Consular Access to Jadhav: Invoking International Law as an Instrument of State Policy

The Indian recourse to the International Court of Justice provides a glimmer of hope for Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is lodged in Pakistani custody and sentenced to death. Indian action was triggered by consistent Pakistani denial of “consular access,” a minimal courtesy extended by all civilised states to nationals of another state, when they face charges under the local law. In a way, this Indian move to the ICJ underscores the beauty and majesty of international law for peaceful settlement of disputes.


On 8 May 2017, in an unprecedented action, India took a calibrated step to avail itself of an international law remedy for gaining access to its national, former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who is lodged in Pakistani custody and sentenced to death by a military court. Finding no room to reach out and rescue Jadhav, India decided to take the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The only other such case was when India had gone to the ICJ was in the 1971 matter concerning the jurisdiction of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council (India v Pakistan)[1]

Still, in the Jadhav case, in view of the circumstances, the jurisdiction invoked and the invoking of an international law remedy for an Indian national make the major difference. India, generally, has refrained from taking any bilateral issue to international forums, including any court or tribunal. 

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