It looks like a lot of people have always had interest in watching exciting live court trials, just like in the movies and TV shows or maybe the ongoing 1MDB trials implicating our former Prime Minister and his wife has peaked your interest in Malaysian judicial proceedings?
It looks like it could be one of the most exciting court trial that’s garnering up to 7000 pages worth of documents and possibly up to 60 witnesses, well guess what? You can actually just literally walk into a courtroom and watch a trial..
Section 15(1) of the Court of Judicature Act 1964 states that all court hearings, for civil and criminal cases in Malaysia shall be open to the public, especially if its advantageous to the interest of justice, public safety, public security or other sufficient reason to do so.
So, you’re actually legally allowed to attend any court trials that you’re interested in.
Unlike your day to day TV shows where you have reruns, real courtroom trials have a pretty strict schedule but how would you know which cases are scheduled to be heard in court soon?
Where can you find the court schedule?
Well, for one, you could refer to the official website of the Office of Chief Registrar Federal Court of Malaysia, where you could click on their “cause list” option and search through their database for hearings held in specific courts either by the group, category or through hearing date.
You should probably however, note that even though, court hearings are scheduled at a specific time and date, there could also be changes made to the schedule due to unforeseen circumstances and the hearing date or time could be postponed.
For those updates, you would be advised to go to the designated court and get the updated schedule for that case. However if you’re unsure about the schedule the Kehakiman website recommends that you get there by 8.30am.
Certain courts are not actually open to the public.
Despite Section 15(1) of the Court of Judicature Act 1964, the Malaysian Judiciary has imposed certain exceptions to the rule whereby cases involving minors or sexual offences are closed to the public. This is for the protection of privacy of the minor and any sexual abuse victims. Section 12(3) of the Childs Act 2001 clarifies that no one else except the officers or members of Court, the minor on trial, witnesses, parents or guardians of the child, anyone else directly involved in the case or anyone determined by the Court, can be present during the hearing.
- Members and officers of the Court;
- The children who are parties to the case before the Court, their parents, guardians and witnesses, and other persons directly concerned in that case; and
- Such other responsible persons as may be determined by the Court.
You would be able to go for any court hearing except for those involving minors or cases involving sexual crimes whereby the identity of the victim is protected by the law.
So… what should you actually wear to court?
Since you’re now able to attend any civil or criminal hearing in Malaysia, what are you actually permitted to wear in court as per court etiquette rules.
- Men are advised to wear long sleeve white or plain shirt with tie and dark coloured slacks paired with formal black shoes.
- Women are recommended to wear white or plain long sleeve collared blouse with long ( below the knee) skirts also paired with formal black shoes.
You’re also allowed to wear your tudung or religious turban in court.
However, there are certain no-nos in court, whereby you're not allowed to wear;
- short pants or mini skirts
- informal jackets made out of leather, denim and others
- bright coloured clothing with full jewellery
If you’re caught wearing any of the prohibited items, you would not be allowed into the courtroom.
You also can't misbehave in court.
So now, you’re in one of the courts in Malaysia, waiting to watch a particular hearing, what is considered proper Malaysian Court etiquette?
Well for one, you should be in the courtroom early. You should also make sure that all of your mobile and electronic devices are switched off and you aren’t allowed to record anything whether through video or audio.
It is also important that you rise and bow when the Judge or Magistrate enters or leaves the courtroom. Children are also not allowed in courtrooms unless you’re instructed by the Court to bring your kids, however, you would definitely have to make sure that they do not interrupt ongoing proceedings.
You are also required to be silent and to give your full attention while the hearing is underway, it would be disrespectful towards members of the court if you were to leave the courtroom midway through the hearing.
Please bring your IC or passport (if you’re not a Malaysian citizen) for identification purposes.
By defying rules on etiquette set by the Malaysian Judiciary, you could be held to be in contempt of court.
Contempt is when your acts are against the dignity or authority of the court. Section 13 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964 clarifies that the 3 main courts in Malaysia has the power to punish any form of contempts (though the law doesn't specify what can amount to contempt).
Needless to say, it would be better for you to be on your best behaviour and not go around pretending you’re Phoenix Wright by shouting “Objection!” while in court.
Malas to go to court? You can bring the court to you!
Well, not everyone has the time or actually want to sit for hours in court but you’re still interested in knowing the accurate judgement of certain cases, the Malaysian Judiciary has launched a website whereby all judgements and orders of all proceedings are open to the public online, except for cases involving minors or sexual offences.
The Supreme Court in India has ruled to allow live streaming of their court proceedings to encourage court transparency and this is also implemented in many other countries such as UK, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Germany and China.
However, since we do not have that option her, judgement.my is our next best thing.