What is consular access?

  • Former Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav has been sentenced to death row by Pakistan’s military court on the charges of espionage. The execution, was, however, put on hold after India appealed to the World Court in May.
  • India has repeatedly sought consular access to Jadhav, under the rules of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963. 
  • Article 36 of this treaty states that “foreign nationals who are arrested or detained be given notice without delay of their right to have their embassy or consulate notified of that arrest.
  • If the detained foreign national so requests, the police must fax that notice to the embassy or consulate, which can then check up on the person.
  • The notice to the consulate can be as simple as a fax, giving the person’s name, the place of arrest, and, if possible, something about the reason for the arrest or detention.
  • Under this international treaty, a framework for consular relations between independent states is clearly defined. The appointed officer usually protects the interests of his countrymen while operating in a foreign location. He is also instrumental in strengthening the relations between his home country and the host country.
  • In layman terms, this implies the ability of the citizens of a country to have communication with the diplomats and officers of their country while held in a foreign location.
  • Pakistan has, however, outrightly denied India access to Jadhav on the ground that it was not applicable in cases related to “spies,” a charge which India has repeatedly rejected.


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