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Statutory Reception.

The reception of English law and rules of equity in Malaysia happened by two ways;
statutory reception and judicial reception. Reception technically means the extension of English
legal principle to ceded or conquered territories. However, the law in existence at the time of its
acquisition continues in force until changed by a Sovereign.
In statutory reception, the introduction of First Royal Charter 1806 in Penang was the
first English statutory introduce by the British. Thus, English legal principles applied and
become lex loci of the island. This has been stated in case of Fatimah v Logan where it was held
that by the charter of 1807, the law of England was introduced into Penang and became the law
of the land. Later, the Second Royal Charter 1826 introduced where English law extended to
Malacca and Singapore. The Strait Settlements were annexed as on single administration and it
have same jurisdiction on Court of Judicature as former charter had done. Third Royale Charter
1855 introduced later only to reorganize the structure in Straits Settlements.
In Federated Malay States (FMS), British came by made treaties with ruler of the states.
The first treaty made was Pangkor Treaty. The British in Federated Malay States introduced a
system called Resident System. The ruler of the state will receive a British Resident where the
ruler acts on advice of Resident without touching religion and Malay custom. The British
claimed they were only protectorate of the Malay States. English law and equity introduced in
Federated Malay States by enacted several laws and decision of judges in court. Civil Law
Enactment 1937 were introduced. This enactment extended to Unfederated Malay
States(UFMS) by application of Civil Law Extension Ordinance 1951 where Advisory System
was introduced.
North Borneo and Sarawak which happened to be under British administration of East
Indian Company and Brookes family also received the application of English law and rules of
equity. As what being stated in Federated Malay States and Unfederated Malay States, both
North Borneo and Sarawak was not part of British territory but the protectorate governed by the
British. North Borneo Civil Law Ordinance 1938 and Law of Sarawak Ordinance 1928
introduced to allow reception of English law and rules of equity in North Borneo and Sarawak
whether it to be administration or judiciary.
In 1956, Civil Law Ordinance introduced to whole Federated Malaya which included
Penang and Malacca. After formation of Malaysia, Civil Law Ordinance 1956 changed to be
Civil Law Act 1956.Civil Law Act (Amendment) 1972 extended the application of Civil Law
Act 1956 to Sabah and Sarawak.

Judicial Reception.
During British administration, the courts in Malaysia have independently applying
equitable principles in their jurisdiction. The courts in view that they had the widest possible
jurisdiction to do justice based on principles natural justice and equity. This clearly stated in
case of Motor Emporium v Arumugam (1933) MLJ 276,it held that :
The court of Federated Malay States have on many occasions acted on equitable principles not
because English rule to Equity applies, but because such rules happen to conform to the
principles of natural justice
This supported by earlier case of Fatimah v Logan (1871) Ky. 255, where the used of
English law and rules of equity in Malaysia were recognized. This case recognized the
application of English law as lex loci in Penang Island.It was held that :
By the charter of 1807, the law of England was introduced into Penang and became the law of
the land
Another case concerning the judicial reception of English law and equity in the case of
Choa Choon Neoh v Spottiswoode (1869) 1 Ky. 216, where it was held that when the English
Law was imported here, it was adapted and modify as are necessary to suit local custom in order
to prevent it operate unjustly and oppressively.

Concerning the prohibition of English Common Law and Rules of Equity as stated in
Section 6 of Civil Law Act 1956, there were several interpretation made by the judges regarding
the said provision. Clearly express in Section 3(1) of Civil Law Act 1956 that while allowing the
reception of equity in Malaysia, it must be subject to the circumstances of the states and such
qualification as local circumstances render necessary. Besides, the same provision also stated
cut-off date for the application of English law to be binding in which for the West Malaysia at 7 th
April 1956, Sabah at 1st December 1951 and Sarawak 12th December 1949.
Section 5 of Civil Law Act 1956 have similar context with Section 3(1) where the
English law will be used to fill the lacuna in our law but subject to local circumstances render
necessary in regards of commercial matters. However, Section 6 of the act stated restriction of
English law and rules of equity into Malaysia any part of the law of England relating to tenure
or conveyance or assurance f or succession to any immovable property or any estate, right or
interest therein
Judges in Malaysia seems to adopt different regarding the expression of Section 6 Civil
Law Act 1956 as whether to adopt or rejecting the uses of English law and Equity concerning
land matters as Torrens system already applied in Malaysia. In case of Motor Emporium v
Arumugam,the judge adopt the application of English Law and rules of equity in their
judgement. It was held that :
The court of Federated Malay States have on many occasions acted on equitable principles not
because English rule to Equity applies, but because such rules happen to conform to the
principles of natural justice
Malaysia was governed by National Land Code pertaining land matters. As expressly
stated in Section 206(3), the provision give rights in personam in equity which give right of
equitable remedy.While, in the case of Devis v Francis the court held that Section 6 of Civil Law
Act does not prohibit the application of equity in land law because the land of England is one
thing and the principle of equity is another thing.
However, in UMBC & Anor v Pemungut Hasil Tanah Kota Tinggi, the court rejected the
application of English Law and rules of equity. The Court held that Section 6 Civil Law Act
prohibits the application of English Law relating to tenure of immoveable property because
National Land Code 1965 is a complete and comprehensive code of law regulating tenure of land
in Malaysia.Therefore, there is no room for importation of English Law except National Land
Code expressly provide for it.
This supported in case of Datin Siti Hajar v Murugasu where the court held that effect of
Section 6 to oust application of Common Law and rules of Equity relating to land tenure,transfer

& transmission immovable properties. English law should not be applied in land matters as there
is restriction on it.
In case of Lian Keow Sdn. Bhd(in Liquidation) & Anor v Overseas Creadit Finance (M)
Bhd & Ors , the judges give a clear explanation regarding the status of our Malaysian Torrens
System as regards to the application of English law and Equity in Malaysia land law. It was held
that :
The Malaysian Torrens system does not prevent or restrict the creation of beneficial interests in
land by way of express, implied or resulting trust by operation of S.3 CLAit does not abrogate
the principles of equity but alters the application of particular rules of equity in so far as
necessary to achieve its special objects.
The court in view that the equity should be allowed to do justice between disputed parties but the
application should be render accordingly with the need. Alteration in its application should be
made so that the rules of equity can be suit with our legal system especially matters concerning
land.
As conclusion, the application of equity was not expressly stated in Section 6 of Civil
Law Act and the restriction contained only concerned the English land law but not the rules of
Equity itself. Rules of Equity may applicable in settling land dispute but this is subject to local
circumstances and necessary in which alteration may require.