Time to Reform the Court

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  • illustration of court hammer. legaljuice.com

    illustration of court hammer. legaljuice.com

    TEMPO.CO, JakartaThe Supreme Court is about to select a new chair following the retirement of Muhammad Hatta Ali at the beginning of April. It is time to reform the Court.

    THE replacement of the Supreme Court chair at the beginning of April should provide crucial momentum for the Court to carry out internal reforms and rid itself of corruption. A series of graft cases involving judges and officials at the institution have seriously weakened public trust in it. The Supreme Court should be the final recourse for people to seek justice, not a place for officials to play games with the law.

    The performance of the Supreme Court has been in the spotlight because of a number of corruption cases involving judges and officials at the institution. According to Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), under the leadership of Muhammad Hatta Ali, from 2012 to 2018, 11 judges have been caught by sting operations carried out by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). And this does not include cases involving Supreme Court officials, such as the secretary, Nurhadi. In 2016, he was involved in a problem with the way cases are managed by the Supreme Court, and has since been named a suspect by the KPK.

    The authority of the Supreme Court in the eyes of the public has been damaged by a number of controversial rulings. Last year, there were at least two problematic rulings involving major cases that attracted public attention. Firstly, there was the acquittal of Syafruddin Arsyad Temenggung, a suspect in the Bank Indonesia Liquidity Assistance case, at the appeal stage. Secondly, there was the acquittal of Sofyan Basir, a suspect in the bribery case involving the construction of the Riau-1 Geothermal Power Station, at the first level of appeal.

    It turns out that this legal institution is not siding with the endeavor to eradicate corruption. As well as Supreme Court rulings that triggered suspicion, there have been many lenient sentences for people accused found guilty of corruption. For example, in 2008, according to the ICW, the average sentence for people found guilty of corruption was only two years and five months in jail. And from 2017 to 2018, the Supreme Court acquitted 101 people who had been convicted of corruption and who had appealed their convictions.

    To put all of this right, the Supreme Court not only needs a person with integrity, but also a chair who is an expert at managing the institution’s internal affairs. Unfortunately, the selection of the chair will be made by Supreme Court justices. This is a good mechanism for maintaining independence, but without public participation and oversight, this type of secretive selection is rife with collusion. In order for it to be more transparent, the Supreme Court must involve the public by establishing a selection committee. The first thing it needs to do is to improve the rules for selecting the Supreme Court chair. The Court should also involve the KPK and the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center.

    At present, the Supreme Court seems to be acting without any oversight after the authority of the Judicial Committee to monitor Court judges was removed by the Constitutional Court in 2006. Academics and stakeholders should put their heads together to come up with a way to restore control over the Supreme Court.

    Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine