INTRODUCTION TO LAW AND MALAYSIAN LEGAL SYSTEM
What is Law
Law is needed to ensure good conduct of people and peace in society. Therefore, government makes necessary laws whenever needed. Law is an obligatory rule of conduct. Government makes law to regulate the conduct of people in society. Law requires that people should behave well with fellow members in society and must abide by social and ethical rules together with legislative laws made by Parliament.
Law is obligatory for every body. Every person in society must follow law unless he will be liable for violating or neglecting law. Law imposes duties on people to do something or to abstain from doing something in the interest of society. He has social and ethical duty to take care of other people’s rights. He has duty not to commit offences such as theft, robbery, extortion, beating, murder, arson, vandalism, terrorism etc.
Law is obligatory for everybody even ministers and kings are bound to observe laws of Malaysia while conducting personal and official activities. All persons are equal before law and every body is bound to follow law. If a person violates law and commit some wrongdoings, police department will take action against the person. Police will arrest him and prosecute him in the court and he might be fined or jailed or both for violating law. That’s why it is said that law has coercive force meaning that law can force a person to observe law.
How can law force a person to observe law? Suppose, you are negligently driving and hit another car on the high way. The other car is damaged and the driver gets injury. If you have motor insurance your insurance company may pay the repairing cost of your and the other car. If the insurance company does not provide cost for repair of the injured person’s car, his treatment and hospitalization of the injured driver, you will be responsible to pay damages to the injured driver to meet his treatment and hospitalization cost plus earning lost (if any) during hospitalization and bed rest. So, the fear of paying damages to the injured person forces him to observe traffic rules and civil obligations.
Similarly, law prohibits you to cause grievous hurt to another person for whatever reasons. If you cause grievous hurt to a person, you commit a criminal offence and are liable for fine and imprisonment for certain years. So, the punishment will force you and others to observe law in social life.
According to Sir John Salmond, “Law is the body of principles recognised and applied by the state in the administration of justice.” He said law is a body of principles. People have to observe those principles while conducting their lives in society. Salmond did not say in the above definition that law is made by government. He said law is recognised and applied by state. Here, state means country or government of that country. Government can recognise any existing legal principles and can apply them on people to uphold justice in society. It is very important to establish justice in society for all people. No one should suffer from injustice either from people or from government. So, according to Salmond the objective of law is to ensure justice in society.
Types of Law
There are many types of law made by parliament from time to time to meet the needs in society and to ensure peace, order, security and development. For our convenience we may classify different types of laws into two types such as i) private law and public law.
Private law determines relation between individuals. Government does not become a party in private law disputes. The function of government is only to provide a suitable remedy to the affected individual through courts. Private law determines duties and rights of individuals towards each other. Examples of private law are contract law, tort law, family law, trust law, property law etc.