The courts will continue to operate but in a more limited scope to ensure continuous access to justice," said Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat.
In her statement, she said the Malaysian Judiciary was adapting to keep its processes and services running despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It is unrealistic and impossible for the courts to operate in the usual way during the Covid-19 pandemic," said the top judge in the judiciary.
Tengku Maimun said by doing so it would run the risk jeopardising the health and safety of judges and lawyers as well as litigants and court staff.
She said three administrative letters had consecutively been issued by the Chief Registrar's office to relevant stakeholders on March 17, March 23 and April 10 to regulate the administration of justice during the movement control order (MCO).
Tengku Maimun said the necessary areas under the purview of the Schedule of Prevention and Control of Infectious Disease (Measures within the infected local area) Regulations 202, related to the function of the courts to provide the required support to prisons and the police, which were both listed as essential services under the regulations.
She emphasised that, in maintaining law and order during the MCO, especially for criminal matters, the courts would still hear remand applications, fresh charges, miscellaneous criminal applications, revision of the Subordinate Courts’ decisions and would also still conduct regular case management.
She said remand applications were also being conducted at police stations.
Tengku Maimun said various High Courts and Subordinate Courts would continue to hear urgent cases though they were not expressly required to do so under the regulations.
"The courts continue to carry out case management via email, e-Review and conduct online hearings. The e-filing mechanism which has been in operation for nearly a decade and, which enables the online filing of documents and cause papers, continues to operate as usual for both civil and criminal cases," she said.
Courts well-equipped for online hearings
She also said that documents filed through the system were processed as usual during the MCO period.
Tengku Maimun said judges and judicial officers had been working remotely from home and were contactable at all times to ensure that the necessary cases which required urgent attention were dealt with swiftly.
She assured the public that the court is equipped with the latest and secure online hearing tools, adding that the judiciary is ready to conduct and had indeed conducted online hearing for civil cases with the consent of parties.
Additionally, she said the Judiciary has also taken steps to amend the relevant laws such as the Courts of Judicature Act 1964, Subordinate Court Act 1948 and Rules of Court 2012 to give effect to the conduct of online hearings.
Tengku Maimun said it was a misstatement that the courts were not operating during the MCO. She was making a clarification over an article which appeared in the New Straits Times on April 17.
She said the court statistics showed, among others, that during the MCO period, case management was conducted for 376 cases in the Federal Court by way of e-Review while 25 cases were by way of e-mail.
Tengku Maimun also said there were also 18 cases in which civil hearing were conducted by way of video conferencing at the High Court and 12 cases involving certificate of urgency by video conferencing.
"The specific measures taken by the Malaysian Judiciary indicate that it remains ever committed to modern technological advancement," she said.