A general view of Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 13, 2022. — Bernama pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 — On October 6, Malaysia took a historic step towards the complete abolition of capital punishment when it introduced amendments to existing legislation in Parliament to replace the mandatory death penalty for several criminal offences.
A pursuit since 2019, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar tabled several government Bills relating to the abolition of the death penalty for their first reading in Dewan Rakyat.
These were the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2022, Kidnapping (Amendment) Bill 2022, Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2022, Firearms (Increased Penalties) (Amendment) Bill 2022, Arms (Amendment) Bill 2022, Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill 2022, and the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2022.
A de facto moratorium has been imposed on the execution of the death penalty since July 2018, two months after the Pakatan Harapan government then came to power.
Under its criminal justice system, Malaysia currently recognises 33 capital offences, of which 11 carry the mandatory sentence of death by hanging upon conviction, while the remaining 22 are discretionary.
But what are proposed amendments in the government Bills? Malay Mail has taken the liberty to provide a simple breakdown of each Bill and their respective revisions.
1. Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2022
This seeks to insert a new section — Section 3A — into the Criminal Justice Act 1953 (Act 345) to provide for an explanation for the term of “imprisonment for natural life”.
Under the new definition, any person sentenced to imprisonment for natural life is deemed for all purposes to be a sentence of imprisonment until their death.
2. Kidnapping (Amendment) Bill 2022
This seeks to substitute the words under Section 3 of the Kidnapping Act 1961 (Act 365) to vary the penalty for the offence of abduction, wrongful restraint or wrongful confinement for ransom by abolishing the death penalty.
Under the new amendment, the death sentence is removed and those convicted shall be liable with imprisonment for life and whipping of not less than 12 strokes.
3. Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2022
This proposes that Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (Act 234) be amended by varying the penalty for trafficking in dangerous drugs.
Under the new amendment, whipping will be reduced from 15 strokes to 12 strokes if the death sentence is not imposed.
The court would also be given discretion whether to impose the death penalty without having to regard to the circumstances under subsections (2A) and (2B).
4. Firearms (Increased Penalties) (Amendment) Bill 2022
This seeks to alter Sections 3, 3A and 7 Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971 (Act 37) by changing the penalty under their respective provisions; Section 2 is to be amended by deleting the definition “imprisonment for life” as the term’s meaning is explained in Act 345.
Offences under Section 3, 3A and 7 such as the discharging of a firearm intending to cause death or hurt, being an accomplice in the case of a firearms discharge and firearms trafficking, will also see their mandatory death penalty abolished.
The amendment would also provide discretion to the court on whether to impose the death penalty against a convicted person or imprisonment for natural life with whipping.
5. Arms (Amendment) Bill 2022
Section 14 of the Arms Act 1960 (Act 206) is to be amended by varying the penalty for the manufacturing of arms or ammunition without or in breach of a valid licence; Section 2 is to be amended by deleting the definition “imprisonment for life” as the term’s meaning is explained in Act 345.
Under the new amendment, the death sentence under Section 14 is removed and a convicted person shall be liable with imprisonment for natural life and with whipping of not less than 10 strokes.
In the case of a company or firm, they will be fined up to RM5 million (RM500,000 at present); in the case of a non-compliant licensed manufacturer, they will be fined up to RM250,000 (RM25,000 at present) under the new amendment.
6. Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill 2022
This proposed that the First Schedule to Criminal Procedure Code (Act 593) be amended as a consequence of amendments made to the Penal Code in abolishing mandatory death penalty.
Among the First Schedule amendments, the words “or imprisonment for natural life” is inserted after the words “punishable with death” for several items relating to the provisions in the Penal Code.
A more detailed breakdown of each criminal offence and their amended penalty can be found below.
7. Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2022
This aims to substitute the mandatory death penalty for offences under Sections 121A, 130C, 130I, 130N, 130O, 130QA, 130ZB, 302 and 374A of the Penal Code (Act 574) with the discretionary death penalty and whipping.
Said offences included waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or a Ruler (Section 121), acts of terrorism (Section 130), murder (Section 302), and hostage-taking (Section 374).
This would give the courts the discretion to decide whether to impose the death penalty or impose the sentence of imprisonment for natural life with whipping under the aforementioned Sections.
The amendments also seek to vary the sentence of fine to the sentence of whipping under subsections of Sections 130, 374 and 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Penal Code.
Amendments are also made to Section 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder), where the death penalty is abolished and replaced with imprisonment up to 30 years and whipping of not less than 12 strokes.
Last but not least, amendments are also made to subsection of Section 307 (attempted murder) where the death penalty is abolished for a person who committed said offence while imprisoned.
According to the Bills’ Clause, transitional provision is also introduced, allowing those who commit an offence from the aforementioned principle Acts to be sentenced — whether at trial or appeal — in accordance with the provisions of the respective amended Acts even if their offence predates the effective date of the amendments.