Custodial death: Gobind says AG must explain failure to call inquest

gobind-custody-1PETALING JAYA: Lawyer Gobind Singh Deo criticised the Attorney-General today for his failure to call for an inquest into the death of S Balamurugan, who died when in police custody last February.

Calling for Mohamed Apandi Ali to explain why no inquest has taken place, Gobind said there are provisions in the law which state clearly that an inquiry shall be held where a person dies in the custody of the police, pointing to Section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

“Section 339 of the same code gives the Public Prosecutor powers to direct that an inquiry be held in order to determine the cause and circumstances connected with the said death,” Gobind said in a statement today.

“It is obvious that these provisions express the serious view which Parliament takes in respect of deaths in custody and the Public Prosecutor as the guardian of justice is specifically empowered to ensure that these provisions are enforced.”

Gobind, who is also DAP national legal bureau chairman, also referred to an inquiry by the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) on Balamurugan’s death that is currently taking place, saying the reports on testimony by various witnesses have been “very troubling”.

“An open inquiry in this form serves as a deterrent against incidents like these re-occuring. It is a forum by which shortcomings in police stations which result in these incidents are exposed and dealt with.

“So why, in this case has no inquest been held as yet?” the Puchong MP said, adding that people are entitled to know why despite express provisions made for the Attorney-General to act, and where those provisions exist to ensure that deaths in custody are accounted for, no inquest has yet been held.

Balamurugan was arrested on Feb 6 at Jalan Batu Belah in Klang and died in the early hours of Feb 8 at the Klang Utara district police headquarters.

His lawyer George Lazarus told the EAIC that he was told by other detainees – Tamilarasan Karapiah and a boy with the surname Ang, who were arrested on Feb 6 together with Balamurugan as well as one Kanapathy – that Balamurugan was beaten by the police.

“They said Bala had the worst beating,” he said in his testimony to the inquiry last month.

After Balamurugan vomited, Lazarus said, the magistrate rejected the remand application on the grounds that the detainee was unwell.

The handcuffs on Balamurugan were removed but he was not allowed to go home, the lawyer said.

On Tuesday, the investigating officer for Balamurugan, Inspector Mohd Noor Husri Johari, told the inquiry that Balamurugan was not released because the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had instructed for him to be rearrested despite being aware of his poor health.

Noor Husri said his superiors were aware of the detainee’s condition but were waiting for the CID’s feedback.

He added that both his superiors and CID had known about Balamurugan’s health as one of the officers had spoken of it in their WhatsApp group consisting of senior officers, including those from the CID.

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