced to death the following year. India has rejected the charges levelled against him and said he was kidnapped by Pakistani operatives from the Iranian port of Chabahar, where he was running a business. The ICJ stayed Jadhav’s execution in 2018 and ruled the following year that Pakistan must undertake an “effective review and reconsideration” of his conviction and sentencing.

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Responding to another question on Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi writing a letter to the president of the UN Security Council and the UN secretary-general on reports that India may be contemplating further changes in Jammu and Kashmir, Bagchi made it clear that the region is an “integral part” of India and Islamabad should instead focus on tackling cross-border terrorism.

“The union territory of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. No amount of questioning can change this reality. Also, cross-border terrorism is unacceptable and no amount of justification can make it acceptable,” he said.