THE MALAYSIAN JUDICIARY

ImageStatus of the Court
ImageConstitution of and Appointment to the Court
ImageAdministration of the Court
ImageInauguration of the Court
ImageHistory ofthe Court
ImageOperation of the Court
ImageHearing of Cases
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ImageStatus of the Court
The Federal Court of Malaysia is the highest judicial authority and the
final court of appeal in Malaysia. The country, although federally
constituted, has a single-structured judicial system consisting of two parts
– the superior courts and the subordinate courts. The subordinate courts are
the Magistrate Courts and the Sessions Courts whilst the superior courts are
the two High Courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction and status, one for
Peninsular Malaysia and the other for the States of Sabah and Sarawak, the
Court of Appeal and the Federal Court. The Federal Court, earlier known as
the Supreme Court and renamed the Federal Court vide Act A885 effective from
June 24, 1994, stands at the apex of this pyramid.


Before January 1, 1985, the Federal Court was the highest court in the
country but its decisions were further appealable to the Privy Council in
London. However on January 1, 1978, Privy Council appeals in criminal and
constitutional matters were abolished and on January 1, 1985, all other
appeals i.e. civil appeals except those filed before that date were
abolished.

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The setting up of the Court of Appeal on June 24, 1994 after the Federal
Constitution was amended vide Act A885 provides litigants one more
opportunity to appeal. Alternatively it can be said that the right of appeal
to the Privy Council is restored, albeit in the form of the Federal Court.


The Special Court was established on March 30, 1993 vide Act A848, now
provided for in Article 182 of the Federal Constitution. All offences
committed by the Rulers (the Rulers being the monarchical heads of the
component states of the Federation of Malaysia) including His Majesty the
Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the King) shall be heard by the Special Court. The
Special Court shall also hear all civil cases by or against them. This Court
shall be chaired by the Chief Justice of the Federal Court and he shall be
assisted by four other members, namely the two Chief Judges of the
respective High Courts and two other persons appointed by the Conference of
Rulers who hold or have held office as a judge.


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ImageConstitution of and Appointment to the Court
The Federal Court consists of a president styled as the Chief Justice
(formerly called the Lord President), the President of the Court of Appeal,
the two Chief Judges of the High Courts in Malaya and Sabah and Sarawak
(formerly called Chief Justices) and presently three Federal Court judges.


There are presently 10 Court of Appeal Judges excluding the President of the
Court of Appeal. There are 49 Judges (including Judicial Commissioners) for
the High Court in Malaya and a further 6 Judges (including Judicial
Commissioners) for the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak. At the Subordinate
Court level, there are 60 Sessions Court Judges of which 52 are in
Peninsular Malaysia and 4 each in Sabah and Sarawak. At the Magistrate Court
level, 151 posts have been approved i.e. 122 posts in Peninsular Malaysia,
10 posts in Sabah, 1 post in Labuan and 18 posts in Sarawak.


The Chief Justice is the head of the Malaysian Judiciary. His appointment,
like those of the President of Court of Appeal, the two Chief Judges, judges
of the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Court, are made by
His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the King) on the advice of the Prime
Minister after consulting the Conference of Rulers.


As to the appointment of a judge to the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal
and the High Courts, the constitution provides that the Prime Minister
before tendering his advice shall consult the Chief Justice, the President
of the Court of Appeal and the two Chief Judges. On the advice of the Chief
Justice, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may also appoint a person who has held
high judicial office in Malaysia to be an additional judge of the Federal
Court. The Chief Justice may also, if the interests of justice so require,
nominate a Court of Appeal Judge to sit as a Judge of the Federal Court. All
judges of the Superior Courts retire at the age of 65.


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ImageAdministration of the Court
For the smooth administration of the Judiciary, the Chief Registrar’s Office
was established which is headed by the Chief Registrar to handle both
judicial and administrative matters. The Chief Registrar is assisted by the
Registrar of the Court of Appeal, the Registrar of the High Court in Malaya
and the Registrar of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak. Below them are a
number of Deputy Registrars, Senior Assistant Registrars, Administrators,
Librarian, Information Systems Officer and support staff.


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ImageInauguration of the Court
The birth of the Supreme Court (as it was known then, now called Federal
Court) on January 1, 1985 was commemorated with a ceremony held in its
Courtroom No. 1 on January 7, 1985. The ceremony was also to bid farewell to
the ending of an old era – that of Privy Council jurisdiction. Present at
the ceremonial sitting to inaugurate the Supreme Court were the ten Supreme
Court judges, Attorney General of Malaysia, Solicitor General, Chairman of
the Bar Council and members of the legal profession. Speeches welcoming the
setting up of the Court were made by the Lord President (as he was known
then, now called the Chief Justice) the Right Honourable Tun Dato’ Haji
Mohamed Salleh bin Abas, Attorney General Tan Sri Abu Talib bin Othman and
Mr. Ronald Khoo, Chairman of the Bar Council. The first sitting of the
Supreme Court which was presided by the Lord President was also held on the
same day at the same venue after the closing of the ceremony.


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ImageHistory of the Court
Before 1957 the name “Supreme Court” was used to refer to the highest court
for Malaysia next below the Privy Council. With the abolition of appeal to
the Privy Council from January 1, 1985, the Supreme Court was finally
designated the highest court in Malaysia.


However, material distinction between the constitution of the former
“Supreme Court” and that of the present should be noted. The Supreme Court
was renamed the Federal Court of Malaysia effective from June 24, 1994, and
is now the final court of appeal for Malaysia.


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ImageOperation of the Court
Normally cases before the Federal Court of Malaysia are heard and disposed
of by a full Court comprising of three judges. However, in certain special
cases, for example one which involves interpretation of the Constitution or
a principle of law of major public importance, the Chief Justice may convene
a bigger panel of five or even seven judges to deal with the matter. In fact
the Federal Court sat as a seven-men Bench for the first time on February 5,
1996 to decide on the law governing the standard of proof required of the
prosecution in criminal cases.


In the absence of the Chief Justice, the powers shall be had and may be
exercised and the duties shall be performed :
(a) by the President of the Court of Appeal; or
(b) where the President is absent, by the Chief Judge of the High Court
in Malaya; or
(c) where the President and the Chief Judge of the High Court in Malaya
are absent, by the Chief Judge of th High Court in Sabah and Sarawak;
or
(d) where the President, the Chief Judge of the High Court in Malaya
and the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak are absent, by the Judge of the
Federal Court nominated for that purpose by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.


A single judge of the Court can also hear and determine certain matters. In
a proceeding pending before the XCourt, the judge may make incidental
directions or grant interim orders pending the hearing of the proceeding.

The order of a single judge may, however, be discharged or varied by the
full Court.


If the Court is not unanimous in its opinion, the view of the majority of
the judges composing the Court prevails.


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ImageHearing of Cases
Cases come to the Federal Court for final determination from the Court of
Appeal.

Rules of the Federal Court, which are made by the Rules Committee, regulate
and prescribe the procedure which legal practitioners must comply with in
preparing a case for hearing, including the preparation of an Appeal Record.

The Appeal Record, prepared by the appellant’s solicitors, contains all
material which is necessary for the Court to determine the issues raised by
the appeal.


Seven days before the hearing, the appellant’s solicitor has to submit an
outline submission to the Federal Court Registry. During the hearing,
counsel representing the parties present their arguments orally to the
Court. In addition, written submissions in skeletal forms may sometimes be
submitted.


Written reasons are always given in most cases. Copies of the written
reasons commonly referred to as grounds of judgments are distributed by the
Federal Court Registry to all judges, the Federal Court Library for indexing
and recording purposes, law schools and law publishers. The decisions of the
Federal Court are binding on all other courts (excluding Syariah Courts)
throughout Malaysia.


The principal seat of the Federal Court is in Kuala Lumpur. Its principal
registry is also located here. Although it sits regularly in Kuala Lumpur,
the Federal Court also travels on circuit to the major state capitals of
Penang, Ipoh, Kota Bharu, Johor Bahru, Alor Setar, Kuantan, Malacca, Kuching
and Kota Kinabalu.


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