New Delhi/Islamabad: Pakistan is now planning to amend its Army Act in order to permit imprisoned Indian former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav to file an appeal in a civilian court, following the verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in July this year. A Pakistani military court had on April 10, 2017, sentenced Mr Jadhav to death on charges of “espionage and sabotage”.
Sources confirmed to this newspaper, “In order to implement the ICJ verdict, an amendment in the Army Act is being considered that will allow Mr Jadhav to appeal in the high court.”
At present, cases in Pakistan under trial in the military courts and under the Army Act law there forbid such individuals or groups from filing an appeal and seeking justice from the civilian court.
Officials in Islamabad said Pakistan’s government has already prepared a draft to amend Army Act to allow Mr Jadhav a right to file an appeal in a civilian court against his conviction. However, the proposed amendment to the Army Act will be only applicable to the ICJ’s judgments. The purpose of the amendment is apparently to determine the legal procedure of filing an appeal against military court decisions.
But on Wednesday evening, Pakistan Armed Forces Spokesperson and director general of Inter Services Public Relations Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor claimed that while “various legal options for review and reconsideration of the case are being considered”, the “speculation for amendment in the Pakistan Army Act to implement the ICJ verdict regarding ... Kulbhushan Jadhav are incorrect”. He added, “The final status shall be shared in due course of time.”
Islamabad has been claiming that Mr Jadhav was “apprehended by Pakistan law enforcement agencies on March 3, 2016, after he illegally crossed over into Pakistan” and that he had been engaging in “espionage, terrorist and sabotage activities aimed at destabilising and waging war against Pakistan”. But New Delhi has consistently rubbished these claims as false and baseless. India had argued that Mr Jadhav was “kidnapped from Iran, where he was carrying on business after retiring from the Indian Navy, and was then shown to have been arrested in Balochistan” on March 3, 2016”.
It may be recalled that in a major victory for India in the high-profile Kulbhushan Jadhav case, the ICJ at The Hague in the Netherlands on July 17 this year had held Pakistan guilty of violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations for its failure to give India consular access to the imprisoned Indian former naval officer while directing Pakistan to provide “effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence” (of death penalty) awarded earlier by a Pakistani military court to Jadhav. The ICJ had also held that the “continued stay of execution constitutes an indispensable condition for the effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence” of Mr Jadhav.
Under pressure after the ICJ verdict, Pakistan had allowed Indian Charge d’ Affaires (Cd’A) Gaurav Ahluwalia to gain consular access to Mr Jadhav on September 2 this year in a meeting that had lasted two hours. After that meeting, New Delhi had said, “It was clear that Mr Jadhav appeared to be under extreme pressure to parrot a false narrative to bolster Pakistan’s untenable claims. We will decide a further course of action after receiving a detailed report from our Cd’A and determining the extent of conformity to the ICJ directives.”