PETALING JAYA: The case of Sasikumar Selvam whom police alleged had hanged himself in his cell at the Kluang prison on May 22, 2015, took a sudden twist with a ruling by the Johor Bahru coroner that it was homicide.
Yesterday, JB coroner Kamarudin Kamsun found Sasikumar had not committed suicide, ruling instead that it was a case of homicide.
According to the coroner, Sasikumar’s death was caused by person or persons unknown, and that the death was not a misadventure.
Indian rights group Hindraf, which attended that hearing yesterday, said that Kamarudin had also left it to the police to decide if it will conduct a thorough investigation to find those responsible.
“The coroner said there was existing evidence for police to investigate persons, in particular inmates or prison officers, who were involved in a drug syndicate in the prison.
“He also cited the evidence of how Sasikumar himself had told a prison officer that his life was under threat and feared for his life just two days before he was found hanged,” Hindraf said in a statement on the ruling.
The coroner also called the evidence of the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Sasikumar, “a good story but not a true story”, as it was not backed by evidence.
This followed the fact that the pathologist had come up with a theory but could not back up her story when questioned by lawyers Waythamoorthy and Kartigesan, who had represented Sasikumar’s family in the hearing.
“The narrative presented by the pathologist that part of strings found in prison by her had allegedly been used by Shashikumar to hang himself was not backed by DNA evidence,” Hindraf said.
Waythamoorthy and Karthigesan also told the hearing that the prison director testified that normally uniforms are not provided when a person was put in isolation, but Sasikumar was found with a uniform (allegedly used to hang himself).
Sasikumar’s state of mind was also adduced with the hearing being told of how his friend, who was in jail at the same time, had testified that Sasikumar was looking forward to being released together.
Sasikumar’s custodial death made the headlines in May 2015, after his grandmother lodged a police report on May 25, that she had suspected foul play in the death of her grandson who was serving a 10-year sentence for theft of rice and sardine.
The prisons department and the police issued statements at the time that an investigation had been conducted and that there was no foul play.
Waythamoorthy, who is also Hindraf chairman, had at the time also criticised the prison sentence meted out on Sasikumar as being grossly disproportionate.
“Hindraf is of the view that the 10-year sentence for a youth first-time offender is not only manifestly excessive but would be unacceptable by any standard of common sense and public interest,” he was reported to have said.
Waythamoorthy said the judge in Sasikumar’s trial had failed to consider that he had surrendered voluntarily to the authorities and had pleaded guilty instantly when the charge was read out to him.
“The charge sheet would have revealed immediately that the items stolen were basic food items.
“The judge conducting the matter should have used common sense and inquired as to the circumstances leading to the theft by the accused more so when the accused was a youth and unrepresented,” Waythamoorthy had said.