Conflict has erupted between the Supreme Court and the Judicial Commission. With neither side willing to back down, a team of mediators has been formed to resolve the dispute.

LAST Tuesday, the Judicial Commission submitted the draft on Government Regulations Replacing Laws on the Amendments to the Judicial Commission Laws to the Minister of Justice & Human Rights, Hamid Awaludin. The document proposed amendments to certain provisions contained within the Judicial Commission Laws. One of the amendments gives the Commission the power to re-select Supreme Court (MA) justices who have already passed the stipulated retirement age.

The draft has re-ignited conflict between the MA and the Judicial Commission. The conflict first erupted on December 19, 2005, when Supreme Court Chief Justice Bagir Manan ignored a summons from the Judicial Commission to undergo questioning regarding his involvement in the controversial Probosutedjo judicial bribery case. The Commission summoned Bagir as head of
the judicial panel presiding over Probosutedjo's case.

Further conflict erupted when the Judicial Commission announced its intention to put 49 justices through a re-selection process. Judicial Commission Chairman, Busyro Muqoddas, announced the plan after meeting with President Yudhoyono on January 4, 2006. The justices fought back, claiming that the Commission did not have the power to re-select them.

However, conflict peaked when the press published a list of 13 'rogue' justices compiled by the Judicial Commission. The MA claimed that the Commission had recklessly compiled the list without carrying out any formal investigations. According to MA spokesperson, Joko Sarwoko, the Commission merely compiled the list based on previous verdicts handed down by the justices. "Looking at the verdicts is valid. But, analyzing these verdicts falls within the jurisdiction of the MA," said Joko.

Incensed at the list, certain justices even reported the matter to the police. Justice Artidjo Alkostar, whose name was included in the list, filed a formal complaint against the Judicial Commission with the police. Justice Arbijoto visited the Judicial Commission headquarters in person, demanding to be investigated.

Justice Harifin A. Tumpa and several other justices whose names were also included in the list, also fought back. Accompanied by a team of high-profile attorneys, the justices were preparing to report the Commission to the police. And eight of the 13 justices included in the list held a meeting with lawyers at the Sunlake Hotel in Sunter, to formulate charges against the Judicial Commission.

Reportedly the judges even discussed plans to have the Commission disbanded during the meeting. However, MA spokesperson Joko Sarwoko denied that the judges discussed plans to disband the commission. "Why would Supreme Court judges be that stupid, attempting to disband a Commission that is founded on the Constitution?" Sarwoko challenged.

In the meantime, Busyro Muqoddas has attempted to clarify reports that the Commission had named 13 'rogue' justices. Busyro claims that the judges have not been officially declared 'rogue' judges. However, he did confirm that the judges were being investigated. "The Judicial Commission is currently carrying out investigations over these justices," Busyro said after meeting with Justice Artidjo Alkostar and prominent lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, last Wednesday.

So, is the Judicial Commission starting to back down? According to Commission member, Soekotjo Soeparto both sides are attempting to reach a compromise. Soekotjo revealed that mediators have even been appointed to start up a dialog between both sides. "We are currently writing up a list of problems," he explained.

According to Joko Sarwoko, the conflict is merely a manifestation of the power struggle between the Supreme Court and the Judicial Commission. "As long as this issue remains unsolved, the conflict will continue," he explained. Constitutional Court Chief Justice Jimly Asshidiqie corroborated this view. According to Jimly, the dispute should be solved by formal means, either by examining the legal basis of the Judicial Commission Laws or by presidential decree.

Also according to Jimly, the existing legislation stipulates that the Constitutional Court cannot adjudicate over the Supreme Court. This means that the dispute cannot be taken to the Constitutional Court for settlement. "These regulations are flawed. As a result, we now have a problem," explained Jimly, adding that the MA is actually under the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court, although the law does not officially recognize this. "Consequently, the MA and the Judicial Commission are unwilling to take the dispute to the Constitutional Court," Jimly concluded.

Clearly, the Supreme Court objects to the draft on Government Regulations Replacing Laws on the Amendments to the Judicial Commission Laws. One of the Judicial Commission's main reasons for submitting the draft is the "ineffectiveness of the Supreme Court in eliminating corruption." However, Justice Harifin A. Tumpa has expressed strong protest against this reasoning, claiming that the true intention of the document is to strip the MA of its power. Joko Sarwoko corroborated this view. According to both Harifin Tumpa and Joko Sarwoko, the Supreme Court ruled on 118 corruption cases in 2005 alone. Further according to Joko, the MA only ruled in favor of the defendant in five of
these cases. Based on this record, both Tumpa and Sarwoko reject claims that the MA has not played an active role in eliminating corruption.

Nevertheless, in 2005 the Judicial Commission itself received over 500 complaints about the working performance of judges. And another 50 complaints were sent to the President.

And a number of prominent legal experts have voiced support for the Judicial Commission's endeavors to clean up the Supreme Court. National Law Commission Chairman, J.E. Sahetapy, accused the justices of acting immaturely in their reaction to public complaints against the Supreme Court lodged with the Judicial Commission.

Separately, Director of Indonesian Court Monitoring, Denny Indrayana, also supported the Judicial Commission's endeavors to clean up the judiciary. Denny also condemned Supreme Court justices for reporting the Commission to police. "Judicial Commission members should be given immunity, they should not be subject to either civil or criminal charges for carrying out their duties," he said. Denny confirmed that conflict has erupted because neither side is willing to back down.

Now, all hopes for a peaceful solution rest with the team of mediators appointed to start up a dialog between both sides. This team includes Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh, prominent lawyer Adnan Buyung Nasution, and Supreme Court Renewal Program Guarantor, Achmad Santosa. "We await results from the team of mediators," said Joko Sarwoko.

Maria Hasugian, Abdul Manan, Lis Yuliawati, Maria Ulfa

TEMPO, FEBRUARY 27, 2006-025/P. 32 Heading Law


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