Source and Evolution of the doctrine

Article 159 of the current (2010) form of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia reflects the basic structure doctrine.


The case of Loh Kooi Choon v Govt. of Malaysia [1977] 2 MLJ 187 involved a constitutional amendment that deprived Loh, the appellant, of protection from detainment without magistrate authority. Loh cited the Kesavananda case in arguing that the amendment destroyed the basic structure of the amendment. The court rejected Loh's argument, holding that the constitution could not be internally inconsistent. In Phang Chin Hock v Public Prosecutor [1980] 1 MLJ 70, the court again rejected the basic structure argument, holding that "Parliament may amend the Constitution in any way they think fit, provided they comply with all the conditions precedent and subsequent regarding manner and form prescribed by the Constitution itself".

The doctrine was first cited with approval by the Federal Court in obiter of the Sivarasa Rasiah case [2010] 2 MLJ 333. The court held, "Further, it is clear from the way in which the Federal Constitution is constructed there are certain features that constitute its basic fabric. Unless sanctioned by the Constitution itself, any statute (including one amending the Constitution) that offends the basic structure may be struck down as unconstitutional." The doctrine was later enshrined as part of the constitution in Article 159, having been amended as of 2010. It has been upheld in later judgments, such as Semenyih Jaya Sdn Bhd vs Pentadbir Tanah Daerah Hulu Langat & Another [2017] 1 LNS 496.

Article 159 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia

(As at 1 November 2010)

[Amendment of the Constitution]


(1)   Subject to the following provisions of this Article and to Article 161e, the provisions of this Constitution may be amended by federal law.


(2)   (Repealed).


(3)   A Bill for making any amendment to the Constitution (other than an amendment excepted from the provisions of this Clause) and a Bill for making any amendment to a law passed under Clause (4) of Article 10 shall not be passed in either House of Parliament unless it has been supported on Second and Third Readings by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of that House.


(4)   The following amendments are excepted from the provisions of Clause (3), that is to say:

(a)   any amendment to Part III of the Second or to the Sixth or Seventh Schedule;*

(b)  any amendment incidental to or consequential on the exercise of any power to make law conferred on Parliament by any provision of this Constitution other than Articles 74 and 76;**

(bb) subject to Article 161e any amendment made for or in connection with the admission of any State to the Federation or its association with the States thereof, or any modification made as to the application of this Constitution to a State previously so admitted or associated;***

(c)   any amendment consequential on an amendment made under paragraph (a).


(5)   A law making an amendment to Clause (4) of Article 10, any law passed thereunder, the provisions of Part III, Article 38, Clause (4) of Article 63, Article 70, Clause (1) of Article 71, Clause (4) of Article 72, Article 152, or 153 or to this Clause shall not be passed without the consent of the Conference of Rulers.


(6)   In this Article “amendment” includes addition and repeal; and in this Article and in paragraph (a) of Article 2 “State” includes any territory.

Useful Resources


Indira Gandhi v Pengarah Jabatan Agama Islam Perak [2018] MYFC 3. Available at


Public Prosecutor v Kok Wah Kuan [2007] 6 CLJ 341 (FC). Available at:


Loh Kooi Choon v Govt. of Malaysia [1977] 2 MLJ 187. Available at


Mark Koding v Public Prosecutor [1982] 2 MLJ 120 (FC). Available at:


Muhammad Hilman bin Idham v Kerajaan Malaysia & Ors [2011] 6 MLJ 507.

Phang Chin Hock v Public Prosecutor [1980] 1 MLJ 70 (FC). Available at:


Semenyih Jaya Sdn Bhd v Pentadbir Tanah Daerah Hulu Langat & Ano'r [2017] 3 M.L.J. 561. Available at


Sivarasa Rasiah v Badan Peguam Malaysia [2010] 2 M.L.J. 333. Available at



Dato’ Seri Mohd Hishamudin Yunus, “The Malaysian Constitution and the Basic Structure Doctrine” (2018) Legal Herald 1-9. Retrieved from


Jaclyn L. Neo, “Beyond Mortals? Constitutional Identity, Judicial Power, and the Evolution of Basic Structure Doctrine in Malaysia” CPG Publication: “Identity and Change – The Basic Structure in Asian Constitution Orders” Available at


Lim Wei Jiet, “Semenyih Jaya Sdn Bhd v Pentadbir Tanah Daerah Hulu Langat & another case – A Landmark in Constitutional and Land Acquisition Laws” 44 (2) JMCL 59-70. Available at


Shad Saleem Faruqi, “Restoring constitutional supremacy” (2018) Available at


Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad, “Not for Judges to Rewrite the Constitution” (2017) Available at


Tengku Ahmad Hazri, “The Basic Structure Doctrine And Malaysia’s Judicial Turf Wars” (2018) 8-9. Available at


Wilson Tze Vern Tay, “Basic Structure Revisited: The Case of Semenyih Jaya and the Defence of Fundamental Constitutional Principles in Malaysia” (2019) 14(1) Asian Journal of Comparative Law 113-145. Available at



Shad Saleem Faruqi, “Document of Destiny: The Constitution of the Federation of Malaysia” (2008 Star Publications) 564.