The Hague: India and Pakistan on Monday clashed at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over Kulbhushan Jadhav's case with New Delhi invoking the court's jurisdiction to see that the death sentence against him was suspended immediately.
India made a forceful submission as the ICJ began hearing the case of the 46-year-old former Navy officer who was 'abducted' from Iran and taken to Balochistan and sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and subversive activities.
"Jadhav has not got the right to get proper legal assistance and the right to consular access. There is an immediate threat to him to be executed even before a decision is passed," joint secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs Deepak Mittal told the court in his opening remarks.
India at ICJ demands Pakistan annul Jadhav death sentence
Representing India, lead attorney Harish Salve said, "The execution of the death sentence cannot be done while this court is hearing the appeal. Else, it will be a violation of the Vienna Convention."
Battling Pakistan in the UN's highest judicial body, India said the situation was grave and urgent, prompting it to approach the court "at such short notice".
Eighteen years after the two neighbours last faced off at the ICJ - when Islamabad sought its intervention over the shooting down of its naval aircraft - India took up the issue of consular rights to its national and accused Pakistan of violating the Vienna convention and conducting a "farcical trial" without a "shred of evidence".
"The execution of the death sentence cannot be done while this court is hearing the appeal. Else, it will be a violation of the Vienna Convention," Salve said.
Pakistan had denied India its 16 requests for consular access, Salve said.
"The graver the charges, the greater the need for continued adherence of the Vienna Convention. Jadhav has been in judicial custody without any communication with his family," he pointed out.
The rights of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations are sacrosanct, Salve said, citing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that recognises that no one can be arbitrarily deprived of their lives.
India had not been given the copy of the charges filed against Jadhav.
"The need for a wholesome compliance is greater when charges are serious. We want appropriate legal representation for Jadhav," he maintained.
Though Pakistan says Jadhav has the right to appeal, two-star generals will hear his mercy plea, Salve stressed, questioning the impartiality of the process.
Vienna Convention not for spies involved in terror: Pak to ICJ
On its part, Pakistan later today told ICJ that Vienna Convention provisions on consular access were not intended for a "spy" involved in terror activities.
India's application on Jadhav was "unnecessary and misconceived" and must be dismissed, Pakistan further told the UN's highest judicial body.
India had been unable to provide an explanation for Jadhav's passport which bears a Muslim name, Mohammed Faisal of the Pakistan Foreign Office said in his opening remarks in response to India's submissions earlier in the day.
"India has been unable or perhaps more accurately unwilling to provide an explanation for this passport which is the most obvious indication of covert and illegal activity," he said.
"We wish to make it absolutely clear that we remain committed to the path of peaceful resolution of all disputes. Whatever the provocation. Pakistan will not be cowed by terrorism, nor will it allow any attempt to malign or misrepresent its position or legal processes to go unchecked," Faisal said.
India has seen it fit to use the International Court of Justice as a stage for "political theatre" but "we will not respond in kind", Faisal told the ICJ which held day-long proceedings to decide the fate of the former Indian Navy officer.
"He will touch upon the reasons what the court should not otherwise exercise any jurisdiction or entertain any aspects of India's engagement of its jurisdiction. Indeed, it is somewhat ironic but perhaps consistent that India complains that it has not been given access to commander Jadhav who has confessed to having been sent by India to wage terror on the innocent civilians and infrastructure of Pakistan," Faisal said.
There has been deafening silence and no response from India on Pakistan's accusations on Jadhav, Pakistan's lawyer Khawar Qureshi said.
He urged the court to dismiss India's application on three accounts - that there was "no urgency", the relief sought was "manifestly unavailable" and the jurisdiction under the Vienna Convention was not "as unchallenged" as India has suggested, as per PTI.
"It (jurisdiction of the court) is limited and indeed it is further limited at qualified rules supplemented by the 2008 agreement" on Consular access," Qureshi said.
On India invoking the Vienna Convention, Qureshi said, "The Vienna convention article 36 which adopted to set up standards of conduct particularly concerning communications and contact with nationals of the sending state which would contribute to the development of the friendly relations among nations... The observation we made immediately is this is unlikely to apply in the context of a spy, terrorist send by a state to engage in acts of terror."
"Indeed, with clear from the Vienna conventions itself that there are provisions beyond article 36 that need to be considered before coming to the court with the bold assertion that the Vienna is interrelated regime," he said.
However, Islamabad suffered a jolt when it was not allowed by the court to play the video containing a purported 'confession' by Jadhav.
At the end of the day's proceedings ICJ President Ronny Abraham announced that the verdict in the matter would be given "as soon as possible" and the date delivered in a public sitting.
(With Agency inputs)