New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked the government to explain whether it will take the case of Kargil martyr Saurabh Kalia to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague.
Captain Kalia, 23, and other soldiers were captured by Pakistan and tortured brutally during the war that lasted from May to July in 1999. The mutilated bodies were handed back to India after more than three weeks of their capture.
Captain Kalia's case was raised by India in talks with visiting Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik today. New Delhi demanded action against those responsible for torturing the officer to death.
Upon his arrival in Delhi, Mr Malik had said, "I have not examined this case. I will be very happy to see the father of the soldier and listen to what exactly happened. When the war is going on, on the border we don't exactly know what happened - whether he was killed by a Pakistani bullet of it was the weather."
Captain Kalia of the 4 Jat Regiment was the first Indian Army officer to observe and report large-scale intrusion by the Pakistani Army into the Indian side of the Line of Control in the Kargil sector of Jammu and Kashmir. He and five other soldiers were captured on May 15, 1999 and were in captivity for more than 20 days.
When their bodies were handed over to India, the autopsy reports revealed extreme torture including cigarette burns, ear drums pierced with hot iron rods and amputated limbs.
The young soldier's father, NK Kalia, says that though Pakistan's handling of his son violates the international convention on the treatment of prisoners of war, the Indian government has been apathetic in not raising the case with Pakistan. He wants the Indian government to raise the matter with the ICJ.
The judges hearing his petition observed today, "We fully share your agony. But what is the role of the court? Can we direct India to take up the case with International Court of Justice?" They added, "This is an important issue. If the government wants, it can take up the issue with the International Court of Justice and there's no need for our interference."
The court has given the government 10 weeks to reply to Mr Kalia's petition.
Mr Kalia's father said that he had first approached the Indian Defence Ministry for help, which said his son's case had been referred to the Prime Minister's Office, which in turn said the matter was being studied by the External Affairs Ministry.
The government's seeming reluctance to raise the matter with the ICJ could be rooted in the fact that India had sought changes in the arbitration rules of the court, insisting that it would only hear a case if all countries or parties involved in a dispute agreed to approach it.
Just after the Kargil War, India had shot down a Pakistani aircraft in the Bhuj-Rajasthan sector. Then, Pakistan had wanted to raise the issue before the ICJ, but India blocked the move pleading that both parties did not agree on moving the court.