A court in Pakistan on Wednesday urged India to cooperate with the legal proceedings in the case against former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, saying the matter had international ramifications and concerned the “life of a human being”, Dawn reported.

A three-member bench of the Islamabad High Court, comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, was hearing the petition by Pakistan’s Ministry of Law and Justice seeking the appointment of a lawyer for Jadhav.

So far, Islamabad has said that the advocate should be a Pakistani national. But India wants Jadhav to be represented by an Indian lawyer.

During the hearing on Wednesday, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan said that in order to comply with the International Court of Justice’s decision, Pakistani government had drafted a law to provide consular access to Jadhav. But Indian authorities, he alleged, deliberately avoided joining the court’s proceedings.

Khan added that New Delhi was raising objections to a trial before a Pakistani court and had declined to even appoint a counsel for the court’s proceedings, saying it “is tantamount to surrendering sovereign rights”.

“It appears the Indian government has raised the objection not for non-implementation of ICJ’s [International Court of Justice] verdict but to engineer default on the basis of which it would [try to] justify going to the ICJ again,” the attorney general said.

The chief justice said he was surprised to see that the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, which had approached the Pakistani court seeking release of five prisoners and had secured decision in their favour, was now questioning its legitimacy.

He observed that despite negative remarks of the Indian government about Pakistani courts, the Islamabad High Court was considering Jadhav’s case on humanitarian grounds to ensure a fair trial, reported Dawn.

“We are not against sovereign immunity of the Indian government but they should at least tell us how we would proceed to implement the ICJ’s decision,” the chief justice added.

The judge asked the attorney general to remind the Indian government that appearing before the court did not mean waiver of sovereignty and that the High court had “acknowledged their sovereign rights”.

Justice Aurangzeb, meanwhile, said that if Indian government will not respond, the court might dismiss the petition. To this, the attorney general responded: “This is exactly what the Indian government wants,” according to Dawn.

The court then asked the attorney general to take up the matter with the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The matter will be heard again on June 15.

The case

A Pakistani military court had sentenced former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav to death in April 2017 for allegedly spying for India. Jadhav’s execution was stayed after India moved the International Court of Justice against the verdict in May 2017. India had contended in the court in The Hague that the lack of consular access to Jadhav was a violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

In its July 2019 judgement, the International Court of Justice had concluded that Pakistan had violated the Vienna Convention in its treatment of Jadhav and ordered Islamabad not to execute him at the moment. Following the court’s judgement, Pakistan allowed India access to the former naval officer.

In July, India had accused Pakistan of blocking all legal remedies to Jadhav and accused the country of adopting a “farcical approach” to the case. On July 17, Pakistan had claimed it had offered to grant India consular access to Jadhav for the third time without the presence of a security guard. India had got the second consular access to Jadhav on July 16, but the officials who had gone to meet him alleged that they were not provided “unimpeded access” and that he was visibly under stress due to the presence of Pakistani officials at the meeting.

In August, New Delhi had once again accused Islamabad of failing to provide unimpeded consular access to Jadhav.