PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal today upheld a High Court decision to acquit a woman charged with murdering her Indonesian maid two years ago.
A three-member bench chaired by Yaacob Md Sam said there was no appealable error by trial judge Akhtar Tahir in setting Ambika MA Shan free under Section 254(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
“We are satisfied that the judge was right in exercising his power to acquit the accused,” he said in dismissing the prosecution’s appeal. Sitting with Yaacob were Abu Bakar Jais and Nordin Hassan.
Yaacob said nothing on the appeal records showed that the prosecution intended to continue with the trial after calling three witnesses.
“Thus, the decision of the High Court was right and proper,” he said.
Ambika, who was alleged to have committed the offence against her domestic worker, Adelina Lisao, was not present in court.
Earlier, deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar submitted that the trial judge had erred in acquitting Ambika although the prosecution requested for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA.)
He said a chemist and two reporters had provided evidence but the DPP who conducted the trial informed Akhtar that “at this juncture” it had no other witnesses.
“However, the DPP did not inform the court that the defence had made a representation to the prosecution,” he said, adding that the prosecution did not have to give a reason when the DNAA was requested.
Judges Abu Bakar and Nordin said the DPP should have asked for the case to be postponed pending the outcome of the representation.
Lawyer Y Anbananthan submitted that the judge had the discretion to acquit or give a DNAA once the prosecution offered no more witnesses after the trial began.
On April 19 last year, the High Court in Penang acquitted Ambika for the murder of Adelina, 26, who succumbed to multiple organ failure following the alleged abuse at a house in Bukit Mertajam.
Some 30,000 people signed a petition seeking answers from the prosecution on the said acquittal.
It was reported that neighbours had spotted Adelina sleeping with a dog in the compound of Ambika’s home and that there were burn marks and bruises on her body.
Trial judge Akhtar said in his judgment Ambika was set free midway in the trial as the government lawyer did not offer valid grounds for a DNAA.
He said the defence lawyer had referred to Section 254 (3) of the CPC when he urged the court to grant an acquittal citing the accused’s age and failing health.
“Reading Section 254 (3), it is clear that the court has in certain circumstances the discretion to order an acquittal instead of a DNAA,” he said in his judgment.
However, Akhtar said Ambika had only been acquitted of murder, and that the prosecution could still charge her with other offences if it wanted.