– The present court structure has been in effect since June 1994 following the Constitution (Amendment) Act 1994. – The judicial powers are exercised by the Subordinate Courts and the superior courts organised in a hierarchy where the Subordinate Courts are at the lower level and the superior courts at the higher level. THE SUBORDINATE COURTS (The Subordinate Courts Act 1948) THE PENGHULU’S COURT – The Penghulu’s Court is presided over by a Penghulu who has limited jurisdiction within a mukim.
– In criminal cases, the Penghulu can impose a fine not exceeding RM25. – In civil cases, the Penghulu can try dispute where value of the subject matter does not exceed RM50. – An appeal against a Penghulu’s decision lies in a First Class Magistrate. THE MAGISTRATES’ COURT (Two classes) 1. Second Class Magistrates’ Court – The Magistrate is not required to be qualified in law, and is usually a public servant or minor court officer who performs the functions of granting bail and mentioning cases.
– In criminal cases, the Magistrate has jurisdiction to try cases where the maximum punishment is not more than 12 months’ imprisonment; and can impose a fine not exceeding RM1000 or an imprisonment of up to 6 months or a combination of a fine and imprisonment. – In civil cases, the Magistrate has jurisdiction to try cases to recover a debt of RM3000 or less. 2. Second Class Magistrates’ Court – The Magistrate has to be a member of the Judicial and Legal Service.
– In criminal cases, the Magistrate has jurisdiction to try all offences punishable with a fine or imprisonment of up to 10 years plus offences under Sections 392 and 457 of the Penal Code; and can impose a fine up to RM10000, an imprisonment of up to 10 years, whipping of up to 12 strokes, or a combination of these sentences. – In civil cases, the Magistrate has jurisdiction to try cases where value of the subject matter does not exceed RM25000. – The Magistrate also can conduct preliminary enquiries and hold coroners inquests.
THE SESSIONS COURT 1. Introduction – The Sessions Court is presided over by a Sessions Court Judge appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. 2. Criminal cases – Section 63 of the Subordinate Courts Act 1948 * A Sessions Court Judge has jurisdiction to try all criminal offences other than those punishable with death. – Section 64 of the Subordinate Courts Act 1948 * A Sessions Court Judge may pass any sentence allowed by law other than the death sentence. 3. Civil cases – The Subordinate Courts (Amendment) Act 1994.
* The Sessions Court Judge has unlimited jurisdiction to try all actions of civil nature in respect of motor vehicle accidents, landlord and tenant, and distress; and has jurisdiction to try all other actions of civil nature where value of the subject matter does not exceed RM250000. 4. No jurisdiction – Section 69 of the Subordinate Courts Act 1948 * The Sessions Court Judge has no jurisdiction in actions for specific performance or rescissions of contracts, injunctions, cancellation or rectification of instruments and immovable property-related matters.
THE SUPERIOR COURTS (The Rules of High Courts 1980; the Courts of Judicature Act 1964; Criminal Procedure Code) THE HIGH COURT 1. Introduction – Article 121(1) of the Federal Constitution * Two High Courts of coordinate jurisdiction and status, namely the High Court of Malaya and the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak, were established. – Headed by a Chief Justice, the High Court of Malaya is organised into Divisions to streamline the hearing of appropriate cases. 2. Original jurisdiction – The High Court possesses unlimited criminal and civil powers.
– The High Court can try any criminal case irrespective of the gravity. * Drug trafficking / unlawful possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives / …… – The High Court can try any civil case irrespective of the value, although in practice, it tries mostly disputes where value of the subject matter exceeds RM250000. * Divorce and matrimonial causes / admiralty matters / bankruptcy and companies / …… 3. Appellate jurisdiction – The High Court hears criminal and civil appeals from the Subordinate Courts. – All civil appeals are by way of re-hearing and value of the subject matter must ordinarily exceed RM250000.
4. Supervisory jurisdiction – Section 35(1) of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 * The High Court can supervise the conduct of or review the decisions of the Subordinate Courts, bodies exercising quasi- judicial functions and tribunals, usually through the issue of the prerogative writs. 5. Revisionary jurisdiction – Section 35(1) of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 * If it appears desirable in the interest of justice, the High Court may call for the records of any proceeding in the Subordinate Courts at any stage; such proceeding will then be stayed pending its further order.
6. Appeals are made to the Court of Appeal (Both criminal and civil cases) – In civil cases, if value of the subject matter is less than RM250000, leave of the Court of Appeal must first be obtained. THE COURT OF APPEAL 1. Introduction – Article 121(1B) of the Federal Constitution * The Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to determine appeals from a High Court’s decisions. – Headed by the President of the Court of Appeal, the Court of Appeal acts as an appeal chamber. 2. Criminal cases – Section 50(1) of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964.
* The Court of Appeal can determine an appeal from a High Court’s judgment in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction in respect of a criminal matter originally decided by the Sessions Court. 3. Civil cases – Section 67 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 * The Court of Appeal can determine any civil appeal from a High Court’s judgment, but such an appeal is subject to the limitations laid down in Section 68(1) of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964. THE FEDERAL COURT 1. Introduction – Headed by the Lord President, the Federal Court is the final appeal court replacing the former Supreme Court. 2.
Appellate jurisdiction – The Federal Court hears criminal and civil appeals from the High Courts. – In criminal cases, an appeal may be made by the Public Prosecutor against the acquittal. – In civil cases, an appeal is by way of re-hearing. 3. Original jurisdiction – Article 128(1) of the Federal Constitution * The Federal Court has exclusive jurisdiction to determine any question whether a law made by a legislature, federal or state, is invalid on the grounds that it deals with a matter to which it has no power to legislate; and dispute on any question between states and between the federation and any state.
4. Referral jurisdiction – Article 128(2) of the Federal Constitution * The Federal Court determines constitutional questions, which have arisen in the proceedings of another court but referred to it for a decision by way of a Special Case stated; the case is then remitted to the original court to be disposed of in accordance with that determination. 5. Advisory jurisdiction – The Federal Court gives its opinions on any question referred to it by Yang di-Pertuan Agong concerning the effect of any provision of the Constitution.
– Government of Malaysia v Government of the State of Kelantan * Such an advice was sought by His Majesty. IMPORTANCE OF A SYSTEM OF APPEALS – Give litigants at least two chances to obtain justice they seek. * Greater justice can be achieved. – Enable higher courts to review lower courts’ decisions and rectify the possible errors as to the facts or law made. *Any unjust or incorrect decision can be put right. – Promote a consistent development of the law due to its greater uniformity. * Lower courts are bound by the precedents set by higher courts. ADVANTAGES OF HAVING A COURT HIERARCHY.
– Facilitate the system of appeal. * People who are dissatisfied with a lower court’s decision have an avenue to have it to be reviewed by a higher court. – Facilitate the application of the doctrine of binding precedent. * The lower courts are bound by the higher courts’ decision. * There will be greater uniformity in the application of the law. – Facilitate specialisation in the judicial process. * The higher courts which are presided by more senior and experienced judges handle the more serious criminal offences and civil disputes involving larger sums of monetary value.
* The lower courts handle the less serious criminal offences and civil disputes involving smaller sums of monetary value. – Result in greater administrative convenience, efficiency and cost effectiveness. * A court hierarchy provides for an extensive system of lower courts dispensing justice inexpensively in local areas and higher courts in the main centres. NOTE – There are also courts at the state level, comprising of the Syariah Courts and the Native Courts of Sabah and Sarawak.