What is Federal Court? What are the functions of the Federal Court?

The Federal Court (Malay: Mahkamah Persekutuan) is the highest court within the hierarchy of legal jurisdictions in Malaysia. It was established under Article 121(2) of the Federal Constitution. Its decision binds all the courts below.

Prior to 1985, the Privy Council was the final court of appeal for Malaysia. It was abolished and replaced with the Supreme Court under Act A566 which came into force on January 1, 1985. The Supreme Court remained as the highest court of appeal until the establishment of the Court of Appeal (Malay: Mahkamah Rayuan) in 1994.

In 1994, Parliament amended the Federal Constitution and approved a reorganisation of the court system in Malaysia. Sixteen (16) amendments were added to the Constitution and entered into force from June 24, 1994. Significantly, the Court of Appeal (Malay: Mahkamah Rayuan) was established and the Supreme Court (Malay: Mahkamah Agung) was renamed the Federal Court (Malay: Mahkamah Persekutuan).

The Federal Court is headed by the Chief Justice (Malay: Ketua Hakim Negara), a post formerly known as the Lord President prior to the amendment.


The Federal Court consists of the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal, the two Chief Judges of the two High Courts and four (4) but not exceeding eleven (11) other judges.

Every proceeding in the Federal Court shall be in accordance to Section 74 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 [Act 91], be heard and disposed off by three (3) judges or such greater uneven number of judges as the Chief Justice may in any particular case determine.

In the absence of the Chief Justice the most senior member of the Court shall preside.

Article 122(2) of the Federal Constitution provides that the Chief Justice, if he considers that the interests of justice so require, may nominate a judge of the Court of Appeal other than the President of the Court of Appeal to sit as a judge in the Federal Court.


The Court shall sit on such dates and at such places as the Chief Justice may from time to time appoint.

The Federal Court shares its location with the Court of Appeal in the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya, which is also the normal sittings of the Federal Court.

However, the Federal Court also sits regularly in major towns across Malaysia namely, Penang, Ipoh, Alor Setar, Kuantan, Kota Bahru, Malacca, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu to provide convenient and timely justice.


The Federal Court was established under Article 121(2) of the Federal Constitution which also confers the Federal Court with the following jurisdiction:
  • to determine appeals from decisions of the Court of Appeal, of the High Court or a judge thereof;

  • such original or consultative jurisdiction as is specified in Articles 128 and 130; and

  • such other jurisdiction as may be conferred by or under federal law.

Article 128, Part IX (The Judiciary) of the Federal Constitution

Jurisdiction of Federal Court

128. (1) The Federal Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have jurisdiction to determine in accordance with any rules of court regulating the exercise of such jurisdiction:

(a) any question whether a law made by Parliament or by the Legislature of a State is invalid on the ground that it makes provision with respect to a matter with respect to which Parliament or, as the case may be, the Legislature of the State has no power to make laws; and

(b) disputes on any other question between States or between the Federation and any State.

(2) Without prejudice to any appellate jurisdiction of the Federal Court, where in any proceedings before another court a question arises as to the effect of any provision of this Constitution, the Federal Court shall have jurisdiction (subject to any rules of court regulating the exercise of that jurisdiction) to determine the question and remit the case to the other court to be disposed of in accordance with the determination.

(3) The jurisdiction of the Federal Court to determine appeals from the Court of Appeal, a High Court or a judge thereof shall be such as may be provided by federal law.

Article 130, Part IX (The Judiciary) of the Federal Constitution

Advisory jurisdiction of Federal Court

130. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong may refer to the Federal Court for its opinion any question as to the effect of any provision of this Constitution which has arisen or appears to him likely to arise, and the Federal Court shall pronounce in open court its opinion on any question so referred to it.

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Knowledge Base ID :   1512
Last Reviewed :   March 7, 2014
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