Drug Act to be amended so judges have full discretion

azalina-drugPETALING JAYA: The government will amend the Dangerous Drugs Act 2017 to give full discretion to judges to decide on cases involving drug pushers within and outside of the country.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said said the amendment to Section 39B of the Act would be made at the committee level to give full discretion to judges.

“The Dewan Rakyat secretary has been given notice of the amendment.

“The change was made after taking into consideration the thoughts of relevant stakeholders that have given their suggestions to the government,” she said in a statement.

This followed objections from several quarters, including the opposition, to the initial amendment which gave the public prosecutor the power to exercise his discretion in drug-related cases instead of the courts.

Azalina said the government had considered the amendment to send a clear message that it was serious in its efforts to help authorities curb drug dealing.

“The Act will be debated in Parliament tomorrow,” she added.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi meanwhile said the difference in opinion between the government and Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali regarding the Act was due to an “administrative mistake”.

This followed a report by Malaysiakini which said Apandi’s initial proposal to the government was for judges to be given full discretion to decide on the death penalty.

Zahid, who is also home minister, said the draft of the amendment was done by the AG’s legislative drafting department.

“It is only an administrative issue and it can be solved soon.

“I will study the details and discuss the matter with the AG,” he said at Parliament here today.

Zahid said the previous Act had stated that judges could only mete out the death sentence or free the accused.

“Now the Act will give judges an alternative: either sentencing the accused to death or life imprisonment. This is the best alternative for judges, which gives them choices based on the cases brought to court.”

Yesterday Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh submitted two objections to the amendment of the Act.

He said he disagreed with the amendments which gave the public prosecutor the power to exercise his discretion instead of such discretion being given to the courts.

He also took issue with the failure to address the sentence retrospectively for those already on death row.