The Malagasy judicial system is based on the French tradition. During the 1960s and 1970s the nation began a move from a bifurcated judicial system (customary courts for most Malagasy and local courts for foreign residents and urbanized Malagasy) to a single judicial system. At the top of the judicial system is the Supreme Court in Antananarivo. Other courts include the Court of Appeal, also in Antananarivo; courts of first instance for civil and criminal cases; ordinary and special criminal courts; and military courts. There are also a High Court of Justice to try high officials and a High Constitutional Court. Military courts presided over by civilian magistrates hear cases involving national security.
The traditional courts ( dina ) continue to handle some civil disputes and recently have been used in criminal cases because of inconvenience and inadequacy of the formal court system. Decisions by dina are not subject to the formal procedural protections of the formal court system. In some cases, however, they may be challenged at the appeals court level. Dina's authority depends upon the mutual respect and consensus of the parties to abide by the ruling. Dina punishments are sometimes severe and include capital punishment.
The 1992 constitution guarantees an independent judiciary, and in practice the judiciary appears to be independent from the executive. In April 2002, with both Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana agreeing to a recount of the December 2001 polls, the High Constitutional Court declared Ravalomanana the winner with 51.46% of the vote, and 35.90% for Ratsiraka. Ratsiraka defied the verdict, but Ravalomanana was sworn in for the second time on 6 May 2002 as Madagascar's fourth head of state.