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Friday, June 2, 2017

Kudos to Harish Salve and Govt for appointing him ~ why did UPA use Pak lawyer in ICJ ?

It certainly was a time of happiness and great relief when the  UN's top court on Thursday announced its ruling on an urgent bid by India to stop Pakistan from executing a death sentence for Kulbushan Jadhav, one of its nationals convicted of spying and subversive activities in Pakistan. Rejecting Pakistan's argument that the court did not have jurisdiction in the matter, the court reasoned it could hear the case because it involved, on the face of it, an alleged violation of one of the clauses of the Vienna Convention, which both Pakistan and India ascribe to and whose interpretation falls under its purview.

"[Meanwhile] Pakistan should take all measures to ensure that Mr Jadhav is not executed till the final decision of this court," the court said. The court also said Pakistan should inform it of all measures taken in implementation of the order. The president of the court, Ronny Abraham, read out the decision.

Good planning and secrecy - that's what Harish Salve said gave India the edge over Pakistan at the International Court of Justice. Two days after the former Solicitor General's masterful presentation of the case at The Hague, the world court ruled in India's favour, asking Pakistan to hold off the execution of Mr Jadhav till it reached its final verdict. Mr Salve, who is being congratulated since by everyone, from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to netizens on Twitter, told NDTV that it was a "huge decision" for the government to move the International Court, in which External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj "led from the front". "If we had made a false start, we would have been where Pakistan is today," Mr Salve said. Talking of the secrecy with which everything was planned, he said, "No emails were sent, everything was kept quiet, that's how we had a little advantage when we moved the court".

                           Pakistani media reports in the afternath of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) verdict in the Kulbhushan Jadhav death sentence case have focussed on Pakistan government’s underpreparedness and the court’s jurisdiction. There is an overwhelming unanimity that Pakistan shouldn’t have gone to the ICJ in the first place.  Many media reports state that they regret they way the case was mishandled. 

Is that an ordinary thing ? – though legal luminaries would know it better, it sounds atrocious for the commoner .. .. .. that this Pak  lawyer had been preferred to defend Indian interest during UPA regime.  In a shocking revelation, WION News has found that UPA government had hired Pak-origin UK lawyer Khawar Qureshi in 2004. He was reportedly recommended by law firm Fox Mandal for the Dabhol case.

Qureshi recently argued against India at the ICJ where he called India’s claims about Kulbhushan Jadhav ‘far-fetched’.  The report states that the  Congress-led UPA government had hired Khawar to represent India in the Dabhol power project case. In that particular case, Enron had made a US $ 6 billion dollar (5 billion pounds) claim against the government of India, the case went to arbitration. In 2004, when Congress-led UPA came to power, they changed the entire legal team and appointed Khawar Qureshi to appear on behalf of the Indian government. The  other side was represented by New York law firm Simpson Thacher and Barlett.
 The UPA government had hired Qureshi in Dabhol case overlooking Indian lawyers. Defending the decision, Congress national spokesperson Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi said today that Qureshi is an independent barrister and Indian lawyers are also engaged by Pakistan. Singhvi said that the entire matter is a non-issue.
In the present case, according to a Geo News report, Khawar Qureshi, the lawyer representing Pakistan at the International Court of Justice (ICJ),  blamed the Indian government for the 'baseless propaganda' surrounding the case fee he charged, something that became a rallying point for many on the social media to poke fun at him. What exacerbated his misery was the obvious comparison with Harish Salve, the Indian counsel in the case, who took just Re 1 as his court fee, a symbolism of his commitment to his motherland. The lawyer, who has been blamed by many experts and politicians in Pakistan for not preparing well for the case and leaving many loopholes in his arguments, told Geo News that "references to his fees were complete lies fabricated by Indian Twitterati and Indian nationals behind such baseless propaganda may have government backing".

The ICJ decision yesterday, staying execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav by Pakistan till the case was underway in the UN court, saw a rush of tweets on how a highly paid but ill-prepared Pak lawyer could not stand the legal wisdom of Harish Salve who charged just Re 1. The speculation on Twitter about his fees was largely based on media reports from Pakistan that quoted his fees for the case at around 5,00,000 British Pound, i.e., a whopping 7 crore in Pak currency and around 4.25 crore in Indian currency.  So, even if Qureshi says that "his fees were not even 10 per cent of what the Indian propaganda suggests" and even if he justifies the amount he charged by saying he "cancelled another professional commitment with another government to travel to Pakistan urgently", he would always find it difficult to justify even this reduced gap, i.e., at 10 per cent of the claims being made, between Harish Salve's Re 1 winning gesture to his Rs. 42.5 lakh case fee, especially when he wasted 40 minutes of the 90 minutes given to his team to present its side of the arguments. To add to Qureshi's misery, Indian team under the leadership of Salve used its full 90 minutes.

But whether he is justified in the fees charged or not, is not our botheration – but why was he used for defending our interests certainly is ..  Lashing out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over its accusations at the Congress replacing former solicitor general of India Harish Salve with Pakistani counsel Khawar Qureshi in the 2004 Dabhol Power Corporation matter, party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala defended Khawar Qureshi. He told ANI: "Khawar Qureshi, who is being portrayed as a terrorist, has been a part of the Queen's Counsel (QC) since 1990. He is an additional high court judge in the United Kingdom, and also a professor at the Cambridge University. He was appointed by the Indian government when two investors from Enron filed a case against India at the International Court of Arbitration in 2004.”

There have  been occasions when Congress leaders Salman Khurshid and Mani Shankar Aiyar  allegedly spoke  in support of Pakistan; but this entrustment of case, takes the cake. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
20th May 2017.


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