KUALA LUMPUR: The Dewan Rakyat has passed a bill to allow those on death row to file for a review of their sentence within 90 days of the law coming into effect.
The Death Penalty and Life Imprisonment Review Bill (Federal Court Provisional Jurisdiction) 2023 passed through a voice vote after it had been tabled for its second and third reading by deputy law and institutional reform minister Ramkarpal Singh.
The bill seeks to empower the Federal Court to review the appeals of 842 inmates on death row.
Death row inmates will only be allowed once to file an application to review their sentence. However, the Federal Court would be allowed to extend the 90-day time frame.
Ramkarpal said once gazetted, the bill will only allow a review of the sentence and not the conviction.
On March 23, law and institutional reform minister Azalina Othman Said said the Death Penalty and Life Imprisonment Review Bill was expected to have an impact on 957 people who are on death row and those on natural life imprisonment who had exhausted their appeal process in court.
Earlier, the Dewan Rakyat also passed the Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Bill 2023, which proposes to give judges discretionary powers in sentencing.
The bill also gives judges the option to impose jail terms of up to 40 years in place of the mandatory death penalty.
Both bills must be presented in the Dewan Negara and receive royal assent before they are gazetted as law.
Ramkarpal said as of March 31, there were a total of 1,318 people on death row.
He added that they have been awaiting their fate since a moratorium on the execution of death row inmates was put in place in 2018.
According to Ramkarpal, 476 inmates have yet to complete proceedings or appeals at the Court of Appeal or the Federal Court, while 842 inmates have exhausted all avenues for their appeals.
He also gave his assurance that the Death Penalty and Life Imprisonment Review Bill will not eliminate the courts’ discretionary powers when meting out sentences nor force judges to give alternative sentences to all death row inmates.
“The court still has the power to uphold the death penalty if it is deemed so after reviewing a prisoner’s sentence,” he said when winding up the debate in the Dewan Rakyat today.
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