The House of Representatives has started deliberating the draft revision to the 2011 Constitutional Court Law amid experts' questions over the seeming need for urgency and concerns that it may undermine the independence of its nine-justice bench.
House Commission III overseeing legal affairs on Monday held a meeting with Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, who read out a letter from President Joko Widodo on his stance regarding the 2011 law revision initiated by the House.
In the letter dated June 11, Yasonna said that the President had assigned himself as the law minister, the administrative and bureaucratic reform minister and the finance minister to represent the government during the deliberation.
"In principle, the government welcomes and is willing to discuss [the law revision] with the House,” he said.
Yasonna also noted the need for improving the provisions on judicial terms and the mechanisms for appointing and dismissing a Constitutional Court justice.
He highlighted several other issues in the draft law revision, including the minimum age for Constitutional Court justices, the judicial requirements for Supreme Court appointees, and the requirements for members of the Constitutional Court Honorary Council.
The draft revision submitted by House Legislation Body (Baleg) chairman Supratman Andi Agtas, who hails from the Gerindra faction, focuses on changes to the judicial term as well as the minimum age of a candidate for Constitutional Court justice.
The law revision seeks to scrap the maximum judicial term of 10 years and instead set a retirement age of 70 for all members of the nine-justice bench. The revision also increases the minimum age of justices from currently 47 years to 60 years.
The revision also scraps a provision that a justice may serve for an initial five-year term and then must be reelected for a second five-year term.
Legal experts have questioned the lawmakers' motive for pressing ahead with the plan, as they saw no urgency for revising the law. They also cautioned that the law revision could undermine the judiciary’s independence and discourage the public from exercising their right to challenge controversial laws.
Erwin Natoesmal Oemar of the Public Interest Lawyers Network (PilNet) Indonesia, who often represents the plaintiffs of judicial review petitions at the Constitutional Court, said that the law revision did not touch the substance of the problems at the court.
He said the revision appeared to aim merely at restricting citizens' right to challenge the numerous controversial bills that the House was now deliberating. Erwin pointed out that the draft revision itself was representative of a conflict of interest, as it seemed to have been created "only to extend the terms of office for justices who will soon retire".
The Constitutional Court in 2017 rejected a petition for judicial review of the Constitutional Court Law to challenge a plan to introduce a lifetime tenure for the court's justices, citing the plaintiff's lack of legal basis.