PETALING JAYA: Close to 1,000 prisoners on death row or serving natural life jail terms will have to wait before filing applications to the Federal Court for a review of their sentences under a law passed by Parliament recently.
Deputy law and institutional reform minister Ramkarpal Singh said the Revision of Sentence of Death and Imprisonment for Natural Life (Temporary Jurisdiction of the Federal Court) Act 2023 received royal assent on June 9 and was gazetted on June 16.
“Applicants who want the court to review their sentence may do so only after the minister determines the date for the law to come into force,” he said in a statement.
Ramkarpal said the government’s legal affairs division in the Prime Minister’s Department had held several meetings with all stakeholders to discuss the manner in which the one-time review will be implemented.
“Details of the mechanism and guidelines will be revealed in due course,” he added.
The law passed by Parliament gives the apex court temporary powers to review death and natural life imprisonment sentences as part of reforms in the wake of their abolition.
As of May, 840 inmates remain on death row after their final appeals to the Federal Court were dismissed.
Applications by 25 of them to the Pardons Board to have their death penalty commuted to a jail term have also been rejected.
Another 70 are serving natural life jail terms, meaning they will remain behind bars until they die.
The affected convicts were found guilty of murder, drug trafficking and possession of firearms.
Under this law, these convicts must, within 90 days after the law has come into force, file for a review of their sentence before a three-member Federal Court bench to substitute their punishment with a jail term of between 30 and 40 years.
Their original sentence will be maintained if the review is dismissed.
The mandatory death penalty was abolished today, meaning trial and appellate court judges now have the discretion on whether to impose the death penalty or longer jail terms, based on the facts and circumstances of each case.