Indian-origin on death row in Singapore gets life sentence

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capital_punishmentAn Indian-origin Malaysian drug trafficker became the first person whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on mental disorder ground under a new law that took effect last year.

Dinesh Pillai Reja Retnam, 31, was re-sentenced to life term in jail as his case became an exception under the revised Misuse of Drugs Act, which had previously carried a mandatory death sentence.

Dinesh was facing the gallows for trafficking 19.35 g of heroin in 2011 and had his appeal dismissed by the Court of Appeal in 2012.

But the High Court found Dinesh to be suffering from “such abnormality of mind as substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his acts within the meaning of revised law”.

He was psychiatrically assessed to be suffering from major depressive disorder of moderate severity at and around the (material) time of the offence. A medical examination also suggested some degree of organic damage to his brain, reported the Channel News Asia.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) commented on the High Court’s finding of Dinesh, saying it was “consistent with Parliament’s intent in ensuring this exception operates in a measured and narrowly defined way”.

The chambers said the exception extends latitude for consideration in cases like Dinesh’s without undermining the government’s zero-tolerance policy towards drugs.

Singapore Judges can give life imprisonment and caning instead of death to drug couriers under the new laws if they are certified by the AGC to have substantively helped the authorities in investigations and those who have mental illnesses that make them less responsible for their actions.