Islamabad/New Delhi: A Pakistani court on Monday directed the government to inform India to appoint a lawyer for Kulbhushan Jadhav, the former Indian Navy officer sentenced to death for alleged involvement in spying, in order to file a review petition against his conviction.
A two-judge bench of the Islamabad high court headed by chief justice Athar Minallah also directed the Pakistan government to again inform Jadhav, 50, of his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) order of 2019 staying his execution and calling for a review of his conviction.
Referring to an ordinance promulgated by Pakistan to give effect to ICJ’s order, the bench said: “He shall be specifically informed regarding his right to avail the statutory remedy provided under the Ordinance of 2020 and to authorise the Government of India to arrange legal representation on his behalf.”
The judges ordered the formation of a larger bench to hear the case in view of its importance and adjourned the matter till September 3.
Pakistan’s attorney general Khalid Jawed Khan told the media after Monday’s hearing the high court had said Jadhav would be given a second chance to engage a lawyer. “The federal government also wants that he should himself engage a lawyer,” Khan said, speaking in Urdu.
Asked by reporters whether Indian lawyers could appear in the Islamabad high court on behalf of Jadhav, Khan said “only Pakistani lawyers and those who are entitled to practice in Pakistan” can be appointed.
In response to another question on whether Indian lawyers could assist any Pakistani counsel engaged for Jadhav, he said, “This option has not been considered as of now.”
There was no immediate response from Indian officials to the development.
The high court also appointed three senior lawyers – Abid Hassan Manto, Hamid Khan and former attorney general Makhdoom Ali Khan – as amici curiae or “friends of the court” to “ensure that the judgement of the (ICJ) is effectively implemented”.
In its order, the high court further said it expected Jadhav’s right to a fair trial “will be respected and utmost care will be exercised while making statements,…reporting by print and electronic media or otherwise commenting on or relating to the proceedings”.
Before joining the Islamabad high court, Minallah was a leading lawyer and played a key role in the lawyers’ movement against former dictator Pervez Musharraf. Some of his rulings have gone against the military establishment.
India recently said Pakistan had blocked all its efforts to seek remedies in the case of Jadhav, who was arrested by Pakistani security agencies in Balochistan in March 2016 and charged with involvement in spying.
India rejected these allegations and said he was kidnapped by Pakistani operatives from the Iranian port of Chabahar, where he was running a business.
The Pakistan government has promulgated the International Court of Justice (Review and Reconsideration) Ordinance 2020 to allow Jadhav to appeal against the death sentence given to him by a military court in 2017. The ordinance was recently tabled in Parliament for approval.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told a virtual weekly news briefing last week that Pakistan had systematically blocked all of India’s attempts to seek remedies for Jadhav. He also accused Pakistan of violating the 2019 judgement of ICJ, which called for an effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentencing of Jadhav.
India has also accused Pakistan of not providing unhindered, unimpeded and unconditional access to Jadhav or the official documents needed for filing a review petition.
“We reserve our position in this matter, which includes the right to avail of further remedies. I’ll also reiterate that we stand committed to protect the life of our national Kulbhushan Jadhav,” Srivastava had said last week.
On July 22, the Pakistan government petitioned the Islamabad high court to appoint a lawyer to represent Jadhav. The petition contended Jadhav was made aware of his rights but had refused to file a review petition against his sentence and that India had “not demonstrated a bonafide serious intent” to avail of remedies.
However, India dismissed the contentions made in this petition and said a Pakistani lawyer appointed by it had been unable to file a review petition on July 18 as he wasn’t provided the necessary documents by Pakistani authorities. Indian officials had also walked out of a meeting with Jadhav on July 16 after Pakistan breached assurances of providing unimpeded consular access.