In a major relief for India, the International Court of Justice on Thursday ordered Pakistan to suspend the death sentence of alleged spy Kulbhushan Jadhav till a final decision is taken.
The order was announced by ICJ president Ronny Abraham in a public sitting, 10 days after India approached the UN's top court for "provisional measure" of protection -- an interim relief -- in the Jadhav case.
In a unanimous decision that is also binding, the International Court of Justice ruled: "Pakistan shall take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Mr Jadhav is not executed pending the final decision in these proceedings."
Judge Ronny Abraham, while reading out his verdict, also asked Pakistan to inform it of all the measures it has taken to implement the order.The ICJ said that India should have been granted consular access to its national Kulbhushan Jadhav as per the Vienna Convention.
Asserting its jurisdiction over the case of Jadhav, who has been sentenced to death by Pakistan on charges of espionage and subversive activities, the ICJ noted that the circumstances of Jadhav's arrest remain disputed.
The 11-judge bench of the UN's highest court is presenting its verdict two days after India and Pakistan gave their submissions on the 46-year-old former Indian Navy officer.
India on Monday had sought the court's intervention for an immediate suspension of Jadhav's death sentence, fearing that the Indian national may be executed even before the ICJ decided the case.
In a public hearing on Monday, India had accused Pakistan of violating the Vienna Convention by denying consular access to Jadhav and pronouncing him guilty of espionage in a "farcical trial".
The Indian legal team represented by Deepak Mittal, who heads the Pakistan division of External Affairs Ministry, demanded immediate annulment of Jadhav's death sentence amid fears that he may be executed even before the world court pronounced its decision.
Pakistan had, however, rejected the Indian argument on the ground that New Delhi had no right to invoke the jurisdiction of the ICJ and that the Vienna Convention does not provide for matters relating to spies, terrorists and those who indulge in espionage.
Jadhav was awarded the death sentence by a Pakistan military court in April, a year after he was arrested on espionage charges.Islamabad has rejected 16 Indian requests for consular access to the former Indian Navy officer, held at an unknown prison in Pakistan.