Supreme Court of Indonesia

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Supreme Court of the Republic of Indonesia
Mahkamah Agung
Logo Mahkamah Agung RI.png
Insignia of the Supreme Court
Established18 August 1945 (1945-08-18)
LocationJalan Medan Merdeka Utara No. 9-13 Jakarta 10110
Composition methodNominated by the Judicial Commission with People's Representative Council confirmation and Presidential appointment.
Authorized byConstitution of Indonesia
Number of positionsMax. 60
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Indonesia
CurrentlyMuhammad Syarifuddin
Since30 April 2020 (2020-04-30)

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Indonesia (Indonesian: Mahkamah Agung Republik Indonesia) is the independent judicial arm of the state. It maintains a system of courts and sits above the other courts and is the final court of appeal. It can also re-examine cases if new evidence emerges.


The Supreme Court is independent as of the third amendment to the Constitution of Indonesia. The Supreme Court has oversight over the high courts (Pengadilan Tinggi) and district courts (Pengadilan Negeri). There are about 68 high courts: 31 General Courts,[1] 29 Religious Courts,[2] 4 Administrative Courts[3] and 4 Military Courts.[4] There are around 250 district courts with additional district courts being created from time to time.[5] The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal (kasasi) following appeals from the district courts to the high courts. The Supreme Court can also re-examine cases if sufficient new evidence is found.[6][7] Constitutional matters, however, fall within the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court of Indonesia, established in 2003.


According to the Constitution, candidates for Supreme Court Justices are required to have integrity and be of good character as well as be experienced in law.[8] Candidates are proposed to the House of Representatives by the Judicial Commission.[9] If the House of Representatives approves them, their appointment is then confirmed by the president. As of mid 2011, there was a total of 804 courts of various kinds in Indonesia.[10] About 50 justices sat in the Supreme Court while other high and lower courts across Indonesia employed around 7,000 judges.[11] Officially, the Supreme Court consists of 51 justices divided into 8 chambers.[12]

The Indonesian Supreme Court (Mahkamah Agung) building in Jakarta

Chief justice[edit]

The chief justice and his or her deputy is elected by the Supreme Court justices from among the members of the court.[13] Sometimes the process is controversial and attracts public criticism.[14] For example, in early 2012 rumours about vote buying were reported in the Jakarta press as speculation mounted about the arrangements underway for the selection of new chief justice to replace Harifin A. Tumpa (who retired as chief justice in March 2012). There was said to be "all-out competition" for the post of chief justice because of the influence that the position holds and it was rumoured that the competition might include payments.[15]

In the election held on 8 February 2012, Muhammad Hatta Ali comfortably won the position of chief justice ahead of four other candidates.[16] He was sworn in as chief justice by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on 1 March 2012. Hatta first became a judge in 1982 when he took up a position on the North Jakarta District Court. He was appointed to the High Court in 2003 and then to the Supreme Court in 2007.[17]

Wirjono Prodjodikoro, who held office from 1952 to 1966, has been the longest office-holder of the position of chief justice.

Conduct of court business[edit]

Like most of the Indonesian legal system, the Supreme Court is badly overloaded with demands on resources. One observer has noted that "the Supreme Court is drowning in an increasing flood of new cases each year".[18] In 2010, for example, there were reportedly more than 22,000 cases before the court of which the court managed to rule on fewer than 14,000.[19] Partly in response to pressures of this kind, proposals for reform of the way that court business is conducted have been under consideration for some time. Current proposals (2011) indicate that a new chamber structure will be introduced to try to improve the operations of the court. The plan is to introduce a system of five chambers which will deal with criminal, civil, religious, administrative, and military affairs. However, the changes are controversial so further reforms may be needed in due course.[18]

The funding for the Supreme Court allocated from the national government budget in 2010 was slightly over Rp 6.0 trillion (around $US 700 million at the prevailing foreign exchange rate).[20]

One significant problem for the Indonesian legal system overall (although less so for the Supreme Court itself) is that most Indonesian judges in lower courts are not well paid. The official base salary of a judge, before some additional allowances, is often below $US 300 per month. As a result, some judges are tempted to accept bribes in the course of their duties.[21] The low salaries paid to judges have been a source of much attention in Indonesia recently with judges urging the government and parliament to tackle the issue,[22] and even threatening to go on strike over the matter.[23] Inevitably, poor performance and difficulties in lower courts leads to problems for the Supreme Court in the efforts by the Court to establish legal standards across the country. These problems receive considerable attention in Indonesia and there is much public discussion about the best ways to promote reform.[24]

There are, at times, criticisms of the way that the court administers itself. In May 2014, for example, the Supreme Court justices collectively agreed to the use of the court budget to hire a special jet to take more than 180 justices to the Wakatobi diving resort in Southeast Sulawesi. Participants on the tour were housed in various hotels as the expense of the court. Judicial watchdog groups and others criticised the court although court officials defended the arrangement.[25]

Enforcement of rulings[edit]

One common criticism of the legal system in Indonesia is that law enforcement is weak. Even when the law is clear, and even when courts issue clear rulings, enforcement is often weak.[26] In recent years, this criticism has often been made of the operations of the Supreme Court in Indonesia as well of the operations of other parts of the Indonesian legal system. The issue is, in principle, a serious matter for the Supreme Court because enforcement of the rulings of the Supreme Court sets standards for the enforcement of rulings across much of the rest of the Indonesian legal system.

The central problem appears to be that the institutions and mechanisms for enforcement of the legal system, including the decisions of the Supreme Court, are underfunded and are operationally weak. There are thus numerous instances of long delays in the enforcement of the decisions of the Supreme Court.[27] As just one example, in a well publicised case, one of Indonesia's leading universities, the Bogor Agricultural Institute, was instructed by the Supreme Court to release certain details of controversial research conducted within the institute relating to the testing of formula milk brands on sale in Indonesia. However following the Supreme Court ruling, the institute failed to comply and even failed to pay a trivial fee (around $230) incurred as a result of certain proceedings during the conduct of the case.[28] Numerous other cases of delays are regularly reported in the Indonesian media and are commented on by lawyers who have won cases in the Supreme Court.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ In late 2011, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court, Harifin A. Tumpa, said that the Indonesian government could only aim to establish district courts in 400 of the nation's 530 provinces, regencies (kabupaten) and municipalities (kotamadya).
  6. ^ Indrayana (2008), p. 450
  7. ^ Tabalujan (2002)
  8. ^ In practice, other qualifications are required as well. In 2011 the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Judge Harifin Tumpa, issued a circular stating that any judges who intended to apply for the position of Supreme Court judge needed to have 20 years experience at the district court level and three years experience at the high court level. '111 judges apply for Supreme Court', The Jakarta Post, 5 January 2012.
  9. ^ For a report on the process of the selection of six new judges to the Supreme Court in 2011, see Ina Parlina, KY recommends 18 'quality' justice candidates to House' Archived 12 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine, The Jakarta Post, 2 August 2011.
  10. ^ Sebastiaan Pompe, 'The Judge S case why court oversight fails', The Jakarta Post, 13 June 2011.
  11. ^ Ina Parlina, 'Judicial Commission finds justices an elusive lot', The Jakarta Post, 16 July 2011. According to a recent Supreme Court annual report, in 2011 there were 3,927 general court judges, 3,619 religious court judges, 320 state administrative court judges, and 95 military judges in Indonesia. 'Better standard needed to perform high profile duty', The Jakarta Post, 26 April 2012.
  12. ^ Central Intelligence Agency (2012). "Indonesia". The World Factbook. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  13. ^ Indrayana (2008), pp. 450–451
  14. ^ Markus Junianto Sihaloho and Muninggar Sri Saraswati, 'Critics Slam Harifin's Rise to Chief Justice', The Jakarta Globe, 16 January 2009.
  15. ^ Ina Parlina, 'Court election plagued with money politics', The Jakarta Post, 7 February 2012.
  16. ^ Ina Parlina and Dicky Christanto, 'High hopes for new justice', The Jakarta Post, 9 February 2012.
  17. ^ 'Indonesia's New Supreme Court Chief Has Questions About His Past', The Jakarta Post, 9 February 2012.
  18. ^ a b Sebastiaan Pompe, ''Setengah matang': The new face of the Supreme Court', The Jakarta Post, 19 September 2011.
  19. ^ Ina Parlina, 'Supreme Court plans a new five-chamber system', The Jakarta Post, 2 August 2011.
  20. ^ Data are from official budget figures issued by the Indonesian Ministry of Finance.
  21. ^ Rizky Amelia, 'KPK Probe Widens in Judicial Bribery Case', The Jakarta Globe, 24 August 2012.
  22. ^ Hasyim Widhiarto, 'Judges strive to uphold dignity despite low pay', The Jakarta Post, 26 April 2012. See also Hasyim Widhiarto, 'Training judges to avoid corruption', and 'Better standard needed to perform high profile duty', both in The Jakarta Post, 26 April 2012.
  23. ^ Agus Triyono, 'Indonesia's Chief Justice Threatens Sanctions for Striking Judges', The Jakarta Globe, 26 April 2012.
  24. ^ Achmad Cholil, 'Let's save Indonesian judges, courts', The Jakarta Post, 29 November 2012.
  25. ^ Ina Parlina, 'Supreme Court under fire for lavish trip to Wakatobi', The Jakarta Post, 23 May 2014.
  26. ^ See International Crisis Group, Indonesia: Defying the State Archived 2 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Update Briefing, Asia Briefing No 138, 30 August 2012.
  27. ^ Ina Parlina, 'When Supreme Court is ignored, citizens lose access to justice', The Jakarta Post, 8 September 2011.
  28. ^ Bruce Gale, 'Sour Taste of Tainted Milk Controversy', The Jakarta Globe, 1 July 2011, See also Ina Parlina, op cit.


  • Indrayana, Denny (2008). Indonesian Constitutional Reform 1999–2002: An Evaluation of Constitution-Making in Transition. Jakarta: Kompas Book Publishing. ISBN 978-979-709-394-5.
  • Jimly Asshiddiqie, Constitutional Law of Indonesia: A Comprehensive Overview, Maxwell Asia, Singapore, 2010.
  • Pompe, Sebastiaan (2005). The Indonesian Supreme Court: A Study of Institutional Collapse. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Southeast Asia Program. ISBN 978-0-87727-739-2.
  • Tabalujan, Benny S. (2 December 2002). "The Indonesian Legal System: An Overview". Retrieved 11 January 2010.

External links[edit]