Civil proceedings are normally conducted by submission of briefs to the court. A civil proceeding brought before the court can be classified into a claim (gugatan), which relate to the submission of a dispute to the Court for its adjudication, and a petition (permohonan) which a request to the court to make declaration.
The common grounds for a civil claim are breach of contract (wanprestasi or ingkar janji; failure in the performance of a contractual obligation) or unlawful act/tort (perbuatan melawan hukum; failure in the performance of a statutory obligation). The most important types of decision that the court may award in a civil claim fall into three categories: declarative, specific, and compensatory. Declarative decision involves the court defining the rights and duties of the parties in a particular legal context. Specific decision consists generally of an order directing conduct. Compensatory decision calls for a judgment that the defendant pay the plaintiff a certain sum of money.
As a general rule, a civil claim must be submitted to the court where the defendant (or any of the defendants) is domiciled. If the defendant’s domicile or dwelling place is unknown, the claim must be filed with district court having jurisdiction over the domicile of the plaintiff (or any plaintiffs). If by a written deed or agreement, a domicile has been chosen, the plaintiff may file the claim with the district court having jurisdiction over the chosen domicile.
Upon registration of the civil claim, the court will summon the defendant (as well as the plaintiff) to appear before the court. The summons will be physically delivered to the defendant by the court bailiff, unless the defendant is domiciled in another country or the domicile or dwelling place of the defendant is unknown. If the defendant’s domicile or dwelling place is unknown or if the defendant cannot be located, the summons can be made through publication in a newspaper. If the defendant is domiciled in another country, the summons will be delivered through diplomatic channels, through which the summons will be forwarded to the defendant. To be deemed valid and proper the summons should reach the defendant at least three days before court trials.
If the defendant or his proxy fails to attend (although he has been properly summoned), he will be summoned again by the Court. If the defendant still fails to appear before the court, a default judgment (putusan verstek or putusan di luar hadir) will be entered against him (usually, upon receiving the third (proper) summons from the Court).
If all parties appear before the court, the Court is obliged to urge the parties to settle the dispute amicably. Should the “mediation/conciliation” effort by the court fail, the court will proceed by requesting the plaintiff to read out his claim. After hearing the plaintiff’s claim, the court will adjourn the trial to allow the defendant to prepare and submit his response (jawaban). In his response, the defendant may admit or deny the allegations made by plaintiff. As general rule, the defendant may also file a counterclaim against the plaintiff.
Having received the defendant’s response, the court will give an opportunity to the plaintiff to file its reply or counter reply to the defendant’s response at the next trial. After hearing the plaintiff’s reply, the Court will again adjourn the trial to enable the defendant to prepare and submit his rejoinder (duplik) to the court.
At a further session, the parties may present various documents as evidence to substantiate their arguments. The court will accept copies of documents provided that they conform with the original in specific sessions before the court. The parties may also summon witnesses and experts to support their arguments.
After presenting all documentary evidence and hearing all witnesses and experts, the parties will usually submit their conclusions (kesimpulan) to the court before it delivers the judgment. Even though this is an optional pleading. The tendency is to close the pleadings after the parties submit their conclusions.
Upon receiving the conclusion made by each of the parties, the court will then set a trial date for the judgment. The whole process at the district court may take four months to one year to complete.