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No appeal: Pak awards death to Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav

11 April 2017

A military court in Pakistan today sentenced to death former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav after convicting him of spying.

The Field General Court Martial (FGCM) awarded the capital sentence to Jadhav on charges of "espionage and sabotage activities". He is reported to have confessed to the charges.

The FGCM is a military court consisting of Pakistan Army officers. The judges aren't required to have law degrees.

Pakistan Army General Qamar Javed Bajwa confirmed the death sentence to Kulbhushan Jadhav after the FGCM found him guilty of "all the charges".

An Pakistan military release said, "The spy was tried through Field General Court Martial under the Pakistan Army Act and awarded the death sentence. Today Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa confirmed his death sentence awarded by FGCM."

The military court was not closed to outsiders. Kulbhushan Jadhav was not given consular access as demanded by Indian authorities.

Pakistan maintained that providing a defending officer during his trial at the Field General Court Martial as per legal provisions of the military court of Pakistan was enough defence for Jadhav.

India, on its part, has never sentenced a Pakistani national to death for espionage.

The military courts of Pakistan have unbridled rights and unmatched jurisdiction. They have the right to try civilians for several crimes, India Today points out. The government can also transfer cases to the military courts of Pakistan.

The Pakistan government gave an extension to the military courts of Pakistan after the December 2015 terror attack on a Peshawar school. The courts do not require judges to have any kind of legal training.

According to existing laws in Pakistan, a military court convict cannot appeal in a civilian court. This means the possibility of a fair trial is not available for Jadhav.

According to the Pakistan Army Act 1952, he can appeal in the Military Appellate Tribunal. However, the chances of getting a different verdict are slim.

The second option available to Kulbhushan Jadhav is to appeal in a civilian court for 'review' of the FGCM judgment. According to the Pakistan Army Act Section 7.2.3, military court convicts can have the decisions 'reviewed' by civilian courts, where Kulbhushan can have a lawyer of his choice. The government of India can also find a lawyer to defend him if Pakistan gives Kulbhushan Jadhav consular access.

Human rights activists of Pakistan have questioned the very existence of military courts especially for trial of civilians. According to the International Court of Justice, Pakistan is the only South Asian country to allow trial of civilians by military courts.

The principle of fair justice warrants a written judgment by a court of law. The written judgment explains the reasoning and logic behind the verdicts. But the military courts of Pakistan are not required to give any such document. Even the families of the convicts are not told about the investigation and evidence related to the case.

The unusually high percentage of confession to crimes by the accused in military courts (official reports say 90 per cent of the accused confess) raises serious doubts about the credibility of the statements. This indicates questionable interrogation and torture to elicit confessions.

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