A man was sentenced to death via Zoom Call in Singapore on Wednesday, the first such instance wherein capital punishment has been awarded online in the country. The ruling was made online following the ban on public gathering and lockdown restrictions in the country.
The apex court ordered capital punishment for 37-year-old Malaysian Punithan Ganesan, who was accused of a heroin transaction in 2011. The spokesperson for the Supreme Court said that the siting in the case, Public Prosecutor v Punithan A/L Genasan, was conducted by video-conferencing to ensure the safety of all involved in the proceedings.
Considering Appeal Against Verdict
Ganesan's lawyer Peter Fernando confirmed receiving the verdict through Zoom Call. He said that Ganesan was considering an appeal against the verdict. When rights groups criticized the Supreme Court's decision to deliver a severe verdict like death sentence through online app Zoom, Ganesan's lawyer Fernando did not object to the same. He said that it was fine as the video conferencing was only to deliver the verdict and no arguments were to be presented. The verdict could be heard clearly, Fernando said.
The majority of the hearings have been adjourned in Singapore after the lockdown was declared in the country. Singapore went into lockdown in early April and the curfew is expected to end on June 1.
Singapore has a zero tolerance policy in matters relating to drug peddling. Observers think this is the reason why the death sentence was awarded through video conferencing while other cases are still pending. The country has awarded capital punishment to dozens of people convicted in narcotics-related offences.
Nigeria also Hands Death Penalty via Zoom
Human rights groups have decried the development. Using technology like Zoom app to award death sentence makes it even worse, said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division speaking to Reuters.
A similar case was reported in Nigeria where Lagos judge Mojisola Dada awarded death sentence to Olalekan Hameed in the case of killing his employer's mother. The order to hang him was delivered via Zoom app as the country is under lockdown restrictions due to coronavirus pandemic. It was a three-hour hearing virtually attended by lawyers. Human Rights Watch had criticized the online hearing and the handing out of the death sentence.