Judiciary facing 'severe' shortage of judges
Fedina S. Sundaryani
The Jakarta Post
The country's judiciary is suffering a shortage of judges and is struggling to fill positions mostly in district courts, a problem that if left unchecked will lead to a crisis, says a commissioner from the Judicial Commission.
Commissioner Imam Anshori told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that the shortage resulted from the fact that no new judges had been recruited in the past four years.
'On average we should recruit around 250 new judges annually. However, since we haven't recruited anyone new in the past four years, we must hire at least 1,000 judges to reach the ideal number,' he said.
Data from the commission said there were currently 8,300 judges in district, religious, military and state administrative courts across the nation as well as justices at the Supreme Court.
Imam said he was concerned that if no new judges were recruited, the country's judiciary would be badly crippled by 2017.
Even today, some of the country's far-flung regions already experienced judge shortages, he said.
'For example, the district court in Raha, Southeast Sulawesi, only has four judges. [Since there needs to be three judges per panel] what would happen if two of those judges were ill or on leave? All the work at that court would have to be suspended,' he said.
To add to further problems at Raha District Court, the commission discovered that two judges there were set to be transferred to other regions as their tenures had expired, according to the Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry.
Problems were also affecting courts in remote areas in the country, as judges mostly wanted to be assigned to developed regions.
'It's difficult to find judges for remote areas such as Raha, because more experienced judges who have worked at higher-caliber district courts are unwilling to be transferred to courts in disadvantaged regions,' he said.
There were also problems in the recruitment of judges, with a lack of applications for the job.
The commission had to recently lower the entry requirements for judge candidates in the written test due to a lack of participants, which further reduced the quality of judges, if selected.
'We were forced to lower the passing grade a little, but if we kept on trying to find the ideal judges we would never be able to find them,' he said.
The judicial watchdog also made the same move when tasked with selecting Supreme Court justice candidates before they were proposed to the House of Representatives.
The number of applicants for justice positions had reduced, with the commission also being forced to lower entry requirements for these positions.
'We have started this year's selection process. Around 50 people have applied,' he said.
Imam, however, acknowledged that the task of finding honest and capable judges and justices remained a difficult undertaking in the country's graft-prone judiciary.
The commission was set up in 2005 to monitor the judiciary.
Throughout its existence, the commission has launched investigations into the alleged misconduct of justices and judges.
The commission, however, has no authority to dismiss judges or justices for misconduct or criminal offenses.
University of Indonesia legal expert Chairul Huda said he trusted the commission's assessment of the situation and warned a continued judge shortage would increasingly bring the quality of legal decisions into question.
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