The Drawbacks of Judicial Pluralism in the Administration of Justice

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Ilham Ramli


Legal pluralism in Malaysia has been traditionally a colonial legacy. Legal pluralism not only posits the existence of multiple legal spheres in the same social field but develops certain suppositions concerning the relationships and interaction between them. One area in which there is apparently interesting interaction is in the administration of justice. Whilst legal pluralism may be celebrated because it moves away from the pre-occupation with legal centralism, society cannot afford to have a justice system that is in disarray. This is indeed the case in Malaysia where a common law tradition and civil justice system seem to be at odds with the strong element of religion in the constitution. For more than 50 years, the Malaysian legal system has had to grapple with the ongoing and seemingly endless conflict of judicial authority between the civil and Syariah courts. Syariah courts in Malaysia are exclusively empowered to hear and dispose of cases among Muslims on subject matters enumerated in the first item of List II of the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.

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