Coroner’s Court has jurisdiction over contempt proceedings
The Coroner’s court has the jurisdiction to hear former Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas’ contempt of court proceedings in relation to the death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.
This Court of Appeal, in its unanimous decision, said the Sessions Court judge sitting as coroner – Rofiah Mohamad, who heard Adib’s inquest has the power to hear and determine any kind of contempt proceedings.
Judge Datuk Suraya Othman when delivering the judgment, said the court found no merit in the appeal as cases cited by Thomas’s lawyer Datuk S. Ambiga were not applicable under Section 3(1) of the Civil Law Act 1956.
“A coroner has jurisdiction to hear and punish anyone for any contempt proceedings, albeit in or outside the court.
“Therefore, we dismiss the appeal,” she said.
Thomas had sought to quash a High Court ruling that the Coroner’s Court has jurisdiction to hear a contempt of court proceeding against him.
The proceeding was brought against Thomas by Adib’s father Mohd Kassim Abdul Majid for allegedly insulting the court through the filing of an affidavit in relation to Adib’s death.
Ambiga, in her submissions said only the superior courts namely the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Federal Court have such jurisdiction.
She also argued that there was a distinction between the court and an inquiry which is provided under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
However, counsel Haniff Khatri who represented the family argued that the coroner or subordinate court has the power to issue a contempt order under the Subordinate Courts Act 1948.
“It is clear that the learned coroner has the power to take cognisance of any contempt of court and to award punishment for the same,” he said in his submissions.
Mohd Kassim filed an ex-parte application for a committal order against Thomas for allegedly insulting the court through the filing of an affidavit by the AG’s Chambers on April 3, 2019, which indicated that Adib’s death was due to injuries caused by someone else.
Mohd Kassim also alleged that Thomas had committed contempt by issuing a media statement on May 28 the same year, while the inquest into Adib’s death at the Coroner’s Court was going on.
On Aug 27, 2019, the Coroner’s Court allowed the contempt proceedings to commence saying that Mohd Kassim family had proven a prima facie case against the ex-AG.
The High Court on Jan 28 last year, cleared Thomas of contempt on grounds of non-disclosure of material facts by Mohd Kassim.
It also ruled that the coroner had jurisdiction to hear the complaint against Thomas for allegedly showing disrespect to the court.
On Sept 27, 2019, Rofiah who heard the inquiry into Adib’s death ruled that the latter had died as a result of a criminal act by more than two unidentified people.
Adib, 24, who was a member of the Emergency Medical Rescue Services unit from the Subang Jaya Fire and Rescue Station was critically injured during a riot at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in USJ 25, Subang Jaya on Nov 27, 2018.
He was then taken to the Subang Jaya Medical Centre and later transferred to the National Heart Institute. Despite showing signs of recovery, he died on Dec 17 that year.