Sunteți pe pagina 1din 89



Legal rules can be classified in many different ways. Not all legal rules are of the same type. They show differences in purpose, in origin and form, in the consequences when the rules are breached, and in matters of procedure, remedies and enforcement.

The classification of legal rules sometimes overlap. For example, the legal rules defining murder (in Malaysia) is a rule of criminal law rather than civil law; of public law rather than private law and of national law rather than international law

There are different ways of classifying law.

The classification of law into CRIMINAL LAW AND CIVIL LAW

One of the most fundamental classifications in law is the classification between criminal and civil law. Newcomers to the study of law tend to assume that criminal law occupies the bulk of a lawyerʼs case load and of a law studentʼs studies. This is an interesting by product of the portrayal of the legal system by the media

Criminal law weighs very lightly in terms of volume when measured against non criminal (civil) law. • There are more rules of civil law than there are of criminal law. More court cases involve breach of the civil law than involve breach of the criminal law.

Criminal law means just the law relating to crime. Civil law can be taken to mean all the rest. The distinction relies not so much on the nature of the conduct which is the object of a legal rule but in the nature of the proceedings and the sanctions that may follow. Sanction = A threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule


Some kinds of conduct give rise to criminal liability, some to civil liability and some to both civil and criminal liability. The seriousness of conduct does not necessarily determine the type of liability to which it gives rise; conduct which is contrary to the criminal law is not always worse than the conduct which is against the civil law.

Some conduct which might be considered criminal gives rise only to civil liability or to no liability at all and some conduct which may be considered harmless may give rise to both criminal and civil liability. It will be easier to see that harm, morality and the classification between criminal and civil law do not follow any clear pattern.

Concepts of morality have had some influence on the development of the law but historical incidents, political policy and pragmatic considerations have played just as important a part in developing the law.

Even when a personʼs actions clearly infringe the criminal law or civil law or both it does not necessarily mean that any actual legal consequences will follow. In criminal and civil cases persons with the legal right to take any legal action have a discretion as to whether or not to initiate legal proceedings


There is a difference between liability and proceedings. • Conduct gives rise to liability. • It is for someone else to decide whether or not to take the matter to court by starting proceedings.


In criminal proceedings a prosecutor prosecutes the accused. The case is heard in the Magistratesʼ Court or the Sessions Court or the High Court depending on the seriousness of the offence. The prosecutor will have to prove to the court beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence charged.

The court will have to determine whether or not the accused is guilty. A finding of not guilty will lead to the accusedʼs acquittal. A finding of guilty will lead to a conviction and may lead to a sentence of imprisonment or some other form of punishment such as a fine or probation.


One of the major objectives of the criminal law is to punish the wrongdoer for action which is deemed to be contrary to the interests of the state and its citizens. Criminal proceeding do not have as a major objective the provision of compensation or support for the victim of crime.


It is significant that the exercise of the discretion to prosecute is seldom carried out by the victim of the crime. Criminal proceedings are normally initiated by the state or its agents and brought in the name of the prosecuting official eg PP v Mat.


In civil proceedings it is generally the plaintiff (the party harmed) who sues the defendant although in some areas of the civil law other terms are used. For example in a divorce case the petitioner sues the respondent. A civil case will be heard in the Magistratesʼ Court, Sessions Court or the High Court depending on the nature of the case and the size of the loss involved.


The plaintiff usually has to prove on the balance of probability that the events took place in the manner claimed. This is a lower standard of proof than in criminal cases. If the plaintiff proves their case the court will make some kind of order which depends upon the kind of case and what the plaintiff has asked for.

The basic choice before the court is whether to order the defendant to compensate the plaintiff for their loss by awarding damages or to order the defendant to act or refrain from acting in some specific way in the future or to make both kinds of orders.

The function of civil law is to provide individuals with remedies which are enforceable in the courts where they have suffered a wrong which is recognised by a statute or decided cases. The civil law creates a framework which delineates the rights and obligations of individuals in their dealings with one another.

It is primarily founded on the law of contract and tort which are mainly areas of common law. The law of contract determines which forms of agreement entered into between individuals are legally binding and on whom they will be binding.

The law of tort covers categories of civil wrong other than breach of contract which may give rise to a legal causes of action. • It includes the law of negligence, trespass, libel and slander. Just as a set of facts can give rise to a conduct which may result in both civil and criminal proceedings, so a set of facts can give rise to actions in contract and tort.

Most plaintiffsʼ primary motivation for bringing civil proceedings will be to obtain an effective remedy for the civil wrong which has been perpetrated. The fact that there is liability will not necessarily mean that they will take action. For example there is no point in suing a person for damages if you know they have no money.

The emphasis of the civil law has changed over the last hundred years with an increase in the role of the state and the importance of legislation as opposed to case law as the major source of law. Civil law does not just regulate relations between individuals covering such matters as their property transactions but also deals with relations between the state and individuals.

It covers unemployment and social security benefit entitlement, tax and planning questions and council tenants relationships with their local authorities. All of these areas are covered by statute law which has created new rights and obligations. • These are often enforced in tribunals as opposed to courts.


Statutory provisions have also been enacted in order to minimize the common law rights which have resulted from the judicial development of contract law and the notion of freedom of contract. For example employment protection and landlord and tenant legislation give employees and tenants statutory rights which will often modify or override terms in their contracts which give their employers or landlords specific rights to dismiss or evict them.

The classification of law into NATIONAL LAW & INTERNATIONAL LAW

The term national or municipal law is used to mean the internal legal rules of a particular country in contrast to international law which deals with the external relationships of a state with other states. In Malaysia national law is normally unaffected by international legal obligations unless these obligations have been transferred into national law by an Act of Parliament.



Public international law regulates the external relations of states with one another. It is a form of law very different from national law. There is no world government or legislature issuing and enforcing laws to which all nations are subject. The international legal order is essentially decentralised and operates by agreement between states.


This means that the creation, interpretation and enforcement of international law lies primarily in the hands of states themselves. Its scope and effectiveness depends on the capacity of states to agree and the sense of mutual benefit and obligation involved in adhering to the rules.

International law is created in 2 main ways :

1. by treaty 2. by custom Treaties are agreements between 2 or more states and are binding on the states involved if they have given their consent to be so bound.

customary law is established by showing that states have adopted broadly consistent practices towards a particular matter and that they have acted in this way out of a sense of legal obligation. • International law is neither comprehensive nor systematic.

Only a few treaties or customary rules involve the majority of world states. Most are bilateral understandings or involve only a handful of parties to a multilateral agreement. • Dispute about the scope and interpretation of international law are rarely resolved by the use of international courts or binding arbitration procedures of an international organization.


This is because submission to an international court or similar process is entirely voluntary and few states are likely to agree to this if there is a serious risk of losing their case or where important political or national interests are at stake. Negotiations are far more common.

International courts are used occasionally for example • where settlement is urgent or • protracted negotiations have failed where the dispute is minor or is affecting other international relations or In cases where failure to settle is more damaging than an unfavourable outcome.

Where international law has been breached an injured state must rely primarily on self help for enforcement. There is no effective international institutional machinery to ensure compliance when the law is challanged. • This means that in practice powerful states are better able to protect their rights and assert new claims.

Breaching established rules is one rather clumsy way of challenging international law. In a decentralised system change can only be effected by common consent or by the assertion of a new claim being met by inaction or acquiescence by others.

The lack of powerful enforcement machinery does not mean that international law is widely disregarded. • On the contrary legal rules are regularly followed not least because states require security and predictability in the conduct of normal everyday inter-state relations.

International law also play an important role in the promotion of common interests such as controlling pollution, restricting over fishing or establishing satelite and telecommunication link-ups

A large number of global or regional international organizations have been established for the regulation and review of current inter-state activities. The best known example though perhaps not the most effective is the United nations whose primary function is the maintenance of international peace and security.



Private international law (aka Conflict of laws) is a set of procedural rules which determine which legal system, and the law of which jurisdiction, applies to a given dispute. The rules typically apply when a legal dispute has a "foreign" element such as a contract agreed by parties located in different countries

- For example : Ali a Malaysian citizen entered into a Contract in Singapore with Lenny, an Indonesian citizen. Ali breached the contract. Private international law deals with a variety of topics, such as contracts, marriage and divorce, jurisdiction, recognition of judgments, child adoption and abduction, and many other areas.


The three branches of conflict of laws are Jurisdiction – whether the forum court has the power to resolve the dispute at hand Choice of law – the law which is being applied to resolve the dispute Foreign judgements – the ability to recognise and enforce a judgement from an external forum within the jurisdiction of the adjudicating forum

National laws are the primary sources of private international law. However, private international law is also embodied in treaties and conventions (for example, the Hague Conventions on Private International Law), model laws, legal guides, and other instruments that regulate transactions.

However, there is no well-defined body of private international law.

Conflict of law arise btw 3 states. To solve the problem, court will consult the rules of Private International Law ie refer to express agreement in the contract (if any) or refer to elements that close connected.

The stages in a conflict case

The court must first decide whether it has jurisdiction and, if so, whether it is the appropriate venue. The next step is the characterisation of the cause of action into its component legal categories

Each legal category has one or more choice of law rules to determine which of the competing laws should be applied to each issue. Once the applicable law is decided, that law must be proved before the forum court and applied to reach a judgment. • The successful party must then enforce the judgment which will first involve the task of securing cross-border recognition of the judgment.

The classification of law into COMMON LAW & EQUITY

English law has deep historical roots • Common law and equity refer to the system of rules that originally developed in different courts within the legal system. • Common law is the rules of law derived from judicial decisions rather than statute. Common law rules arose first. Later these rules were seen as being over formal and concerned too much with the way a case was presented rather than with the justice in the issues at stake.

Thus a less strict term of equitable rules was developed. In time the rules of equity also became formalised. Eventually the different courts were merged and now all courts can apply both the rules of common law and equity.










The Position of English law in Malaysia

English law forms part of the Malaysian laws. It can be found via English common law and rules of equity. The reception of English Law in Malaysia started with the informal reception in the Straits Settlement • Thereafter it spread to the Malay states through the intervention of the British Residents and advisors.

As for the Borneo states since they became British protectorates in 1888, they too informally received English Law.

However, not all of Englandʼs common law and rules of equity form part of Malaysian law.

The application of Common Law & Equity in Malaysia

S3(1)(a) of the Civil Law Act 1956 :

Save so far as other provision has been made or may hereafter be made by any written law in force in Malaysia, the Court shall in West Malaysia or any part thereof, apply the common law of England and the rules of equity as administered in England on the 7 th day of April 1956.


Section 3(1)(b) : Save so far as other provision has been made or may hereafter be made by any written law in force in Malaysia, the Court shall in Sabah, apply the common law of England and the rules of equity, together with statutes of general application, as administered or in force in England on the 1st day of December 1951.

Section 3(1)(c) : Save so far as other provision has been made or may hereafter be made by any written law in force in Malaysia, the Court shall in Sarawak, apply the common law of England and the rules of equity, together with statutes of general application, as administered or in force in England on the 12th day of December 1949.


Provided always that the said common law, rules of equity and statutes of general application shall be applied so far only as the circumstances of the States of Malaysia and their respective inhabitants permit and subject to such qualifications as local circumstances render necessary.

(2) Subject to the express provisions of this Act or any other written law in force in Malaysia or any part thereof, in the event of conflict or variance between the common law and the rules of equity with reference to the same matter, the rules of equity shall prevail.

The dates specified for reception is important because later changes in English law are not automatically received. Therefore if there are any changes in the English Common Law & Equity after the specified dates the changed laws are not part of the laws of Malaysia. They are only persuasive i.e highly recommended to be followed only if there is a lacuna in Malaysian law and they are suitable to local conditions.


•   Thus, the application of English law throughout Malaysia is subject to two limitations;
•   Thus, the application of English law
throughout Malaysia is subject to two
1. It is applied only in the absence of
local statutes on the particular
subjects (to fill in the lacuna in the
legal system in Malaysia)
2. Only that part of the English law
that is suited to local circumstances
will be applied.

Application of English Law in Commercial Matters

Application of English Law in Commercial Matters •   S5(1) – in all questions or issues

S5(1) – in all questions or issues which arise or which have to be decided in the States of West Malaysia other than Malacca and Penang with respect to the law of Partnerships, corporations, banks and banking, principal and agents, carriers by air, land and sea, marine insurance, average, life and fire insurance and with respect to mercantile law generally the law to be administered shall be the same as would be administered in England in the like case at the date of the coming into force of this Act, if such question or issue had arisen or had to be decided in England, unless in any case other provision is or shall be made by any written law

•   S5(2) – in all questions or issues which arise or which have to
•   S5(2) – in all questions or issues which arise or which
have to be decided in the States of Malacca,
Penang, Sabah and Sarawak with respect to the law
concerning any of the matters referred to in
subsection (1) the law to be administered shall be
the same as would be administered in England in the
like case at the corresponding period if such
question or issue had arisen or had to be decided in
England unless in any case other provision is or shall
be made by any written law.
•   However, since there are so many local statutes already passed which deal with
•   However, since there are so many local
statutes already passed which deal
with commercial matters, there is no
total reliance on English Commercial

The classification of law into PUBLIC LAW AND PRIVATE LAW

Public law is concerned with the distribution and exercise of power by the state and the legal relations between the state and the individual.

For example the rules governing the powers and duties of local authorities, the regulation of building standards, the issuing of passports etc

In contrast private law is concerned with the legal relationship between individuals, such as the liability of employers towards their employees for injuries sustained at work, consumersʼ rights agains shopkeepers and manufacturers over faulty goods or the ownersʼ rights to prevent others walking across their land


The classification of law into public and private law and civil and criminal law are 2 clear examples of categories which overlap. Thus for example some public law is civil law and some is criminal.

The significance of the public/private law distinction is useful to highlight broad differences such as the purposes, sources,forms and procedures of the legal rules and their remedies and enforcement

The primary purpose underlying most private law rules is the protection of individual interest whereas the aim of most public law provisions is the promotion of social objectives and the protection of collective rather than individual interests.

The method used to achieve these purposes also differ. A characteristic feature of public law is the creation of a public body with special powers of investigation, decision making and/or enforcement in relation to a particular problem whereas private law achieves its ends by giving individuals the right to take action in defence of their interests


Public and private law also show differences in their origins and form. • Some of the most important principles of private law are of ancient origin and were developed through the common law as individuals took their private disputes to court and demanded a remedy.

The rules of private rights in contract, over land and inheritance, to compensation for physical injury or damage to property or reputation were all first fashioned by judges in the course of deciding cases brought before them.

In contrast most public law rules are of comparatively recent origin first originating in statute, not judicial decisions. But there are exceptions ie the criminal law and criminal justice system are examples where standards of behaviour are set by the state and enforced by a network of public officials with powers of arrest, prosecution, trial and punishment. Much of the early development of this field of public law lies in common law.

An important function of public law has its roots in constitutional theory. The actions of public bodies are only lawful if there is a legal rule granting the body authority to act in a given situation. A private individual needs no legal authority merely to act.

It is assumed that a person acts lawfully unless there is a legal rule prohibiting or curtailing that behaviour. Public law therefore has a facilitative function for which there is no equivalent in private law, permitting a public body to take action that would otherwise be unlawful.


A feature of much recent public law is a shift towards the grant of broad discretionary powers to public bodies. This means that the same legislative framework can be used more flexibly, accommodating changes in public policy as to the purposes to which the powers should be put or the criteria for the exercise of these powers.


This characteristic form of modern public law contrasts quite sharply with the relatively specific rights and duties to be found in private law, and in turn affects the way public and private law can be enforced.

All private law is enforced by granting individuals the right to take action in defence of a recognised personal interest. For example, a householder may make

a contract with a builder over the

repair of a roof and may sue the

builder if the work or materials are of

a lower standard than was specified in the contract


Not all public law can be enforced by way of individual action. The enforcement of public law can be viewed from 2 perspectives :

1. to ensure individuals or companies comply with standards set in statute or delegated legislation

Eg public health officials making orders in relation to or prosecuting restaurants 2. to ensure public authorities themselves carry out their duties and do not exceed their legal powers

Here, the form of public law statutes rarely ties a public body to supplying a particular standard of service, as a contract may tie a builder, but gives a wide choice of lawful behaviour.

Even where legislation lays a duty on a public authority, there may be no corresponding right of individual action. For example under the Education Act 1944 (UK), local education authorities are under a duty to ensure that there are sufficient schools, in numbers, character and equipment, for providing educational opportunities for all pupils in their area.

However, nobody can sue the authority if the schools are overcrowded or badly equipped. The only remedy is to complain to the Secretary of State who can make orders if satisfied that the authority is in default of their duties. The mechanism for controlling standards of public bodies is generally by way of political accountability to the electorate or ministers rather than the legal process.


Some parts of public law do create individual rights and permit individual enforcement. In social security legislation for example, qualified claimants have a right to certain benefits and may appeal against decisions of benefit officers to a tribunal.

There is a procedure, special to public law, called judicial review of administrative action(aka judicial review) whereby an individual may go to the High Court alleging unlawful behaviour on the part of a public body. However, in order to go to court, the individual must show sufficient interestin the issue in question and the court has the discretion whether to hear the case or grant a remedy.


This is quite different from proceedings in private law, where a plaintiff does not need the courtʼs permission for the case to be heard but has a right to a hearing if a recognised cause of action is asserted and also a right to a remedy of some kind if successful.

The function of substantive law is to define, create or confer substantive legal rights or legal status or to impose and define the nature and extent of legal



"The function of practice and procedure is to provide the machinery or the manner in which legal rights or status and legal duties may be enforced or recognised by a court of law or other recognised or properly constituted tribunal."

The classification of law into SUBSTANTIVE LAW & PROCEDURAL LAW

SUBSTANTIVE LAW constitutes the legal rules which lay down peopleʼs rights, duties, liberties and powers and guide the courts in making decisions. - The function of substantive law is to define, create or confer substantive legal rights or legal status or to impose and define the nature and extent of legal duties. - It is the content of the law inclusive of caselaw and statute - Examples of statutes : Contracts Act 1955, Companies Act 1965, Hire-Purchase Act 1967 etc.

Procedural law constitutes the rules that determine the course of action. The function of practice and procedure is to provide the machinery or the manner in which legal rights or status and legal duties may be enforced or recognised by a court of law or other recognised or properly constituted tribunal. • It involves the procedure or method of obtaining or exercising a particular right eg. how to enter into a contract, how to file an action in court, how to make a civil claim, how a case is to be presented in court, in which court shall a case be filed, when it is to be tried, etc. Examples of relevant statutes: Rules of the High Court, Criminal Procedure Code, Subordinate Courts Rules, Evidence Act etc.

The classification of law into WRITTEN LAW & UNWRITTEN LAW

WRITTEN LAW is the law that is passed or enacted by Parliament or the State Legislative Assembly. • It is the primary source of law in Malaysia and is constituted in the Federal Constitution & the Constitution of the 13 states, in the legislations enacted by Parliament and the State Legislative Assembly, in subsidiary or delegated legislations and in Extra-Ordinary Laws made by the YDPA during the period of emergency.

UNWRITTEN LAW is the law which is not enacted by the legislature e.g.

- Syariah law (revealed through Prophet Muhammad)

- case law or judicial decisions of the Superior Courts - customs of local inhabitants in Malaysia (regarding marriage, divorce and inheritance) - English common law and equity