Court rules coroner has power to hear committal proceedings against ex-AG

08 Feb 2022 03:42pm
Former Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas - BERNAMA
Former Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas - BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA - The Court of Appeal today ruled that the coroner who heard the inquest into fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim’s death has the jurisdiction to issue leave to commence committal proceedings against former Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas.

In a unanimous decision, a three-member bench chaired by Justice Datuk Suraya Othman said a coroner has the jurisdiction and power to hear and punish for any kind of contempt, albeit in the face of a court or out of court.

She said, the court also found that there was no merit in the argument by counsel Datuk S. Ambiga, who represented Thomas, that a Magistrate's power to punish was limited to contempt in the face of the court alone, due to the words used in the provision.

"In Paragraph 26 of the Third Schedule of the Subordinate Courts Act 1948, the words "power to take cognisance of any contempt of court” are used to outline the sentencing for matters of contempt at the Sessions Court and the Magistrate's Court.

"Ambiga had submitted to the court that the words meant the Magistrate’s Court only has the power to deal with contempt of court in the face of the court and not outside of the court.

The cases cited by Ambiga were not applicable in Malaysia under Section 3 (1) of the Civil Law Act 1956. "Therefore, we find no merit in this appeal.

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Hence, we dismiss the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) appeal on whether the Coroner's Court has the jurisdiction to hear and decide on committal proceedings,” said the judge who sat with Justices Datuk Abu Bakar Jais and Datuk Hashim Hamzah.

The decision was delivered during a virtual proceeding today. Present were Thomas’ counsel, Ambiga and Zainur Zakaria, while lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla acted for Muhammad Adib's father, Mohd Kassim Abdul Hamid.

After the ruling was delivered, Zainur said they had been instructed to appeal to the Federal Court and then applied for the appellate court to stay the other appeal proceedings by Mohd Kassim, pending disposal of the appeal at the Federal Court.

Mohamed Haniff Khatri informed the panel that they reserve the right to raise an objection before the Federal Court, on whether Thomas could even appeal to the apex court.

He said this was because Thomas’ appeal actually was against the Coroner’s Court decision, which sits at a level below the High Court.

Justice Suraya allowed the application to stay Mohd Kassim’s appeal, adding that this was because an appeal to the Federal Court involved the important point of the lower court’s jurisdiction to hear contempt proceedings.

The other two appeals that were brought by Mohd Kassim included the appeal against a High Court's decision in setting aside the coroner's decision to give him leave to initiate committal proceedings against Thomas.

In his application, Mohd Kassim claimed that Thomas had insulted the court through an affidavit filed by the AGC on April 3, 2019, regarding the cause of his son’s death.

Muhammad Adib, 24, who was a member of the emergency medical rescue services (EMRS) at the Subang Jaya Fire and Rescue station, was seriously injured in a riot at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, USJ 25, on Nov 27, 2018.

He died on Dec 17 2018 after 21 days at the National Heart Institute (IJN).

On Sept 27, 2019, the Coroner's Court ruled that Muhammad Adib's death was a result of a criminal act by more than two people. - BERNAMA