Pakistan clears bill allowing Kulbhushan Jadhav's appeal against death sentence
Pakistan's Parliament on Wednesday passed a law to give Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav (51) the right to appeal against his conviction. Jadhav, a former Indian Navy officer, is on death row over charges of espionage and terrorism. The International Court of Justice (Review and Re-consideration) Bill, 2021, was passed by a joint session of Parliament amid protests by the Opposition.
- Jadhav was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court in 2017.
- However, India approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Pakistan for denial of consular access to Jadhav.
- In 2019, the ICJ had ruled that Pakistan is obliged to allow Jadhav to appeal against his conviction.
- The new law paves the way to implement the ICJ order, but India has its reservations.
In June, Pakistan's National Assembly had passed the bill giving the right to Jadhav to appeal against his conviction. It was adopted by the National Assembly after approval from the 21-member standing committee. However, the bill was not passed in the Senate within the mandatory period of 90 days. Thus, the bill was introduced in the joint session on Wednesday.
The bill makes provisions for the right to review and reconsideration in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case. The bill aims to enact the directions laid down by the ICJ in 2019 for the "effective review and reconsideration" of Jadhav's conviction. It acknowledges the rights granted to Jadhav under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR).
Meanwhile, India has conveyed to Pakistan the "shortcomings" in the law and the steps needed to take to implement the ICJ judgment in "letter and spirit." Indian government sources told The Indian Express that the law is "nothing new." According to India, the law reiterates a 2019 ordinance passed by Pakistan on the same issue.
The law does not offer a mechanism to facilitate effective review and reconsideration in Jadhav's case, the source said. It only invites a municipal court to decide whether Jadhav faced prejudice due to the non-provision of consular access, they said. "Municipal courts cannot be the arbiter of whether a state has fulfilled its obligations under international law," they told TIE.
After the ICJ's 2019 ruling, Pakistan had passed an ordinance allowing Jadhav the right to appeal. However, Jadhav had refused to do so. The Pakistan government filed a case in the Islamabad High Court in 2020 to appoint a defense counsel for Jadhav. The court has been asking India to nominate a lawyer from Pakistan, but India insists on an Indian lawyer.
Jadhav was arrested in 2016 in Balochistan on charges of spying and consequently sentenced to death. However, India claimed that he was kidnapped by Pakistani operatives from Iran's Chabahar port, where he was running a business. Notably, the ICJ had stalled Jadhav's execution in 2018.