Islamabad: A high court here Thursday asked India to appoint a lawyer for death-row prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav by April 13 to argue his case for a review of his conviction and sentencing by a Pakistani military court.
Jadhav, a 51-year-old retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017. India approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Pakistan for denial of consular access to Jadhav and challenging the death sentence.
After hearing both sides, the Hague-based ICJ issued a verdict in July, 2019, asking Pakistan to give India consular access to Jadhav and also ensure review of his conviction.
The Islamabad High Court formed a three-member larger bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Amir Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb in August 2020 which has repeatedly asked India to nominate a lawyer from Pakistan for Jadhav but New Delhi so far refused by insisting that it should be given a chance to appoint an Indian lawyer.
After hearing arguments by Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan, the court on Thursday asked India to appoint a lawyer for Jadhav by April 13.
Khan told the court that India was consciously delaying the case so that it could get a chance to knock at the doors of the ICJ with the complaint that Pakistan was in violation of its judgement to provide an opportunity of review to Jadhav.
In November 2021, Pakistan’s Parliament enacted a law to give Jadhav the right to file a review appeal against his conviction by the military court.
The International Court of Justice (Review and Re-consideration) Act of 2021 of Pakistan allowed Jadhav to challenge his conviction in the high court through a review process which was a requirement of the ICJ verdict.
India has said the the law “simply codifies” the “shortcomings” of a previous ordinance and that Islamabad has “failed” to create an atmosphere to ensure a fair trial in the case.
When the Pakistan government promulgated the ordinance to let Jadhav file a review, he refused. Later, the Pakistan government through its defence secretary filed a case in the IHC in 2020 to appoint a defence counsel for Jadhav.
Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Arindam Bagchi in November said that Pakistan continues to deny unimpeded and unhindered consular access to Jadhav as mandated by the ICJ.
India has repeatedly called upon Pakistan to abide by the letter and spirit of the ICJ judgement.