Based on the 2009 law on judicial authority has granted them the status as state officials, the Judicial Commission earlier this year recommended that judges be paid at least Rp 7 million (US$763) per month.
However, their pay still resembles that of civil servants. A judge’s monthly salary consists of three main components: basic salary, professional allowance and performance bonuses.
The basic salary ranges from Rp 1.98 million ($215.8) to Rp 4.98 million, according to their rank level and time of service; while the amount of their professional allowance starts from Rp 650,000, for entry-level judges, to Rp 2.6 million for highest-rank judges.
Judges are also entitled to receive performance bonuses, the amount of which depends on structural position, performance and workload. The Supreme Court was one of the first government institutions to adopt this performance-based system, initiated in 2006 as a part of the country’s bureaucratic-reform strategy.
A judge in a Class-II court who handles less than 1,000 criminal cases or 150 civil cases annually, for example, is entitled to receive Rp 4.2 million in monthly bonuses, lower than the Rp 5.4 million allocated for those working at the Class-IA court, which manage more than 2,000 cases and 600 civil cases per year.
While the amounts of the first two components are fixed, judges currently receive only 70 percent of their performance bonuses. Many judges have also complained about the payment of those bonuses, which takes place every three months or even longer, making it hard for them to deal with emergency needs — particularly for those in regions outside of the well-developed Java.
Judge Sunoto Ahmad, 31, who is posted to the Aceh Tamiang District Court, said he had to spend more than Rp 2 million a month for a modest residence lent to him by the court since the house was too damaged and far from fit to live in.
“Once the renovation was completed, I had no more money to buy furniture. So I moved all my household items from my previously rented house in Lampung to Aceh with a truck,” the father-of-three said.
It usually takes some 24 hours to travel the 1,000-kilometer route from Lampung to Aceh.
Senior judge I Gusti Agung Sumanatha recalled how his first posting at the Jeneponto District Court, South Sulawesi, in the late 1980s quickly taught him about accepting the profession’s limitations in terms of welfare and access to civil-service facilities.
“During my early years of work, I was once assigned to be a judge on a murder trial whose hearings always drew the attention of the local media and the public. One day, we had to conduct a trial hearing into the night, and when the hearing ended, people who previously packed the courtroom could easily notice the wealth-disparity of law enforcers from the way we left the court building. While the [defense] lawyers left the court building with private cars and prosecutors with their service car, it was only us, the judges, who returned home on foot,” said 56-year-old Agung, who heads the Supreme Court’s training and education center for judiciary techniques.
According to the Supreme Court’s latest annual report, Indonesia now has 3,927 general court judges, 3,619 religious court judges, 320 state administrative court judges and 95 military court judges. More than 70 percent of the 8,000 judges are male, typically regarded as breadwinners.
Earlier this month, a group of young judges from remote regions met lawmakers and Administrative Reforms Minister Azwar Abubakar to demand better welfare provisions.
Although he has repeatedly expressed his support to such demand, Supreme Court chief justice Muhammad Hatta Ali, who also chairs the Indonesian Judges Association, has since called on judges across the country to allow for a recently-established government-sanctioned team to first study what would be decent and feasible pay rises for judges.
“We [the Supreme Court] actually want to see the pay increase to be implemented as soon as possible, but it is the government who has the money, not the Supreme Court,” he said.