PETALING JAYA: Two lawyers have welcomed the Federal Court’s decision to grant bail to the widow of Cradle Fund CEO Nazrin Hassan ahead of her murder trial in September, saying the same should be extended to all those with strong grounds to seek conditional release.
M Visvanathan and Sreekant Pillai said the apex court had rightly interpreted the provision under the law in its decision to release Samirah Muzaffar on bail of RM500,000 with two sureties.
In addition to granting bail, the court imposed strict conditions on Samirah’s movements by ordering her to remain indoors from 6pm to 8am.
Samirah was charged alongside two teenagers with murdering Nazrin at her home at Mutiara Damansara on June 14 last year.
The High Court freed the teenagers on bail of RM50,000 with two sureties each in March.
Visvanathan, who handles criminal cases, said bail for individuals accused of capital offences should not be limited to certain groups of people.
“I welcome the decision (to grant Samirah bail) because the court correctly interpreted what Section 388 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code says in its ‘plain and ordinary’ meaning that a woman can be out on bail if there are reasonable grounds for her application.
“I hope this is not a one-off situation and that the ruling can be applied to all individuals who have strong reasons to seek bail regardless of their social status,” he said.
Section 388 states that the court “may direct that any person under 16 years old or any woman or any sick or infirm person” accused of an offence punishable with the death penalty or life imprisonment be granted bail.
Visvanathan added that granting bail in a murder case similar to Samirah’s is not unusual as the High Court had, in August 2002, allowed bail of RM500,000 for lawyer Balwant Singh who was accused of shooting a despatch driver.
However, he said it is not likely that the decision will open the floodgates as “an application to seek bail for a non-bailable offence is provided for under the law”.
Sreekant meanwhile said the decision could bring hope to others held in detention pending trial.
“Those who feel they fall under the criteria of Section 388 (1) should apply for bail.
“I would say give it a shot because you have nothing to lose,” he said.
Agreeing with Visvanathan that bail should be allowed for individuals with strong grounds without looking at their social status, Sreekant also said it should be “an amount they can afford”.
Another lawyer, V Parthipan, cautioned however that applications for bail should not be “generalised” for all women accused of capital offences.
“The High Court judge still has the discretion whether or not to allow an accused person to be freed on bail,” he said, adding that they should be treated on a case-by-case basis.