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Southeast Asian Legal Research Guide: Legislation

Contents of this page

Syariah Law in Brunei

Syariah legislation is available on the same open access Attorney General's Legislation Online databases as non-Syariah legislation - see the Legislation box on this page.

Commentary

The following books and articles provide excellent scholarly discussion of Syariah Law in Brunei.

Steiner, Kerstin and Tim Lindsey, 'Islam, the Monarchy and Criminal Law in Brunei: The Syariah Penal Code Order 2013'  (2016) 25(4) Griffith Law Review 552-580 (UniMelb staff & student access)

  • The authors note that the Penal Code Order is not yet fully implemented and it remains to be seen whether it ever will be.

Muller, Dominik M, 'Paradoxical Normativities in Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia: Islamic Law and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration' (2016) 56(3) Asian Survey 415–441 (UniMelb staff & student access)

The Constitution

The Constitution was promulgated on September 29, 1959. Certain provisions are suspended under the State of Emergency that has existed since 1962. Under article 83 of the Constitution, in a State of Emergency the Sultan possesses supreme executive authority and wide legislative powers, and may pass any legislation he deems expedient by Emergency Order (art 83(3)). 

The Preamble of the Constitution states that it is the product of the exercise of the Sultan’s prerogatives. The provisions of the Constitution can be changed or revoked freely by the Sultan (art 85(1)). Before exercising his amending powers he shall consult the Privy Council but is not bound by its advice (art 85(2)). Under the Constitution the Sultan is immune from suit (art 84B) and there may be no judicial review of any act or omission of his or anyone acting in the exercise of public functions.(art 84C). 

The Constitution contains none of the concepts on which modern constitutionalism is based: popular sovereignty, a bill of rights, limited government, separation of powers or the rule of law. Rainer Grote notes that the 'main task of the Constitution is to put the unfettered powers of the Sultan on a statutory basis ...  It is a constitution in name only, but not in essence' ('Brunei Darussalam: Introductory Note' in Oxford Constitutions of the World (OUP Online - UniMelb staff & student access).

The Constitution is contained in two basic documents: 

  • Constitutional Matters I - Constitution of Brunei Darussalam 
  • Constitutional Matters II - Succession and Regency Proclamation 1959 

The Constitution has been amended several times - most recently 2006 (reprinted in 2011).

Text of the Constitution and Constitutional Documents in English

The Constitutional Documents page of the Attorney General's official Legislation Online website (open access) includes:

Although available on the Attorney General's open access website, HEIN Online has usefully gathered together all orders, proclamations etc amending the Constitution - in its World Constitutions Illustrated.

Commentary on the Constitution

Oxford Constitutions of the World (UniMelb staff & student access)  - includes a very useful 'Brunei Darussalam: Introductory Note' that explains the background to the 1959 Constitution and the main features of the Constitution.

Tsun Hang Tey, 'Entrenching an Absolute Monarchy' in C Hill and J Menzel, Constitionalism in Southeast Asia (Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 2008) (available to UniMelb staff & students via BONUS)

Legislation

Legislative Process

See detailed information about the Legislative Process and the Legislative Council in the Government and the State chapter of the Brunei pages of Legal Systems in ASEAN (open access) - pages 1-3. The Legislative Council was suspended in 1983, reestablished in 2004, and dissolved in 2005 - all Council members were replaced with appointed, rather than elected members. 

Under the Constitution, any member of the Legislative Council may introduce a bill. In reality, the Council is largely redundant, as the Sultan enjoys absolute power by virtue of the State of Emergency that has existed since 1962 and is renewed biennially. The Sultan thus has sole power to create new laws and amend existing laws. He must approve all draft legislation, which is passed as Emergency Orders in accordance with article 83(3) of the Constitution, and published in the Government Gazette. Every order made under article 83(3) is deemed to have been validly made and to have had full force from the date on which the Proclamation or Order was declared or made, and they are deemed to have been passed by the Legislative Council (article 83A of the Constitution).  

The Legislative Council website is available in Malay only. It includes up to date Hansards, Guidelines and Regulations. 

The Government Gazette in English

The Government Gazette (1998 to current) is published as annual volumes on the Attorney General's official Legislation Online website. It is totally up to date. The full text of Orders, regulations, amendments etc are published as subsidiary legislation in Part II of the Government Gazette.

Finding Laws in English 

The Laws of Brunei are published in full text online on the Attorney General's official Legislation Online website. They comprise:

  • Acts - the 1984 Revised edition of the Laws of Brunei, and all subsequent Acts and revisions; and
  • Orders - made under Article 83(3) of the Constitution and published in Part II of the Government Gazettes.

The database can only be browsed, not searched, but it is completely up to date and easy to use. It includes:

  • An alphabetical list / index of Acts, Orders & Enactments - including subsidiary legislation, amendments, notifications and appointments. Scroll to the bottom of this page and click on a letter from the alphabetical list. Many of the Acts, Regulations and Notifications have links to the full text.
  • The full text of Acts - these are arranged numerically by Chapter of the Act in the Laws of Brunei eg: the Supreme Court Act Cap. 5 is listed 5th. There are currently 220 Chapters. All Acts are up to date revised versions, and include a Brunei Law Revision Order (BLRO) number. Under each Act, there are also links to the full text of associated rules, notifications, resolutions and orders. Repealed Acts are also included in this list.
  • The full text of Orders made under art 83(3) of the Constitution (Emergency Orders). These are arranged alphabetically.
  • Handy Explanatory Notes on the Laws of Brunei Darussalam, Acts and Orders.
  • A very useful Guide to accessing, searching and understanding the laws and regulations.

The Foreign Law Guide (UniMelb staff & student access) lists legislation alphabetically by subject and links to English translations of the laws on open access websites where possible. Note that this resource has not been updated since 2013.