Court ruling weakens Judicial Commission
The Jakarta Post
The Constitutional Court handed down a ruling on Wednesday stripping the Judicial Commission of its role in the selection of judges for district courts, religious courts and state administrative courts.
The ruling was a response to a judicial review filed by the Indonesian Judges Association (IKAHI) in March this year, which requested the court review several articles in a number of laws that sanctioned the role of the commission in the recruitment process of judges.
The Supreme Court argues that Article 14 Point 2 and 3 of Law No. 49.2009 on general courts, Article 13 Point 2 and 3 of Law No. 50/2009 on the religious courts and Article 14 Point 2 and 3 of Law No. 51/2009 on the administrative courts, all stipulate that the commission has no right to be involved in selecting candidates for judge positions at the courts.
The Constitutional Court said that the commission's role in the selection of judges was unconstitutional and that the Supreme Court was the only institution that had the authority in question.
The panel of justices at the Constitutional Court said in its ruling that the 1945 Constitution only stipulated that the Judicial Commission had the authority to monitor judges and help maintain their credibility.
The ruling allows the Supreme Court to select judges without having to be accountable to other state bodies.
The Constitutional Court also cited Law No. 14/1970 on judicial power, which regulates the one-roof court management system, claiming that the regulation only gave the Supreme Court the authority to select judges.
Supreme Court spokesman Suhadi said his institution applauded the ruling.
'The recruitment process for judges is supposed to be only in the Supreme Court's hands, with no intervention from the Judicial Commission,' he said.
Watchdog groups, however, blasted the ruling.
Constitutional law expert Feri Amsari, also a researcher at the Center of Constitutional Studies at Andalas University in West Sumatra, criticized the ruling, saying the reforms were 'counterproductive, and dealt a blow to a breakthrough in the country's judicial system'.
'Giving the [sole] authority to select judges to the Supreme Court will make judges lose their independence as they will consider themselves to indebted to the Supreme Court justices who selected them,' Feri said.
'Another potential problem is that it may create judicial kinship, since the door for the Supreme Court justices to select their own family members has now opened,' he said.
Judicial Commission commissioner Eman Suparman said his office had given its best arguments during the Constitutional Court hearing and presented its best expert witnesses to support their arguments, including former Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud MD and constitutional law expert Saldi Isra.
'We have done our best and deployed our best arguments, but, the Constitutional Court has made its decision,' Eman said.
In their defense, the Judicial Commission argued that its role in selecting judges was the implementation of a checks-and-balances principle, in the same way the House of Representatives played a role in the selection process of several public officials, including the National Police chief, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief and Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) leaders, although the Constitution only gives it the authority to select Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) leaders, justices and Judicial Commission commissioners.
In spite of the ruling, the commission pledged that it would continue its work.
'We will not slow down [our work of] ensuring that all judges show independence and integrity and act according to their code of ethics. We will now focus on playing our role monitoring the judges,' Eman added. (foy)
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