By Andrew Loh
Lawyer Mr Madasamy Ravi, who is acting for Yong Vui Kong, the Malaysian who was sentenced to death for drug trafficking, made an impassioned plea in the hearing of 15 March 2010 at the Court of Appeal.
Mr Ravi’s case centered on the argument that the sentence of mandatory death under the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) is unconstitutional and runs against international customary laws.
In his submissions, Mr Ravi argued that the mandatory death penalty for trafficking in 15g or more of diamorphine is inconsistent with Article 9(1) of the Singapore Constitution which states that: “No person shall be deprived of his life… save in accordance with the law.”
Mr Ravi argued that the provisions in the MDA failed “to afford fundamental rights of due process in the imposition of the death sentence”, that it results in “grossly disproportionate penalties”, and that the MDA, which allowed for “punishment that is cruel, inhuman and/or degrading”, is prohibited by international customary law and is inconsistent with Article 9(1) of the Constitution.
“Furthermore, the appellant submits that the death sentence imposed on him is arbitrary, disproportionate and fails to take account of his individual mitigating circumstances.” Accordingly, Mr Ravi requests the court to set aside the death sentence and remit the case back to the trial judge for fresh sentencing.
In a detailed and impressive submission, Mr Ravi then went on to argue these points in detail, citing examples and rulings in cases elsewhere in the world, including Commonwealth states such as India, previous cases in Singapore and other authoritative decisions to substantiate his case. He also rebutted the prosecution's arguments (See "Appellant's Further submissions" file) that the mandatory death penalty is not unconstitutional and whether the mandatory death penalty is allowed under customary law.
There are many points in his submission and it is not my intention to highlight all of them here. However, I do urge readers to read Mr Ravi’s submissions in full to have a better understanding of the arguments he put forth to the Court of Appeal (read especially the Main Submissions).