New Delhi/Mumbai, (PTI) India today heaved a collective sigh of relief after the International Court of Justice stayed the execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav, with political leaders hailing the order, and the former navyman's friends erupting in joy and bursting firecrackers.
Harish Salve, India's attorney at ICJ, the UN's highest judicial body, came in for fulsome praise by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and a host of other leaders for his strong defence of Jadhav, facing gallows in Pakistan after a military court summarily convicted him of espionage and engaging in subversite activities.
Soon after the 11-judge ICJ bench unanimously stayed Jadhav's execution, Modi was on phone line with Swaraj, thanking her and appreciating the efforts of Salve in securing a fresh lease of live for the former naval officer, officials said.
An apparently relieved Swaraj took to twitter to tell people about the "great relief" she felt and vowed to "leave no stone unturned" to save Jadhav from the gallows.
"The ICJ order has come as a great relief to the family of Kulbhushan Jadhav and people of India.
"We are grateful to Harish Salve for presenting India's case so effectively before ICJ. I assure the nation that under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi we will leave no stone unturned to save (him)," Swaraj said in a series of tweets.
Meanwhile, Salve, the man being feted by the nation, said the first round of victory at the ICJ has "emboldened" and "invigorated" India.
Salve, who took a token Re one as fee to appear in the case in which "India had a lot at stake", said he felt a positive energy and connect with judges while arguing the matter.
"As a lawyer for 40 years, you get a feel of how judges are reacting. I felt a positive energy when I was arguing the case. I felt judges were connecting. I felt gratified. I did not feel that connection when the other side was arguing," he said.
"It was a complicated subject. We worked hard and prima facie got acceptance on all our points. We are now a lot more emboldened and a lot more invigorated," Salve told a TV news channel from London.
On being asked about the fee, Salve said, "When you believe in the case you do it pro bono (free of charge) and this was such a case. The government of India sought advice from me at the initial stage after which I researched about the case and gave my advice."
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, too, welcomed the stay on the execution of Jadhav, saying the order gave people of India "a deep sense of satisfaction". He said the Modi government will go "to any extent" to save the 46-year-old former soldier.
"The ICJ's decision to stay the execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav gives the people of India a deep sense of satisfaction and relief," Singh said in a statement.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad welcomed the ICJ order and asked the government to ensure justice is done to him and he is brought back to India.
"The case against Kulbhushan Jadhav by Pakistan was a sham and was in gross violation of international law as his execution was ordered by a kangaroo court without consular access. It is appreciated that the World Court saw reason in the Indian appeal," he said in a statement.
"It is a matter of great relief for all the people of India. We were worried. The order of the International Court of Justice must be respected by the State of Pakistan...
"We hope that the Government of India will continue to mount that pressure because it is the first stage. We have to ensure that Jadhav s life is saved and then only when he returns home, we will celebrate. Right now, it is a big relief, and we hope that Pakistan respects that order," Congress's senior spokesman Anand Sharma said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who was in Srinagar for the GST Council meeting, complimented Salve for the order.
"#ICJ verdict endorses the relevance and necessity of procedural and substantive fairness which was denied by Pakistan," Jaitley said in a series of tweets.
He also complimented Harish Salve, who represented India at the ICJ at The Hague. "Well done! #HarishSalve - you have done India Proud," Jaitley, himself a legal luminary, said.
"Congratulations to EAM Smt. @SushmaSwaraj ji and the entire Hague team," he said in another tweet congratulating External Affairs Minister.
BJP president Amit Shah also welcomed the order and hailed the Modi government for taking "quick and effective" action in the matter.
In Mumbai, where Jadhav grew up, his tense friends and well wishers had prayers on their lips as they waited with bated breath for a favourable ICJ order.
They organised a 'Ganesh puja' to propitiate the elephant headed God, one of the most worshipped, and revered for his power to remove obstacles and bring good luck.
As their prayers got answered, his friends at the Silver Oak Apartments in Powai burst crackers and chanted slogans like 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Vande Mataram'.
The friends of the embattled soldier had earlier launched a signature campaign to build public pressure on Pakistan to secure Jadhav's release. Some local politicians also joined in the celebrations.
In a big relief for India, the ICJ in the Hague in Holland today asked Pakistan to take all "necessary measures at its disposal" to ensure that Jadhav was not executed pending a final decision by it.
India had moved the UN's highest judicial body against the death sentence to Jadhav after Pakistan ignored its request for consular access to the former navyman 16 times.
According to Pakistan, Jadhav was seized by its security forces in the restive Balochistan province on March three last year after he reportedly entered from Iran. India has disputed the claim and said Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests.
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