In a major boost to India, the International Court of Justice on Thursday stayed the execution of former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who had been sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court on charges of espionage and subversive activities.
"Pakistan shall take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Mr Jadhav is not executed pending the final decision in these proceedings," ICJ President Ronny Abraham said while reading out the verdict.
The United Nations' highest judicial body, which had earlier provisionally stayed Jadhav's sentence on May 9, also instructed Pakistan to inform it "of all the measures taken in implementation of the present order".
"The court also decides that, until it has given its final decision, it shall remain seized of the matters which form the subject matter of this order," a press release from the global court said.
Asserting its jurisdiction over the case, the court backed India's contention that there has been a violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations as New Delhi's requests for consular access to its national had been denied 16 times.
India and Pakistan, it noted, have been signatories to the Vienna Convention since 1977.
As soon as the order came in, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his satisfaction and spoke to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who described the verdict as a "great relief".
They both thanked senior lawyer Harish Salve, who headed the battery of lawyers presenting India's case.
In Islamabad, Pakistan said it did not accept the ICJ ruling in matters related to national security.
Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria also hit out at India, saying it was "trying to hide its real face" by taking the case of Jadhav to ICJ.
The unanimous verdict of the 11-judge bench comes three days after the two countries gave their submissions during which India demanded annulment of the sentence and described Pakistan's trial to convict Jadhav as "farcical". Pakistan, in turn, had argued that the 46-year-old Indian national was a spy and India's plea was "misconceived".
The court said Pakistan had indicated that the execution would probably not take place before August 2017. "This means that there is a risk that an execution could take place at any moment thereafter, before the Court has given its final decision in the case."
It also noted the urgency of the case since Pakistan had given "no assurance that Mr. Jadhav will not be executed before the Court has rendered its final decision".
Examining India's argument that is a risk of irreparable prejudice, it said, "... the mere fact that Mr. Jadhav is under a death sentence and might therefore be executed is sufficient to demonstrate the existence of a risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights claimed by India".
India moved the ICJ against the death penalty on May 8. The next day, the global court gave Jadhav a lease of life and stayed the death sentence as a provisional measure.
Pakistan claims its security forces arrested Jadhav from its restive Balochistan province on March 3 last year after he reportedly entered from Iran. However, India maintains that he was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Indian Navy.
Jadhav's case is the latest flashpoint in the tensions between Pakistan and India. The two countries last faced off at the ICJ 18 years ago when Islamabad sought its intervention over the shooting down of its naval aircraft.
ICJ order on Jadhav binding on Pakistan: India
India on Thursday asserted that the ruling of the International Court of Justice, staying the execution of former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, is binding on Pakistan and termed the verdict as “unanimous” and “unambiguous”.
Hours after the ICJ in The Hague pronounced its provisional order in the case, the External Affairs Ministry said the government will do everything possible to save the life of Jadhav.
Addressing a crowed press conference, MEA Spokesperson Gopal Baglay said the provisional relief provided by the ICJ is the first step in ensuring justice to Jadhav.
The order by the ICJ is unanimous, favourable, clear and unambiguous. The verdict a matter of great relief for people of the country, he said.
Replying to a volley of questions on India’s possible response if Pakistan does not implement the ICJ order, Baglay said the order is binding on Pakistan.
Click HERE to read ICJ order.