2 options for AG on inquiry into fireman Adib’s death, say lawyers

A riot at the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Subang Jaya in 2018 led to the death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has suggested that Attorney-General (AG) Idrus Harun direct the coroner who investigated the death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim to reopen the inquiry.

However, another lawyer says a fresh inquiry should be held to prevent further complications.

M Visvanathan said the AG, who is also the public prosecutor, could direct the coroner to make further investigations. “This is provided for under Section 339 of the Criminal Procedure Code,” he added.

The counsel, who has acted for families of victims who died under police custody, said an inquest was merely an indoor investigation and not a trial to determine whether one is guilty or otherwise.

M Visvanathan

Visvanathan said this in response to police mooting a fresh inquest into Adib’s death following injuries sustained during a riot in Subang Jaya two years ago.

Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin told the Dewan Rakyat last week that the proposal was made in an investigation paper which was handed to the Attorney-General’s Chambers on July 23.

Hamzah in reply to three MPs who wanted an update on the case said the government would make the most fitting decision to ensure no more questions arose.

Visvanathan said some witnesses who gave evidence before coroner Rofiah Mohamad appeared to have recanted their previous statements to the police.

“These witnesses need to be recalled for the coroner to come to a verdict,” he added.

Visvanathan cited the case of P Karuna Nithi whose inquest was reopened in 2017, though coroner Jagjit Singh maintained his verdict.

Jagjit in 2015 ruled that policemen and inmates were responsible for the death of the unemployed man while he was detained at the Tampin district police headquarters in Negeri Sembilan two years earlier.

SN Nair

Meanwhile, SN Nair said the AG could call for a fresh inquiry to determine how Adib came to his death by setting aside Rofiah’s findings.

“Unlike a criminal or civil appeal, there is no time frame to set aside the verdict of the coroner because no one was found guilty or liable,” he added.

He said Visvanathan’s suggestion had merit but to continue with the inquiry would lead to many legal challenges in the future.

“The route of reopening the case may be fraught with possible challenges by parties who may be dissatisfied with the verdict,” Nair said.

Adib died at the National Heart Institute a month after being sent to the scene of a riot outside the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Subang Jaya in November 2018.

In September last year, Rofiah held that Adib had died after he was assaulted by two or three unidentified people during the riot.

Rofiah said the blunt force trauma he had sustained to his chest was not caused by himself or through an accident.

“It is now up to the police and the attorney-general to bring charges,” she had said.

Rofiah rejected the evidence of forensic expert Dr Ahmad Hafizam Hasmi who conducted the autopsy and told the court he found no injuries consistent with violent acts.

Hafizam also told the court that Adib had been hit by a fire engine despatched to the scene.

Rofiah instead accepted the testimony of UiTM physics lecturer Amir Rafzi Ab Ghani who suggested that Adib had been pulled out of the Emergency Medical Rescue Services van.

Based on Rofiah’s verdict, police launched a probe on the orders of the AGC and collected evidence which was then presented to prosecutors.

Last month, Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador suggested that police set up a task force to study the testimony provided by the expert pathologist who looked into Adib’s death.