Today was the Opening of the Legal Year 2020 for Malaysia. This annual ceremony would see speeches delivered by the heads of the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Malaysian Bar and the Judiciary.
The Chief Justice of Malaysia, Tan Sri Tengku Maimun binti Tuan Mat, set out in her speech the upcoming reforms to the judicial system. I cover nine of the areas below, ranging from limiting appeals on interlocutory applications, environmental law provisions and the full digitalisation of courts.
#1: Judicial Academy under Specific Legislation
The Judicial Academy conducts courses for Judges of the Superior Courts in all areas of the law. The courses are largely conducted by the more senior Judges. Presently, the Judicial Academy operates under the auspices of the Judicial Appointments Commission.
The plan is to formalise the establishment of the Judicial Academy. A draft Bill is ready and will be presented to the Cabinet soon. A specially structured Judicial Academy will increase capacity building of Judges by broadening the scope and standard of judicial education. It will also bolster the judicial mindset that Judges serve the Rule of Law.
#2: Limiting Appeals on Interlocutory Applications
The Courts are working to substantially limit civil appeals in interlocutory applications. The concern expressed by the Chief Justice is that seemingly trivial appeals may have a snowball effect on the efficient disposal of the matter at trial.
It appears that there can no longer be an appeal against a decision dismissing a summary judgment application or a decision dismissing a striking out application. The Chief Justice remarked that if the application is dismissed, there appeared to be no prejudice to the applicant. The case could still proceed to trial on the merits. The limiting of this appeal is to avoid delays in the full trial of the action.
The Chief Justice recognised that there was significant resistance from the Malaysian Bar and the Attorney-General’s Chambers on introducing this new mechanism. But the proposal has already been approved at the Rules Committee stage and it only remains to be formalised.
#3: Possibility of Leave to Appeal to the Federal Court by a Single Judge
The Judiciary is also considering the possibility of having applications for leave to appeal to the Federal Court to be heard by only a single Federal Court Judge. Presently. the leave application will require at least three Judges to hear the matter. This takes up significant judicial time and resources.
#4: Specific Rules of Court Provisions for Environmental Cases
The Rules of Court 2012 will be amended to cater for specific procedures on environmental cases. The provisions will encourage environmental suits by relaxing procedural obstructions, such as locus standi or the legal standing to bring suit legal suits.
#5: Sessions Court Judges to Hear Non-Contentious Family Law Matters
There are a large number of family law cases at the High Court. The Judiciary will invoke the relevant section under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 to allow for the conferment upon any Sessions Court Judge the jurisdiction to deal with any matter under this Act.
It is intended for the most senior Sessions Court Judges to hear only non-contentious family law matters. This will allow the High Court Judges to focus on the more contentious matters. The Sessions Court Judges will be given special training to deal with these family law matters.
#6: Appellate Courts: Paperless and Full Digitalisation
The appellate Courts in West and East Malaysia will see full digitalisation by the middle of this year.
#7: Judicial Clerkship Program
The Judiciary had earlier implemented a judicial clerkship program.
The Judiciary has since approached the administration of almost every law faculty of every local university to recruit the brights and most capable graduates. But foreign law graduates have been more difficult to canvass.
#8: Roll-out of E-Court System to Remaining 82 locations
For 2020, the E-Court system will be rolled out to the remaining 82 locations at all levels of the Court hierarchy.
#9: E-Review, E-Lelong, E-Jamin
E-Review allows case management of matters to be undertaken by the Court Registrars and counsel online. The E-Review will be expanded to all levels of the Court hierarchy at the present 20 stations.
It is also proposed to expand the E-Lelong system to all High Courts in Malaya this year.
Finally, there will be the launch of an electronic bail system, E-Jamin, that will allow the bailor to make the bail payment online. It will be launched in stages, beginning with Kuala Lumpur, Shah Alam and Seremban first.