Courts in Malaysia

Summary There are generally two types of trials, criminal and civil. The hierarchy of courts begins from the Magistrates’ Court, Sessions Court, High Court, Court of Appeal, and finally, the Federal Court. The jurisdiction of the courts in civil or criminal matters are contained in theSubordinate Courts Act 1948 and the Courts of Judicature Act 1964. Article 121 of the Constitution provides for two High Courts of coordinate jurisdiction, the High Court in Malaya, and the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak.

Thus this creates two separate local jurisdiction of the courts – for Peninsular Malaysia and for East Malaysia. The highest position in the judiciary of Malaysia is the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Malaysia (also known as the Chief Justice of Malaysia), followed by the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of Malaya, and the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak.

The superior courts are the High Court, Court of Appeal, and the Federal Court, while the Magistrates’ Courts and the Sessions Courts are classified as subordinate courts. Federal Court The Federal Court is the highest court in Malaysia. The Federal Court may hear appeals of civil decisions of the Court of Appeal where the Federal Court grants leave to do so. The Federal Court also hears criminal appeals from the Court of Appeal, but only in respect of matters heard by the High Court in its original jurisdiction (i.e. where the case has not been appealed from the Subordinate Courts).

Court of Appeal The Court of Appeal generally hears all civil appeals against decisions of the High Courts except where against judgment or orders made by consent. In cases where the claim is less than RM250,000, the judgment or order relates to costs only, and the appeal is against a decision of a judge in chambers on an interpleader summons on undisputed facts, the leave of the Court of Appeal must first be obtained.

The Court of Appeal also hears appeals of criminal decisions of the High Court. It is the court of final jurisdiction for cases which began in any subordinate courts. High Court The two High Courts in Malaysia have general supervisory and revisionary jurisdiction over all the Subordinate Courts, and jurisdiction to hear appeals from the Subordinate Courts in civil and criminal matters. Civil Jurisdiction The civil jurisdiction of the High Court shall include:

* jurisdiction under any written law relating to divorce and matrimonial causes; * the same jurisdiction and authority in relation to matters of admiralty as is had by the High Court of Justice in England under the United Kingdom Supreme Court Act 1981; * jurisdiction under any written law relating to bankruptcy or to companies; * jurisdiction to appoint and control guardians of infants and generally over the person and property of infants;

* jurisdiction to appoint and control guardians and keepers of the person and estates of idiots, mentally disordered persons and persons of unsound mind; and * jurisdiction to grant probates of wills and testaments and letters of administration of the estates of deceased persons leaving property within the territorial jurisdiction of the Court and to alter or revoke such grants. (See Section 24 of the Court of Judicature Act 1964) Section 23 of the Court of Judicature Act 1964 provides that the High Court shall have jurisdiction to try all civil proceedings where— * the cause of action arose;

* the defendant or one of several defendants resides or has his place of business; * the facts on which the proceedings are based exist or are alleged to have occurred; or * any land the ownership of which is disputed is situated, within the local jurisdiction of the Court and notwithstanding anything contained in this section in any case where all parties consent in writing within the local jurisdiction of the other High Court. Criminal jurisdiction The High Court shall have jurisdiction to try— * all offences committed— (i) within its local jurisdiction; (ii) on the high seas on board any ship or on any aircraft registered in Malaysia; (iii) by any citizen or any permanent resident on the high seas on board any ship or on any aircraft;

(iv) by any person on the high seas where the offence is piracy by the law of nations; and * offences under Chapter VI of the Penal Code [Act 574], and under any of the written laws specified in the Schedule to the Extra-Territorial Offences Act 1976 [Act 163], or offences under any other written law the commission of which is certified by the Attorney General to affect the security of Malaysia committed as the case may be,— (i) on the high seas on board any ship or on any aircraft registered in Malaysia; (ii) by any citizen or any permanent resident on the high seas on board any ship or on any aircraft; or (iii) by any citizen or any permanent resident in any place without and beyond the limits of Malaysia. The High Court may pass any sentence allowed by law. Sessions Courts Sessions Court have—

* unlimited jurisdiction to try all actions and suits of a civil nature in respect of motor vehicle accidents, landlord and tenant and distress; and * jurisdiction to try all other actions and suits of a civil nature where the amount in dispute or the value of the subject matter does not exceed RM250,000. In matters relating to motor vehicle accidents, landlord and tenant and distress, the Sessions Courts have unlimited jurisdiction. Magistrates Courts Magistrates are divided into First Class and Second Class Magistrates, the former being legally qualified and having greater powers.

Second Class Magistrates are now not normally appointed. In criminal matters, First Class Magistrates’ Courts generally have power to try all offences of which the maximum term of imprisonment does not exceed 10 years or which are punishable with fine only, but may pass sentences of not more than five years imprisonment, a fine of up to RM10,000, and/or up to twelve strokes of the cane.

The Magistrates Courts hear all civil matters with less than RM25,000 in dispute. The Magistrates’ Courts also hear appeals from the Penghulu’s Courts. Syariah Courts The Syariah Courts have jurisdiction only over matters involving Muslims, and can generally only pass sentences of not more than three years imprisonment, a fine of up to RM5,000, and/or up to six strokes of the cane. Other courts The court of a penghulu, or Malay village head, has the power to hear civil matters of which the claim does not exceed RM50, where the parties are of an Asian race and speak and understand the Malay language.

The Penghulu Court’s criminal jurisdiction is limited to offences of a minor nature charged against a person of Asian race which is specially enumerated in his warrant, which can be punished with a fine not exceeding RM50. In Sabah and Sarawak, there are no Penghulus’ Courts, but there are instead Native Courts having jurisdiction on matters of native law and custom. The Court for Children, previously known as the Juvenile Court, hears cases involving minors except cases carrying the death penalty, which are heard in High Courts instead. Cases for children are governed by the Child Act 2001. A child is defined as any person below the age of 18. The Special Court was established in 1993 to hear cases of offences or wrongdoings made by a Ruler.

A Ruler includes the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King), the sultans of monarchical states in Malaysia, the Yang di-Pertua Negeri, and the Yang di-Pertuan Besar, i. e. : the head of states of Malaysia and its component states. Prior to this, a Ruler was immune from any proceedings brought against them in their personal capacity. Subordinate courts 1. Sessions Courts has the authority to decide on civil and criminal cases. The criminal cases do not include cases involving the death penalty. 2. The Magistrate Court has jurisdiction to try civil cases whose claim does not exceed RM 25,000. It also has jurisdiction to try cases whose maximum penalty does not exceed 10 years in prison with a fine only. 3. The Children Court is designed to decide on cases involving children less than 18 years of age.