KUALA LUMPUR: The Draft Bill of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (Act 234) is tabled for first reading at the Dewan Rakyat today.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said the move will enable the courts to mete out the appropriate punishment against offenders other than the death sentence, which is mandatory under current law.
This is in line with the principle of sentencing, in which a sentencing court can impose a punishment, other than the mandatory death sentence, which fits the crime.
The draft bill presented by Azalina seeks to amend subsection 39B(2) of Act 234 which will grant the courts the power to mete out the death sentence, life imprisonment and minimum 15 strokes of the cane for drug trafficking offences.
The draft bill also seeks to enable better information sharing so that the authorities can act more effectively in detaining or prosecuting those involved in drug trafficking.
"Under the existing Act 234, any person convicted of drug trafficking offence shall be punished with the death sentence.
"With the proposed amendment, without a written declaration from the prosecutor, the court cannot exercise its power to impose a sentence on those convicted of life imprisonment and caning not less than 15 strokes," she said when presenting the bill in a session on meeting procedures and motions.
At the same time, she emphasised that the mandatory death sentence must be retained to show that the government will never compromise on drug trafficking.
Previously, Azalina had noted that in the past, there might have been cases where judges had no choice but to mete out the death sentence on a drug trafficker as there were no other punishments available.
Malaysia has one of the harshest drug laws in the world.
Human rights advocates have long called for a review of the mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers as the first step towards full abolition of the death penalty, which they deemed to be cruel.
In March, the cabinet agreed to review the mandatory death penalty after deliberating a research carried out by the International Centre for Law and Legal Studies.
Any amendment would allow judges to take into account mitigating factors, such as the offender's age, mental capacity and role played in the offence.
Reports by: FARHANA SYED NOKMAN, VEENA BABULAL and FERNANDO FONG