Putrajaya plans to table a bill in March next year to abolish the mandatory death penalty in drug-related offences, de facto law minister Nancy Shukri said today.
She said this would allow judges to use their discretion to choose between sentencing a person to jail and the gallows in non-criminal cases, such as drug-related offences.
"What we are looking at is the abolishment of the mandatory death sentence. It is not easy to amend and we are working on it," she told a press conference after a roundtable discussion on the abolishment of the mandatory death penalty in Parliament today.
"We can get rid of the word 'mandatory' to allow judges to use their discretion in drug-related offences."
She said Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali was supportive of the move, adding the latter's interview with The Malaysian Insider, in which he had thrown support for the abolishment of the mandatory death sentence.
Apandi said, in the report published last Friday, that he would propose to the Cabinet that the mandatory death penalty be scrapped, adding that it was a "paradox", as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals.
"If I had my way, I would introduce the option for the judge in cases where it involves capital punishment. Give the option to the judge either to hang him or send him to prison.
"Then we're working towards a good administration of criminal justice," Apandi told The Malaysian Insider.
He said that this would be in line with the "universal thinking" of capital punishment, although he denied calling for the death penalty to be abolished altogether.
"Not to say that I am for absolute abolition of capital punishment, but at least we go in stages. We take step by step."
A mandatory death sentence is imposed in Malaysia in cases involving murder, certain firearm offences, drug-trafficking and treason.
Statistics from the Prisons Department showed 1.022 prisoners on death row as of October 6 and from 1998 until now, 33 convicts had been executed and 127 have had their death sentences reversed to lighter punishments. – November 17, 2015.