Federal lawmakers have passed a Bill to give the Federal Court temporary powers to review sentences of death and imprisonment for natural life previously handed down, as part of reforms to abolish the mandatory death penalty.
The Bill was passed by a voice vote called by the Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Johari Abdul after Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Ramkarpal Singh’s winding-up speech on the Bill.
The Revision of Sentence of Death and Imprisonment for Natural Life (Temporary Jurisdiction of the Federal Court) Bill 2023 proposed to empower the Federal Court to retrospectively review death sentences previously delivered for offences where it was mandatory upon conviction such as murder, drug trafficking, and certain firearm crimes, among others.
However, the law would not allow the Federal Court to review the conviction itself.
“For the purpose of reviewing the sentence of death, the Federal Court shall call for an examine the record of proceedings, grounds of judgement and other relevant documents, if any.
“Upon reviewing the application, the Federal Court shall affirm or substitute the sentence of the applicant in accordance with the Penal Code, the Arms Act 1960, the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971, the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 and the Kidnapping Act 1961, as amended by the Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Act 2023,” the Bill said.
Once passed, death row prisoners and those sentenced to imprisonment for their natural life may make an application in writing to the Federal Court within 90 days of the law being gazetted.
Upon receiving an application, the Federal Court shall review the sentence of death, and may extend the time (90 days), if it considers that there is a good reason for doing so.
Each prisoner will be limited to a single application.
Upon review, the Federal Court may substitute the sentences with imprisonment of between 30 and 40 years.
Earlier, the Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Bill was passed at its third reading. The Bill would give judges the discretion on the death penalty rather than requiring them to do so when convicting on offences that made them mandatory. – MMO