Malaysian Court System

General Overview

The hierarchy of courts of Malaysia starts with the Magistrates Court as the first level followed by the Sessions Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and the Federal Court of Malaysia. The Federal Court of Malaysia in the highest court of the land. 

The Magistrates Court, the Court for Children and the Sessions Court are subordinate courts. The High Court, Court of Appeal and the Federal Court are superior courts. 

Outside the court hierarchy are the Syariah Courts, Penghulu’s Courts and the Native Courts. The Juvenile Court is paralleled in jurisdiction with the Magistrate’s Court. 

The Hierarchy 

  • The Federal Court
    • The Federal Court hears appeals from the Court of Appeal
  • The Court of Appeal
    • The Court of Appeal hears appeals from the High Court relating to both civil and criminal matters
  • The High Court
    1. Civil Jurisdiction
      • The High Court has jurisdiction to try all civil matters but generally confines itself to matters on which the Magistrates and Sessions Courts have no jurisdiction. These include matters relating to divorce and matrimonial cases, appointment of guardians of infants, the granting of probate of wills and testaments and letters of administration of the estate of deceased persons, bankruptcy and other civil claims where the amount in dispute exceeds RM1,000,000.
    2. Criminal Jurisdiction
      • The High Court may hear all matters but generally confines itself to offences on which the Magistrates and Sessions Courts have no jurisdiction, for instance, offences which carry the death penalty.
    3. Appellate Jurisdiction
      • The High Court may hear appeals from the Magistrates and Sessions Courts in both civil and criminal matters. Amount in dispute in any civil matters must exceed RM10,000 except where it involves a question of law.
  • The Sessions Court
    1. Civil Jurisdiction
      • A Sessions Court may hear any civil matter involving motor vehicle accidents, disputes between landlord and tenant, and distress actions. The Sessions Court may also hear other matters where the amount in dispute does not exceed RM1,000,000. 
    2. Criminal Jurisdiction 
      • A Sessions Court has jurisdiction to try all criminal offences EXCEPT those punishable by death.
  • The Magistrates Court
    1. First Class Magistrate
      1. Civil Jurisdiction – A First Class Magistrate may hear a civil case when the amount in dispute does not exceed RM100,000. 
      2. Criminal Jurisdiction
        • A first class Magistrate may hear criminal matters of the following nature: 
          • where the offence is punishable by a fine only – this would cover the majority of traffic offences; or
          • where the offence provides for a term of imprisonment not exceeding ten (10) years.
        • A First Class Magistrate may not, however, impose:
          • a term of imprisonment exceeding five (5) years;
          • a fine exceeding RM10,000;
          • whipping exceeding twelve strokes; or
          • any sentence combining any of the sentences above.
    2. Second Class Magistrate
      1. Civil Jurisdiction – A Second Class Magistrate may hear a civil case where the plaintiff seeks to recover a debt or liquidated demand in money payable by the defendant, with or without interest, not exceeding RM10,000. Where the amount claimed does not exceed RM5,000 you may wish to file your claim in the small claims division of the Magistrates Court. If you do so however, you must be prepared to conduct the case yourself, as legal representation is not permitted.
      2. Criminal Jurisdiction
        • A Second Magistrate may hear criminal matters of the following nature:
          • where the offence is punishable by a fine only; or
          • where the offence provides for a term of imprisonment not exceeding twelve (12) months.
        • A Second Class Magistrate may pass a sentence
          • a term of imprisonment not exceeding six (6) months;
          • a fine not exceeding RM1,000; or
          • any sentence combining any of the sentences above.

 

More on the Federal Court of Malaysia: Official Federal Court of Malaysia booklet