The Malaysian legal structure consists of the Legislative (concentrates on creating and amending laws) and the Judiciary (concentrates on interpretation and settlement of disputes in relation to the law) arm of government.

However, these arms operate as independent institutions. The Judiciary will be discussed as its primary function is highly relevant to current and prospective tertiary students in Malaysia.

The Malaysian Judiciary

The Malaysian Judiciary is the government agency that ensures that the Malaysian Federal constitution is upheld at all times and complied with in all cases.

It attains to disputes between individuals, individuals and the states, between states and between Federal government and the state where matters related with the constitution is affected.

In all cases and situation, the Judiciary ensures that the Malaysian constitution is interpreted accordingly through the various courts under its portfolio. The Malaysian Judiciary operates by means of various courts with differing levels of authority.

The Judiciary structure

The Judiciary categorizes courts into two parts: the superior court and the subordinate court. The superior court has the Federal court as its highest court, then followed by the Courts of Appeal, the High court of Malaya and the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak.

The subordinate court includes the Sessions Court, Magistrates Court and the Children Court. A special court exists for attending to cases instituted by or against the Malaysian King, Sultan and Raja.

Functions and authorities of the various courts

Superior courts

  1. The apex court – the Federal court – has the authority to accept the decisions of the Court of Appeal (criminal or civil) tried in Malaysia.It provides the final interpretation of the laws in the Constitution of Malaysia and validates laws issued by State governments. It has jurisdiction to decide on disputes between States or between the Federal government and the State.
  2. The Court of Appeal decides on appealed cases originating from the High courts. Appealed cases are decisions that are unacceptable to any of the parties to the case for which the aggrieved party seeks redress from a higher court.
  3. The High Court decides on appealed cases from the subordinate courts. Subordinate courts are generally represented in all the Malaysian states.It is authorised to settle all disputes of a criminal or civil nature that is beyond the jurisdiction of the subordinate courts. Cases resulting in the death penalty are handled by this court. It receives advocates and solicitors of the High Court.

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.


Arbitration involves the determination of disagreements between parties outside the court system. Arbitration is a faster and cheaper process than the formal court processes and encouraged especially where the parties are not interested in potentially lengthy court proceedings.

Arbitration in Malaysia is governed by the Arbitration Act which allows the Arbitration process to determine cases even when it was not mentioned prior to an agreement but for which the parties seek arbitration to redress the disagreement.

Wherever possible, after consultation with a professional, current and prospective Malaysian students may proceed to arbitration first when disagreements arise and especially include arbitration as a way to seek redress should a party to an agreement fails to perform.


The Malaysian legal structure provides for all kinds of cases including cases involving tertiary students – current and prospective.

The Malaysian Judiciary system was discussed and the functions and authorities of the various courts were explained.

Superior courts included the Federal Court, Court of Appeal and High Court while the subordinate court included Sessions court, Magistrates court and Children court. A special court was also mentioned for cases involving the King, Sultan and Raja.

Students were encourage to discuss with professionals the available options and thereafter may seek arbitration first as this process is faster and cheaper in the Malaysian legal structure and also reminded to included this agency in any agreement as an avenue to seek redress should a party to an agreement fails to perform.

Do you think tertiary students should have written agreements for future reference should there be a failure to perform?


Chief Registrars Office, Federal Court of Malaysia.

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