Brief of Indonesian Legal System

The Indonesian judicial system comprises the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. The 2001 amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia grant the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court powers to organize judiciaries in order to uphold justice and law. The Constitution provides the Constitutional Court with the power among others to review the constitutionality of legislation passed by the House of Representatives; to determine jurisdiction disputes between key state institution; to decide motions for dissolution of political parties and to resolve disputed election results.

The judiciary subordinate to or under the oversight of the Supreme Court comprises:

  1. General Judiciary, which handles general civil and criminal cases;
  2. Religious Judiciary, which relates to Islamic family laws dealing with inheritance, divorce, etc;
  3. Military Judiciary;
  4. State administrative Judiciary.

In Indonesia, most disputes appear before the courts of the general judiciary, which consists of a Court of First Instance, a Court of Appeal and a Court of Cassation. Although the Courts of the first instance and Courts of appeal vary from one judicial system to another, at the cassation level the Supreme Court will preside over cases in all judicial system. The courts in the general judiciary comprise the District Courts as Courts of the first instance; the High Courts as Courts of Appeal, and the Supreme Court as the Court of Cassation and civil review.

In addition, within the framework of the court of the general judiciary, a number of specialized courts have been established at certain District Courts to handle specific types of cases. A commercial court which is a specialized court in the commercial field has been established at the District Court of Central Jakarta, Surabaya, Semarang, Medan, and Makasar to handle bankruptcy, suspension of payments and intellectual property right cases. A human rights court has also been established at the District Court of Central Jakarta. An anti-corruption court established at the centre of every province.

Additionally, a tax court within the framework of the general judiciary has been established in Jakarta to handle all tax disputes between taxpayers and the government authority in relation to tax collection or (written) decisions on any tax matter issued by government authority. Most recently, an industrial relations court has been established as a special court within the general judiciary to handle certain industrial relations disputes.

In addition to the above-mentioned courts, there are a number of tribunals dealing with a specific legal issue, such as consumer protection, general election and broadcasting tribunals.

The Indonesian Legal System still carries the pre-independence burden of legal pluralism. Historically, there were three civil procedural laws applicable in Indonesia;

  1. Het Herziene Indonesische Reglement (“HIR”), which was applicable to landraden, i.e. Courts with jurisdiction over civil cases involving Indonesian natives and/ or Foreign Orientals of non-Chinese origin located on Java and Madura islands; Please note, however, that the Courts mentioned above are no longer in existence.
  2. Reglement Buitengewesten (“RBg”), which was applicable to landraden located outside Java and Madura islands; and
  3. Reglement op de Burgerlijke Rechtsvordering (“Rv”) which was applicable to raden van justitie, i.e. Courts having jurisdiction over civil cases involving European and Foreign Orientals of Chinese origin on Java and hooggerechtshop, i.e. the highest Court in Indonesian at that time.

The HIR (for District Courts and High Courts located on Java and Madura islands) and RBg (for District Courts and High Courts located outside Java and Madura) are still applicable for the general judiciary in addition to numerous national laws governing civil proceedings in Indonesia (such as laws concerning the general principles of the judiciary, the Appellate Court, and the Supreme Court), as well as the Supreme Court’s Circular Letters. Although the Rv (which is more detailed than HIR or RBg) is no longer applicable, it may still be used to provide guidance in situations where the HIR or RBg does not provide sufficient regulation on a certain matter at issue.

Like other civil law countries, Indonesia does not apply the rule of binding precedent (stare decisis). Nevertheless, the decision of a higher Court (especially the Supreme Court) in practice has great authority. For the purposes of legal certainty, equality before the law and unity of law, certain prior (higher) Court decisions are considered “fixed decisions” and are generally observed by the (lower) Courts. It should be noted, however, that Court decisions, including those classified as “fixed decisions” are often not published.


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