Ashish Sohani, a lawyer from Andheri who practises in the Bombay High Court, wanted to do more than just forward anti-China messages on WhatsApp and rant on Twitter.
Hence, he moved the International Criminal Court (ICC) against China for “not containing” the pandemic and allowing it to spread outside its borders. The 33-page petition demands $2.5 trillion – 190 lakh crore in Indian currency – on behalf of the Government of India from the People’s Republic of China.
The International Criminal Court – not to be confused with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which is hearing India’s plea against Pakistan’s decision to hang Kulbhushan Jadhav — is an intergovernmental organisation and international tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands.
It has the jurisdiction to hear cases of international crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crimes of aggression. Sohani, 32, the son of former Deputy Commissioner of Police Pradeep Sohani, submitted his e-petition on May 11. Three days later, he received a communication from the court saying his petition was under consideration.
“We will give consideration to this communication, as appropriate, in accordance with the provisions of the Rome Statute (a multilateral treaty that serves as the court’s foundational and governing document). As soon as a decision is reached, we will inform you and provide you with reasons for this decision,” the court conveyed, adding that such a communication does not guarantee an investigation.
Sohani, who has filed a parallel case against China in the Supreme Court, believes he has a strong case against the neighbouring superpower.
According to him, China has violated Article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family.”
He said that China has further violated Articles 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9 of International Health Regulations (IHR) formulated by the World Health Organisation to “prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.”
Apart from China, Sohani has named the country’s National Health Commission, Hubei Provincial Government, and Wuhan Municipal Government in his petition saying their actions amounted to “crimes against humanity.”
Sohani, whose mother Soniya retired as judge at the family court in Mumbai, said all efforts should be made to ensure China is brought to justice.
He said that there was enough evidence to prove that China was aware of the dangers of the virus and that it did little to contain it in the initial stages. “It will be befitting if the Government of India officially lodges a complaint against China,” he said.