Singapore: A court here stayed the execution of an Indian origin man convicted for drug trafficking, pending the conclusion of a civil application that he and other death row inmates filed against the Attorney General’s Chambers.
The court decision came on Thursday, a day after an Indian-origin man was hanged for drug trafficking at the Changi Prison.
Datchinamurthy Kataiah (36) was scheduled to be hanged on Friday, The Straits Times reported. Kataiah and 12 other death row convicts have filed a civil application against the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC), seeking declarations and damages over the disclosure of their private letters. The hearing in the case is fixed for May 20, according to the daily report. Datchinamurthy represented himself in the High Court.
Justices Andrew Phang, Judith Prakash, and Belinda Ang will issue detailed grounds of the decision at a later date, according to the report. Datchinamurthy was convicted in April 2015 and given the death penalty. His appeal against the verdict was dismissed in February 2016.
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In January 2020, Datchinamurthy and fellow inmate Gobi Avedian sought to stay their execution, pending investigations into allegations that ”unlawful” methods were being used in judicial execution. In April of that year, Datchinamurthy complained to the court that his and Gobi’s private letters were being ”illegally copied and forwarded by prison” to the AGC.
In August, the Court of Appeal dismissed the duo’s case. The court also ruled that prison officials are not allowed to forward copies of inmates’ documents to the AGC without the prisoners’ consent or a court order. However, the court accepted that it was an oversight in this case.
In July 2021, Datchinamurthy and 12 other inmates who had their letters forwarded filed a civil application against the AGC. They wanted the court to declare that the AGC and the Singapore Prisons Service had acted unlawfully, said The Straits Times report. They also sought damages for the breach of confidence and nominal damages for copyright infringement.
This application was withdrawn three months later and the inmates’ then-lawyer, M Ravi, was ordered to bear legal costs of SGD10,000. In February this year, the 13 inmates filed a fresh application, seeking largely identical declarations and damages.
In arguing against a stay, Deputy Senior State Counsel Yang Ziliang said in written submissions that the inmates’ application for declarations and damages is not a court proceeding that relates to the validity of Datchinamurthy’s conviction or sentence.
According to the newspaper report, Yang had told the court that Datchinamurthy’s contention, which he would apply to set aside his conviction and sentence if he succeeds in the civil application, was contrived.