Kulbhushan Jadhav trial: Breaking bread, and ice

peace-palace-ap Exterior view of the Peace Palace, which houses the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands | AP

There was a special visitor on the first day of the Kulbhushan Jadhav trial in the public gallery. The wife of Judge Dalveer Bhandari, lined up with ordinary people at the Peace Palace, to listen to the Indian counsel Harish Salve make his opening remarks. Even though Mrs Bhandari doesn’t come to court often, she does attend the hearing of the first day of court. With this being an India and Pakistan trial—like a match almost—it was a chance she didn’t want to miss.

On Wednesday, Mrs Bhandari attended the hearing again. It is tradition that the two warring sides—lawyers and diplomats representing the countries battling it out on the court floor—are taken to the special Judge’s Restaurant to break bread and talk. It helps reduce tension. At the end of the third day’s hearing, the Pakistani delegation walked to restaurant while the Indian delegation walked to it. The mood was probably a bit frosty, especially after the Indian lawyer Harish Salve had chosen to take great objection to Pakistan’s counsel Khawar Qureshi’s use of “Humpty Dumpty’’, but reportedly there was conversation.

The Bhandaris are now very much part of The Hague, they live near the sea and Judge Bhandari can be seen walking past the iron gates carrying his briefcase making his way up the Peace Palace steps each day. “He always comes on foot,’’ said a staff member.

In contrast to the life of judges in India, judges of the ICJ lead lives almost fuss-free. In 2016, they were entitled to a salary of $172, 978 per year. Unlike the entourage of a diplomat—who drive into the Peace Palace straight up to the steps—judges either cycle, walk or take public transport. Apart from the salary, perks that go with the job only include the fresh air of The Hague, a small café only for judges—and Ambassadors—and the deep satisfaction derived after delivering justice.