In Semenyih Jaya v Pentadbir Tanah Daerah Hulu Langat, the Federal Court of Malaysia asserted that the Federal Constitution continues to vest a distinct and independent judicial power in the judiciary notwithstanding earlier constitutional amendments, and also gave substantive effect to the ‘basic structure doctrine’ for the first time in Malaysia. This has contributed significantly to the long-standing discussion of whether, and to what extent, the ‘basic structure doctrine’ applies in Malaysia. Situating that landmark decision within the context of the evolving judicial practice in Malaysia and other jurisdictions on the ‘Westminster model’, this article evaluates the extent to which Semenyih Jaya has contributed towards strengthening constitutionalism and the rule of law in Malaysia. Considering that the apex court stopped short of directly invalidating the relevant constitutional amendments, this article argues that Semenyih Jaya represents a sophisticated modification of the ‘basic structure doctrine’ to fit the current context of Malaysian constitutionalism. This article also examines how Semenyih Jaya advances the ‘constitutional dialogue’ between the judiciary and its co-equal branches of government, and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the approach taken by the Federal Court in that case.
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