PETALING JAYA: The evidence of medical experts, including the pathologist, and possibly eyewitnesses, will be crucial for the coroner to return a verdict on the cause of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim’s death, a lawyer said.
S N Nair said the coroner in Adib’s case could only declare that Adib had succumbed to misadventure (accidental death), homicide or return an open verdict.
“Suicide is out of the question because the firemen died after he was admitted and sought treatment in hospital,” he said.
Nair said the evidence of doctors and the pathologist was vital in determining the cause and circumstances leading to Adib’s death about three weeks after mob violence outside the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Seafield, USJ 25.
“The coroner’s task in delivering a verdict can be made easier if there were eye witnesses to the incident,” he told FMT in commenting on the inquest which many are looking forward to and which will begin in Shah Alam on Monday.
Adib, 24, was severely injured during the violence outside the temple premises in USJ 25. He had been part of the response team sent from the Subang Jaya fire and rescue station early on Nov 27.
He died at the National Heart Institute on Dec 17.
About 30 witnesses, including six doctors, have been lined up to testify before coroner Rofiah Mohamad.
Nair explained an inquest was an inquisitorial proceeding where the coroner was tasked with investigating the death with the assistance of conducting officers and lawyers representing interested parties.
“There is no cross-examination of witnesses since no one is on trial for a criminal offence,” he said, adding that the rules of evidence would not be strictly followed.
He said the Attorney-General (AG), who is also the public prosecutor, would decide on the next course of action depending on the outcome of the verdict.
“The AG can request the police to further investigate the case based on the findings from the inquest, like homicide,” he said, adding that those involved could be charged for a criminal offence should there be sufficient evidence.
He said in the course of the proceeding, the oversight and negligence of the police and firemen sent to the scene could be unravelled as a peripheral issue.
Meanwhile, lawyer Salim Bashir said the coroner in any inquest was expected to play a dominant role in determining the truth of the incident.
“One would expect the coroner to be inquisitive and ask pertinent questions from witnesses instead of leaving it to the conducting officer and lawyers representing interested parties,” he said.
He said only interested parties could file a revision in the High Court if they were unhappy with the coroner’s verdict.
Salim cited the example of the Court of Appeal, in 2014, which held that “a person or persons were responsible” for the death of Teoh Beng Hock, a former political aide to a Selangor state executive councillor.
Teoh died while under the custody of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Malaysia on July 1, 2009. The coroner delivered an open verdict.
However, no one was charged with any criminal offence.
Adib’s family, the housing and local government ministry, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, and the Bar Council have been given permission to participate in the proceedings as they are interested parties.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia is allowed to hold a watching brief and their lawyers can seek clarification from witnesses but with the permission of the coroner.