Kulbhushan Jadhav’s Long & Drawn Out Ordeal With Pakistan

From his arrest to vindication, here’s everything that’s happened in Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case since 2016.

3 min read

On 17 July 2019, the International Court of Justice, headquartered in The Hague, delivered a verdict that India as well as Pakistan had been waiting for, for a long time.

The verdict made headlines – sending media into a tizzy – in both the countries.

We’re talking about the verdict in the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav's death sentence. On today’s Big Story, we dive into the whole timeline of Jadhav’s arrest, confinement and extended ordeal with Pakistan.

On this episode you’ll hear from the president of the International Court of Justice, India’s leaders, as well as The Quint’s own legal editor Vakasha Sachdev.


Now back to our story – On 17 July, the ICJ upheld the stay on Jadhav’s execution. A court in Pakistan had sentenced Jadhav to death after convicting him of a LONG list of charges, including spying and terrorism against Pakistan.

But, as per the ICJ verdict, Pakistan needs to ‘conduct a review and reconsider how they convicted Jadhav and sentenced him to death.’

Why? Because Pakistan had violated articles of the Vienna Convention.

“None of the arguments raised by Pakistan on the conviction of Jadhav can be upheld. The court upheld that the Vienna convention is applicable in this case, regardless of the accusations that Jadhav was engaged in espionage.”
Abdulqawi Yusuf, President of the International Court of Justice

With this verdict, India also gained consular access to Jadhav, over three years after Pakistan first got their hands on him.

How did we get here?

In simple terms, let's look at the facts of Jadhav’s ordeal in the honourable ICJ’s own words:

“Factual background – Arrest and detention by Pakistan of an individual named Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav – Jadhav accused of involvement in espionage and terrorism activities – Criminal proceedings instituted – Jadhav sentenced to death by military court in Pakistan.”
Excerpt on ICJ verdict on Jadhav

So, this whole story began way back in March 2016. Pakistani state security forces claimed that they had arrested a man from Balochistan who was “a serving officer in the Indian Navy and deputed to the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).”

In simple words, Pakistan claimed that Jadhav was a spy. They also claimed that he had links to separatists in the Baloch area and that he’d basically been involved in espionage and anti-Pakistan activities in Pakistan and Balochistan.

What evidence did they have to support this claim? They said that Jadhav had been found with a fake passport on him.


Now, the Indian government responded to this by saying that Jadhav HAD been an Indian Navy Officer but that he’d retired and had no connection to the Indian government, let alone, working for them as a spy!

India added that Pakistan had abducted Jadhav illegally from the Iran-Pakistan border and fabricated the documents on him.

After his arrest was made public, India asked Pakistan for consular access to Jadhav.

Consular access, in this case, means that Jadhav should be allowed to communicate with members of the Indian consulate, and basically talk to India.

Now, jump to April 2017. On 10 April 2017, Pakistan announced that it had sentenced Jadhav to death. Why? Because, they claimed that he was found guilty of ‘spying’ for India, waging war against Pakistan, sponsoring terrorism, AND destabilising the state.

From the time of Jadhav’s arrest till Pakistan eventually announced that it had sentenced him to death, India had made 18 requests to Pakistan for consular access. And, every single time, India was denied access, because, Pakistan claimed that Jadhav was a spy and wasn’t eligible for consular access.

The death sentence aside, Pakistan said that it had arrived at this point after a three-month long trial by a military court. A trial that was held in secret no less.

And that was when India approached the World Court. In May 2017, India approached the ICJ, saying that Pakistan had violated the Vienna convention and that Jadhav’s conviction needs to be reviewed.

On 18 May 2017, the ICJ stayed Jadhav’s death sentence, restraining Pakistan from executing him. In June that year, Pakistan released a video of Jadhav “confessing” to the charges he was convicted of.

In December 2017, Pakistan allowed Jadhav’s mother and wife one visit. But still no consular access.

After months of hearing arguments, from both India and Pakistan – India represented by Harish Salve and Pakistan by Khawar Qureshi – the court gave its verdict in July 2019, over three years after Jadhav’s ordeal began.

The verdict was almost unanimous, by a margin of 15-1, with the only opposition being from the judge from Pakistan.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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