What are the criminal jurisdictions of the High Court? What power does the High Court have?

There are two (2) High Courts having coordinate jurisdiction in Malaysia, namely the High Court in Malaya (Malay: Mahkamah Tinggi di Malaya) and the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak (Malay: Mahkamah Tinggi di Sabah dan Sarawak).

The High Court may act as a court of first instance and appellate court.

Every proceeding in the High Court will be heard and disposed of before a single Judge.

The High Court in Malaya at Kuala Lumpur has specialised divisions, namely:

  • Criminal Division
    This division hears cases in the exercise of its appellate or revisionary jurisdiction on any criminal matter from the subordinate courts;
  • Civil Division
    This division hears civil cases inclusive of actions on foreclosure, tort and contracts for services;
  • Commercial Division
    This division hears commercial cases inclusive of admiralty, insurance, companies winding-up, agency, banking, intellectual property and Specific Relief Act cases;
  • Appellate and Special Powers Division
    This division hears appeals from the subordinate courts, cases under the Legal Profession Act 1976 [Act 166] and judicial review of administrative actions and under specific Acts; and
  • Family Division
    This division hears matrimonial cases under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 [Act 164]. Formerly, part of the Civil Division.
The objective of specialisation is to dispense justice in a more timely and effective manner.

Criminal Jurisdiction

The High Court has jurisdiction to try all offences committed -

  • within its local jurisdiction;
  • on a high seas on board any ship or aircraft registered in Malaysia;
  • by any citizen or permanent resident on the high seas on board any ship or aircraft;
  • by any person on the high seas where the offence is privacy by the law of nations; and
  • offences under Chapter VI of the Penal Code [Act 574] and those under any of the written laws specified in the Schedule to the Extra-Territorial Offences Act 1976 [Act 163].
This is in exercising its original jurisdiction for criminal cases.

The High Court may pass any sentence allowed by law.

Normally, only criminal cases of a serious nature are tried in the High Court. Example, drug trafficking under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 [Act 234], murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code [Act 574], kidnapping or abduction under Section 364 of the Penal Code [Act 574] and offenses under the Firearms (Increased Penalty) Act 1971 [Act 37] where it involves capital punishment (death sentence) if the accused is found guilty.

Under special circumstances, a particular cases not involving capital punishment may be heard in the High Court on the application by the Public Prosecutor. This is provided for under Section 418A of the Criminal Procedure Code [Act 593].

Section 26 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 [Act 91] provides the High Court the power to hear appeals from the Subordinate Courts according to any law for the time being in force within the territorial jurisdiction of the High Court.

Additionally, the High Court may also exercise its revisionary powers with respect to criminal proceedings and matters in the Subordinate Courts. This is provided for under Section 31 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 [Act 91].

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Knowledge Base ID :   1005
Last Reviewed :   December 26, 2015
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