PETALING JAYA: Only six inquests were carried out in the custodial deaths of 80 detainees, who were in good health before their arrests, in the last four years, said Bar Council vice-president Ambiga Sreenevasan.
The six inquests were held on the insistence of the loved ones or family members.
According to Section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), it is mandatory for an inquest to be carried out in custodial deaths, she said at a workshop on Inquests into Custodial Deaths.
She said the fact that only six inquests were held from the 80 cases from 2000 to 2004 showed that apart from the inadequate laws, enforcement was also not being executed.
She said it was a mystery that the 80 able bodied prisoners with no previous history of diseases or disability died while in custody.
There have been many cases of tampering of records by the police while the provisions of the Lockup Rules 1953 were ignored.
Ambiga said police also classified the deaths as Accidental Deaths resulting in no post mortems and inquests being held.
She said in all the cases, an officer from the same police station carried out the investigations, giving rise to questions about transparency.
Therefore, there is a need to ensure that inquests are conducted in all cases as stipulated in the CPC.
The inquiry process should be transparent, accountable and be sensitive to the feelings of family members of the victim.
It must be recognised that lawyers play an important part in the inquests and an independent doctor should be allowed to be present at the post mortem, she added.
Lawyer R. Sivarasa, who chaired the workshop, said the right to life is enshrined in the constitution.
Death in custody caused in any way by those in charge is one of the most heinous of crimes by those in power. They must be brought to book, he said.