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History of its Development

The Supreme Court was established in accordance with the First Charter of Justice in 1807 by the British. Under the Second Charter of Justice in 1826, a centralised judiciary was established for the Straits Settlements. The Third Charter in 1855, separated the court into two divisions: Penang and Malacca was one, with Singapore as the other.

In 1868, the Judiciary became a separate authority from the Executive when the Supreme Court of the Straits Settlements was established. In 1878, the subordinate courts were established. The subordinate courts included the Magistrates’ Courts and Coroners’ Courts.

Johor was the first Unfederated Malay State to make provisions for appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1921. In 1946, the Courts Ordinance was introduced and the title of subordinate court was changed to lower court.

A Supreme Court with unlimited civil and criminal jurisdiction, consisting of a High Court and a Court of Appeal, was established under the 1948 Agreement. Decisions of the Court of Appeal could be further appealed to the Privy Council.

The coming into existence of the Federal Constitution is in accordance with the independence of the Federation of Malaya in 1957. In 1963, the Federal Constitution maintained the appeal provisions to the Privy Council. However, changes can be seen in appeals from the lower courts.

The Supreme Court was replaced with the Federal Court and two High Courts having the same power and jurisdiction. In 1965, Singapore opted out from Malaysia. However, the High Court of Malaya and High Court Borneo remained. In 1994, some changes were made to the present judicial system:

  1. A three-tier system was introduced

  2. Double appeal process was created

  3. The title ‘Lord President’ was changed to ‘Chief Justice’

  4. The jury system was abolished in 1995



The Malaysian Judiciary – A Perspective

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