SINGAPORE — The question of whether judicial caning goes against the Constitution came up in the Court of Appeal yesterday, during an appeal hearing for convicted drug trafficker Yong Vui Kong.

Yong, the first drug trafficker on death row to be resentenced under amendments made to the Misuse of Drugs Act — he was sentenced to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane — is appealing against his caning sentence.

His lawyer M Ravi said in court yesterday that caning is a form of torture or inhuman punishment and is in contravention of Article 9(1) of the Constitution.

The scheme, he said, is also unconstitutional and arbitrary — its “stated legislative object of criminal deterrence has not only never been justified by the Government or Parliament, but has been conclusively disproved”.

In addition, it contravenes Article 12 of the Constitution as it “represents a form of discrimination against men between the ages of 16 and 50 that can have no rational relation to any legitimate object”.

However, the prosecution said there are numerous safeguards to ensure that sentences of caning are administered safely and that the medically unfit are excluded.

“Besides constant medical supervision, other safeguards exist to ensure the proper administration of caning,” they said.

They added that women are exempted from caning “out of regard for community morals” and that men above 50 are exempted from caning as they are deemed medically unfit for it.

The prosecution said male offenders aged seven and older are liable to be sentenced to caning. “It is submitted that only a light rattan is used, not only because of age, but also the well-recognised fact that the overarching principle governing the sentencing of young offenders is that of rehabilitation,” they said.

The court, led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, has reserved judgment on the matter.

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