Don’t insist on jail sentences for MCO offenders, lawyers urge AG

Lawyers argue that senior citizens suffering from ailments and prone to infection should not be given custodial sentences.

PETALING JAYA: Lawyers have urged the attorney-general to instruct his deputy public prosecutors (DPPs) not to push for a jail term for movement control order (MCO) offenders to stop the risk of Covid-19 infection.

They also called on Idrus Harun, who is also the public prosecutor, to ensure prominent personalities were charged without delay to remove the negative perception of selective prosecution.

The lawyers also want High Court judges to recall and rectify on their own volition cases of gross injustice slapped on MCO offenders by magistrates.

Lawyer KA Ramu said DPPs could also use their discretionary powers not to prosecute or drop charges in exceptional cases.

He cited the case of an Indian citizen who was charged with breaching the MCO and immigration offence as he could not produce his passport.

“He went out to buy food as his employer did not provide him with meals. He was merely carrying a copy of his travel document,” he told FMT, adding that the police could have verified it with the immigration.

In another case, Ramu said an elderly couple in Kuching were fined RM1,000 each for violating MCO by travelling together to buy vegetables.

He said the couple could be worried about going out alone. “They should have been just given a warning,” he said.

However, the case of a student jailed for seven days and fined RM800 for leaving home to present a cake to her boyfriend was apt.

He said the prosecution should evaluate case by case before pressing charges.

“It should not be made into a standard operating procedure that anyone caught should be taken to court,” he added.

Over the past one week, the media reported Deputy Health Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali and Perak executive councillor Razman Zakaria as allegedly violating the MCO when they attended a lunch event at a religious school in Perak.

Both have issued a public apology.

Similarly, Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar and state Umno chief Ahmad Said were also investigated over a meeting held on April 17 in the midst of the MCO.

Police have recorded their statements.

Yesterday, Bukit Aman CID director Huzir Mohamed said investigation papers would be handed to the prosecution once the probe is completed against Nurul Hidayah Ahmad Zahid and her husband.

Nurul Hidayah is the daughter of Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

The couple had allegedly flouted the MCO when they met Deputy Environment Minister Ahmad Masrizal Muhammad in Putrajaya after an earlier meeting with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

Lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali said the public must understand that the police merely carried out investigations and it is up to the prosecution to charge.

“However, the law must be applied equally without considering the status, religion and race of the suspects or else it will give rise to a perception problem,” he said.

Rafique said High Court judges could immediately review cases of offenders given excessive punishments for violating the MCO.

“The judge can call up a case on his own even after reading a case in the newspapers. There is no need to wait for a revision or appeal,” he said.

The lawyer said such powers were provided for under Sections 31 and 35 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 and Sections 323 and 325 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Lawyer A Srimurugan said the AG could order his DPPs to only request the court to impose a fine on offenders while senior citizens could be let off with a warning.

“Senior citizens suffering from ailments and prone to infection should not be sent to serve a custodial sentence. Retired civil servants also risk losing their pension,” he added.

Those who do not abide by the directives under the MCO can be fined not more than RM1,000 or jailed for not more than six months, or both.

“It is not mandatory to send one to jail. It is merely a discretion given to the court,” he said.

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