India and Pakistan on Monday crossed swords at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over Kulbhushan Jadhav's case with New Delhi demanding the immediate suspension of his death sentence and Islamabad accusing it of using the world body as a stage for "political theatre" through a "misconceived" plea.
The two neighbours last faced off at the ICJ 18 years ago when Islamabad sought its intervention over the shooting down of its naval aircraft. India took the Jadhav case to the world court, accusing Pakistan of violating the Vienna Convention and conducting a "farcical trial" for convicting Jadhav without a "shred of evidence".
After hearing the arguments of the two sides, the court said it will issue its order on India's request for provisional measures "as soon as possible". "The date on which this order will be delivered at a public sitting will be duly communicated to the parties," the court said.
India demanded the immediate suspension of Jadhav's death sentence, expressing fears that Pakistan could execute him even before the hearing at the ICJ was over.
However, Pakistan asserted that Jadhav's execution was not imminent, saying that a time frame of 150 days is provided for seeking clemency and in Jadhav's case even if it started on April 10, 2017, the date of his conviction, the period could extend to well beyond August, 2017.
India made a forceful submission as the ICJ began hearing the case of the 46-year-old former Navy officer who was arrested on March 3 last year 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.Deepak Mittal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs to the ICJ
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."
Following India's arguments, Pakistan, in its submission before the United Nations' highest judicial body, said India's application on Jadhav, who was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and subversive activities last month, was "unnecessary and misconceived" and must be dismissed.
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", Mohammad Faisal of the Pakistan Foreign Office said in his opening remarks in response to India's submissions earlier in the day.
Vienna Convention provisions on consular access were not intended for a "spy" involved in terror activities, Pakistan asserted.
The ICJ also denied permission to Pakistan to play a purported "confessional" video of Jadhav at the public hearing here.
Later, after the hearings, Salve told a TV channel that the ICJ denying permission to Pakistan to play the "confessional" video was a setback to it.
Representing Pakistan, lawyer Khawar Qureshi said India has sought to persuade this court that Pakistan intends to execute Jadhav within days.
"Simply by referring to the clemency process available as a right to commander Jadhav. A period of 150 days is provided for in this regard which even if (it) started on April 10, 2017, which is the date of conviction at first instance, could extend to well beyond August 2017.
"There is also of course the potential for the writ petition of the High Court to be invoked as we believe India must be well aware," he said.