NEW DELHI: Despite the tough posturing, India can use only diplomatic maneuvering to save former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav from the gallows in Pakistan, say strategic experts. The Indian citizen, who was allegedly abducted by Pakistan forces from Chahbahar Port in Iran, also has the option of appealing to the President of Pakistan for mercy.
Sources from Pakistan Embassy here said that as per the law, Jadhav can “challenge decision in army court of appeal. If rejected, he can appeal for mercy to Pakistan Army Chief. And if the appeal is rejected there too, he can appeal to Pakistan’s President for clemency.”
Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national who was arrested in Balochistan in March 2016, and had been detained there on charges of espionage, was awarded the death sentence. Persons convicted under the Pak Army Act (PAA) 1952 can file an appeal with the ‘Court of Appeal’ within 40 days under Section 133B of the Act. However, Major Navdeep Singh Puri, an expert in Army legal matters, said: “The term ‘court’ is a misnomer since the said body is an executive body comprising serving military officers not trained in law and who cannot be logically expected to defy what has been confirmed by their boss, that is, the Army Chief.” Pakistan Army Chief has already approved the death sentence to Jadhav given by the military court.
Pak military courts are “extra-constitutional entities” which cannot be questioned in civilian courts and these can be convened at secret locations without providing a counsel to the ‘accused’. In Jadhav’s case, he is said to have been given a ‘defence officer’ instead of a counsel, hence questions loom large on the due process and basic protection available to Jadhav in the proceedings.
Unlike India, where civilians cannot be tried in military court, Pakistan’s Field General Court Martials have unlimited power to try civilians. The narrative spawned by the Pakistan Army, as being told by Pakistan authorities here is: “Those in establishment realised that espionage is a serious business.
Accordingly, a serious verdict was expected.” Interestingly, in India all civilians, including ‘spies’ caught, are tried by civil courts. For the Indian government, the options are limited as strategic thinkers feel that Islamabad is going to use Jadhav in broader negotiations. The Indian diplomatic establishment is presently undertaking frantic efforts to save Jadhav. The option available at the moment is to put diplomatic pressure on Pakistan through the UN and the US.