India grants sacred rivers status of ‘legal persons’

Monday’s landmark court ruling, while drawing attention to the dismal state of the rivers, will do little to protect them, according to analysts. (AFP)
Updated 22 March 2017

India grants sacred rivers status of ‘legal persons’

DEHRADUN, India: Two of India’s holiest but most polluted rivers have been recognized as a “legal person” in a landmark court ruling that could see the sacred waterways restored to health.
The decision to bestow legal standing to the Ganges and the Yamuna, one of its major tributaries, comes just days after New Zealand awarded similar rights to its own spiritual river in a move described as a world first.
The highest court in Uttarakhand, the Himalayan state where the Ganges originates, late Monday declared the rivers as “living entities having the status of a legal person” and all corresponding rights.
The state’s High Court in the resort town of Nainital said it took the unusual step because the hallowed rivers upon which Hindu rites are conducted were “losing their very existence.”
“This situation requires extraordinary measures to preserve and conserve these rivers,” the court said in its ruling.
The Ganges is India’s longest and holiest river, but the waters in which pilgrims ritualistically bathe and scatter the ashes of their dead is heavily polluted with untreated sewage and industrial waste.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned in 2014 on a promise to revitalize the Ganges, even tasking a dedicated minister to the job, but results have been mixed three years on.
MC Pant, the lawyer who argued the case in Uttarakhand, said past court efforts to protect the river were done in the name of individual petitioners.
“Now, they can be filed in the name of the river itself,” he said.
Activists celebrated the groundbreaking ruling but cautioned against over-optimism given the scale of the task at hand.
“At the end of the day, one can only hope the symbolism attached to this order translates into real action on the ground,” said Sanjay Upadhyay, a New Delhi-based environment lawyer.
New Zealand last week recognized its third-largest river, ancestral and spiritual waters for its Maori people, as a living entity.
Successive governments in India have attempted with limited success to clean up the Ganges, which snakes 2,500 km across northern India from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal.

Indian sentenced to death in Pakistan for spying ‘refused to file review’

Updated 08 July 2020

Indian sentenced to death in Pakistan for spying ‘refused to file review’

  • Former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested in Balochistan in March 2016 and convicted the following year
  • The World Court has ordered Pakistan to review the decision to impose the death penalty in the case

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday that an Indian man convicted of spying and sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court has refused to file a review petition against the verdict.

Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested in March 2016 in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, where there is a long-running conflict between security forces and separatists. The following year he was convicted of espionage and planning sabotage, and sentenced to death.

India insists Jadhav is innocent, and last year the World Court ordered Pakistan to review the decision to impose the death penalty.

“On June 17, 2020 commander Jadhav was invited to file a petition for review and reconsideration of his sentence and conviction,” said Zahid Hafeez, Pakistan’s director general for South Asia at the ministry, during a joint press conference with Additional Attorney General Ahmad Irfan.

“Pakistan also offered to assist in legal representation for Jadhav. Exercising his legal rights, Cmdr. Jadhav refused to file a petition for review and reconsideration of his sentence. He instead preferred to follow up on his pending mercy petition.”

Hafeez said that Pakistan has repeatedly invited the High Commission of India to file a petition at Islamabad High Court in connection with the death penalty handed to Jadhav, and that he hopes India will cooperate with the Pakistani courts. 
He added that Pakistan has offered consular access to Jadhav for a second time, in addition to a meeting with his wife and father. 
Jadhav’s wife and mother were granted permission to visit him in 2017, eight months after he was sentenced to death.

According to 
Pakistani authorities, Jadhav confessed that he was ordered by India’s intelligence service to carry out espionage and sabotage in Balochistan, a province that is part of the $60 billion, Chinese-backed Belt and Road Initiative, a multinational development project.

In a transcript released by Pakistan of Jadhav’s confession, the former naval officer is quoted as saying the disruption of Chinese-funded projects was a main goal of his activities.