MUMBAI: With relief writ large on their faces, Kulbhushan Jadhav's childhood friends released colorful balloons as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Wednesday stayed the death sentence awarded to him by a Pakistan court.
There were cheers of joy and sighs of relief as Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, ICJ president, read out the court's decision.
The ICJ has affirmed Jadhav's right to consular access and notification and directed Pakistan to provide effective review and reconsideration of his conviction and sentences.
At Parel in south Mumbai, where Jadhav spent his childhood, old friends watched the ICJ proceedings live on a TV, with a prayer on their lips.
A friend of Kulbhushan said they arranged for a TV set and gathered to watch the ICJ ruling. After the ruling, they released balloons in the sky as a gesture of peace.
"We did not burst fire crackers to avoid pollution," he said.
Jadhav's friends watched the telecast wearing 'India with Kulbhushan' T-shirts and also offered special prayers ahead of the ICJ verdict.
Outside the venue of the "ICJ telecast", banners with Kulbhushan Jadhav's images were displayed, some of them seeking immediate release of the Indian national now in Pakistan's custody.
Kulbhushan Jadhav is the son of Sudhir Jadhav, a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police in Mumbai. His uncle Subhash Jadhav, also a retired ACP, said, "We are happy that the judgment went in our favour and now await Kulbhushan's return to India."
Expressing satisfaction over the ICJ verdict, his uncle said the family will be "more happy" the he returns home.
"The ICJ ruling has given peace to our minds. We are happy with the verdict, which is in India's favour. But the real joy will be on the day he returns home," Jadhav told PTI.
"We have to see how Pakistan implements the ICJ ruling," he said. "We want our son back safely. He is innocent and we are all praying for his safety," he added.
Vandana Pawar, wife of Jadhav's childhood friend Tulsidas Pawar, said she is "satisfied, but not happy" with the ICJ order, as Kulbhushan is still in Pakistan's custody.
The ICJ could have ordered Jadhav's immediate release by withdrawing all the charges against him, she said. "We don't know how will Pakistan follow the ICJ order and that is why we are concerned," she said.
Banners and posters featuring Kulbhushan were put up near the Pruthvivandan building in Parel, where he spent his childhood. Handbills mentioning "Kulbhushan our hero" were also displayed.
People in Jadhav's native village in Satara district of western Maharashtra demanded immediate release of the retired Indian Navy officer sentenced to death by a Pakistan army court on alleged "espionage" charges.