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Hindraf: Judiciary ‘anti-poor’ on body in mortuary case - FMT

Only deafening silence from Judiciary on the body of a poverty-stricken sardine and rice thief in the mortuary for more than 45 days

waythamoorthy-gani-patailshashikumar.jpgKUALA LUMPUR: Hindraf Makkal Sakthi has urged civil society and Suhakam to hold the Judiciary and Attorney- General accountable following their “shocking, lackluster, irresponsible and anti-poor attitude” in probing the case of the death in prison of one S.Shashikumar, 22, on 22 May 2015 under suspicious circumstances amidst serious allegations of drugs being available in the same prison.

When Shashikumar was sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing a few tins of sardine and rice, Hindraf took the Judiciary to task for “the excessive jail term imposed and its insensitive attitude towards the poor”, recalled Hindraf Chairman P. Waythamoorthy, “the Judiciary was quick to defend and justify the sentence”.

However, on the matter of holding an inquest into the death under suspicious circumstances of the same convicted person in prison, so quickly after being sent there, he added, “there has been only deafening silence from the Judiciary despite the body of the convicted person lying in the mortuary for more than 45 days”.

“We find it abnormal for the Judiciary to maintain an ominous silence when their office should be concerned that their own practice directions are not being respected and implemented.”

The family of the deceased deserves to find out the truth on the death of Shashikumar, he continued. “The silence of the Judiciary creates the public perception that something was amiss here.”

Hindraf, he stressed, had previously said it received information that the death may be related to the distribution of drugs in prison.

On 17 June 2015, Hindraf wrote a letter to the Chief Judge “urging his office to do the necessary and that its own practice directions must be respected. Sessions court judges come under the directions of the CJ’s office”.

The practice directions dated 8 April 2014 from the office of the Chief Registrar of Federal Court and its notes state that an inquest needs to be held whenever there’s a death in prison.

Among the directions are: the Coroner (sessions court judge) must be present at the scene of death for examination of the body; and the Coroner to inquire into the persons who carried out the act or omissions causing the death.

Guidelines on the pre-inquest require the Coroner to view and examine the body in situ, and take note of the marks and injury; question the cellmates of the deceased and other relevant persons; obtain copies of the lock up diary and documentation of the movement of the deceased; and note down whatever other observations which should form part of the later inquest proceedings.