Ad Hoc Judges

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    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The House of Representatives (DPR) should reject the proposal to exclude the ad hoc judge clause in the revised bill on judges. The exclusion could hinder efforts to foster a healthy, transparent and honest justice system. 

    The strange motion came amid the ongoing deliberation of the bill at the DPR's legislation committee. The DPR-initiated bill consists of around 57 clauses on judges: from recruitment, tenure to facilities and a clause on ad hoc judges. The rejection of this last clause came from the Indonesian Judges' Association (Ikahi) and Indonesian Judges' Forum (FDHI). 

    Ikahi is an association of judges starting with judges of the first-level courts to senior justices, whereas FDHI is a forum for first-level and appeal court judges. According to Ikahi, the ad hoc judge system violates Article 24 of the 1945 Constitution, which explicitly governs only judges, the Constitutional Court and Judicial Commission. It also argues that relevance of ad hoc judges as some had been implicated in graft cases. 

    FDHI, for its part, sees ad hoc judges as stumbling blocks for the career path of regular judges, contending that ad hoc judges take up roles not only at first-level courts, such as corruption courts, but also at appeal and cassation courts. Indeed, the bill prepared by this forum makes no mention whatsoever to ad hoc judges.

    Ikahi and FDHI's stances are quite regrettable. It is no public secret that the role of ad hoc judges is mandated to overhaul the justice system. The public had been mostly let down-not to mention infuriated-by unfair verdicts handed down by judges who lack a sense of justice. Often, for example, corruptors were given not only light sentences but also acquittals. 

    As a judicial reform measure, the ad hoc judge clause was entered in the Anticorruption Court Law No. 46/2009. The article stipulates that judges' panels be predominantly made up of ad hoc judges who may be appointed from among academics and legal practitioners. So far, the initiative has paid off quite well. Anticorruption courts, particularly those in Jakarta, have acquitted few graft suspects. Even those who appealed were given harsher sentences.

    As such, it is quite surprising to see associations such as Ikahi resentful towards ad hoc judges. If it really wants a clean justice system, the catchphrase it often uses, should it not be cooperating with ad hoc judges to the furthest extent possible?

    Granted, there were ad hoc judges involved in corruption, but that is hardly a ground strong enough to make a sweeping generalization for all the ad hoc judges, let alone demand to eliminate them. The issue could be corrected through the improvement of the selection system. Candidates must go through a stringent screening process: in addition to their expertise, they must have an impeccable record of integrity. 

    The role of non-career ad hoc judges is clearly warranted given the rampant corruption in the legal system. Without it, judicial reforms would unlikely bear fruit. It would only render the war on judicial mafia ineffective. (*)

    Read the full story in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine