If one of Indonesia’s state branches has been in constant flux before and after independence, it is the judiciary. The struggle of the colonial administration to ensure ‘peace and order’ and to respond to the demands for an administration of justice on the basis of the rule of law, required an ongoing expansion of the state court system. The condition of the colonial coffers and the lack of qualified personnel available, however, slowed down this process and indigenous, customary courts continued to play an important role.
This changed after Indonesia gained independence. Between 1950 and 1980 successive Indonesian governments established dozens of new courts to replace the indigenous ones that had been abolished during and after the revolution. Unfortunately, this led to the ‘near-total devastation of the judicial machine’ by lack of funds and properly trained personnel (Pompe 2005: 188). The combination of this ‘overstretch’ with the purposive destruction of judicial independence under Soekarno and Soeharto ultimately gave rise to a situation where many considered attempts to reform the general courts – which constitute the backbone of the system – as hopeless.
As a result, during the 1970s reformers started to think about alternatives. One of the ideas that quickly gained prominence was to establish new courts, separate from the general court system, and dealing with only a special field of law. Isolation and specialization should thus become the key to a better administration of justice. The first tangible result of this strategy was the administrative courts, which became operative in 1991. They were followed by the reform of the Islamic courts, the commercial courts (1998), the tax courts (1999), the human rights courts (2000), the constitutional court (2004), the corruption courts (2005), the labour courts (2006) and the fisheries courts (2007). In the near future they may be followed by special courts for land affairs and environmental matters.
This chapter evaluates to what extent the first branch of specialized courts in Indonesia – the administrative courts – have indeed improved the administration of justice in their field. It will first provide a short overview of the history of establishing the administrative courts, followed by an analysis of their performance. Its focus will not only be on issues of law, but also on the actual remedies these courts offer to plaintiffs.
On the basis of this analysis, the conclusion will argue that if specialized courts are not well designed regarding the scope of their jurisdiction, the negative effects of this may outshadow all of their achievements – even after the litigation has come to a conclusion. This may seem obvious, but it is doubtful whether those concerned with designing new specialized courts always take this matter to heart sufficiently.
Reasons for Establishing the Administrative Courts
The reasons for establishing the administrative courts obviously cannot be reduced to a straightforward attempt at creating a new, specialized and independent institution. Establishing new courts is a matter of politics and while in this case some of the reformers explicitly subscribed to the objective sketched in the introduction, other actors pursued quite different interests, as will be outlined here.
Nonetheless, the main ‘ideological’ idea underlying the establishment of the administrative courts was that the general courts by their nature were considered as ineffective in redressing unlawful acts by the government. The jurisdiction of the general courts in administrative matters was indeed limited and the opinion prevailed that they had failed to exercise the powers assigned to them to the full. Administrative courts with specialized judges were thought of as the most logical answer to resolve this problem. Such an idea was rooted in civil law history, where administrative courts have been developed as the most proper institution to deal with claims against the government, and reached Indonesia through the ideas of colonial jurists (Bedner 2001a: 11–15).
Such reasoning squared well with the legal blueprint for the organization of the judiciary in Indonesia, laid down in Law no. 14 of 1970. This statute refused all of the demands made by the coalition of advocates and judges seeking to reintroduce the rule of law during the first years of the New Order (Lev 1978). However, as eyewash, it established a specialized branch of administrative courts on paper (Bedner 2001a: 26–28).
During the 16 years preceding the promulgation of the Administrative Courts Act (ACA) administrative courts increasingly became the main target of reformers. With the rising authoritarianism of the New Order ruling out the possibility of introducing other meaningful reforms, the fact that administrative courts were mentioned in Law no. 14 as a separate branch gave this pursuit some legitimacy and made it hard for the government to fully distance itself from the idea. One should add that not all the Ministers of Justice serving under Soeharto were against administrative courts, be it for various reasons. Thus, Mochtar Kusumaatmadja, serving from 1973 until 1978, took several steps in order to prepare a draft law, in the genuine belief that judicial control of the government was something basically good.
Ismail Saleh, the Minister of Justice to finally establish the administrative courts, may have been partly motivated by similar sentiments, but his main objective was likely different. Saleh was convinced that administrative courts would not constitute a serious threat for executive dominance under the New Order, but that they would be an effective means to boost its legitimacy.
There is little doubt that this was the main political reason to establish the administrative courts (Bourchier 1999, Bedner 2001a: 30, 50). Both internally and externally, visible judicial control of the executive would reinforce the image of the New Order as a basically benevolent regime, allowing for ordered and lawful redress of some of its actions.
This obviously had consequences for the form of the institution to be established. First, the jurisdiction of the courts and their powers of review had to be limited. Control that could effectively hamper projects held dear by the New Order could not be tampered with, as had been made very clear in those cases where general courts had attempted something of the sort. Never again a Kedung Ombo, the court case against the government on account of insufficient compensation for land clearance that turned into a publicity nightmare for the Soeharto regime (Pompe 2005: 149–153).
Second, this helps explain why the government championed separate courts, instead of adding a specialized chamber to the general courts. While Minister of Justice Ismail Saleh liked to point out that Law no. 14 of 1970 demanded a separate court system, this was in fact not altogether obvious. Separate courts were expensive and entailed a host of organizational problems, such as staffing, housing, etc. The real reason for wanting separate courts was that these are far more visible than specialized chambers. In order to attain the legitimizing effect Ismail Saleh aimed for, he needed a separate institution.
Finally, the form of specialized administrative courts made it possible for the government to control their number. In fact, viewed from a practical citizens’ perspective, the new courts were a substantial step back in protection for most of them. Since the general courts lost their jurisdiction over cases involving administrative decisions, plaintiffs now had to bring cases to administrative courts of first instance that in theory could be thousands of miles away from their domicile, as initially only five of them were set up.
This aligned the government with those supporters of the administrative courts who argued that a separate courts’ system would help create an independent pool of judges, better educated than those in the general courts and less susceptible to corruption. While they would have liked a broader jurisdiction for the new courts, they were prepared to compromise on this issue without fully acknowledging the consequences this would eventually have for the effectiveness of the system to be.
The same logics underlied the decision, generally resisted by judges, to allow for so-called ‘judges in ad hoc’. These were outsiders who could be appointed to serve as judges on the benches of the new courts. In this manner the ‘closed shop’ – nature of the Indonesian judiciary would be opened up, by introducing other perspectives into the councils of judges than those commonly held by career judges.
A decisive factor in the process leading to the establishment of the courts, finally, was the programme of legal co-operation with The Netherlands, and the fact that The Netherlands presented a system so limited in jurisdiction that it was acceptable to the New Order. The co-operation programme was instrumental in drafting the ACA, using the Dutch AROB-procedure as a model. This system only allowed review of individual, concrete, and final government decisions. How important the limits on the powers of the courts were to the lawmakers, was demonstrated by the persuasion it took to allow proper principles of administration as a ground for review.
Not surprisingly, the result of this process was a mixed bag of limitations and opportunities. There were high expectations, but the courts also enjoyed much goodwill. Newspaper comments showed awareness of the political constraints they had to face and emphasized the judicial intrepidness required for serving on them. The next section will outline to what extent the courts were equipped for their task and how they have fared in practice.
Administrative Courts in Law & Practice: Legal Issues
As indicated above, the jurisdiction assigned to the administrative courts was quite limited. They were only allowed to review administrative decisions of an individual, concrete and final nature, which left out all ‘real’ acts and their consequences, as well as all regulations of a general nature. This is not to say that these latter two were not subject to any form of judicial review, as both could still be dealt with by the general courts in the framework of an action based on government tort. Officially the reason not to give this jurisdiction to the administrative courts was that they lacked the expertise required to deal with damage compensation, which would be often involved in such suits, but this is not very convincing as basically everything was new to them. More likely, it was the uncertainty of the government as to what they could expect of the new courts that motivated this choice and to attempt to seriously restrict the latter’s caseload.
Indeed, after they opened their gates, it soon became clear that the administrative courts were not going to receive floods of cases. Rather on the contrary, from the start their dockets have remained relatively empty, even in large cities as Jakarta and Surabaya. This has provoked an obvious institutional response from the lower courts: from the start they have tried to broaden their jurisdiction, be it unfortunately in a rather erratic and tentative manner and unsupported by the Supreme Court which in almost all cases has struck down these judgments.
The first target of judicial expansion was the definition of administrative decisions, meaning decisions taken by an administrative official (Art. 1(3) of the ACA). Literally any decision maker that could possibly be considered an administrative official has been brought under this definition at least once. Thus, the courts have allowed claims against decisions by state-owned limited liability companies, private universities, local government co-ordination boards without decision-making powers, secret service agencies, political parties, notaries and political parties (Bedner 2001a: 54–60).
One should be aware that in some of these cases it was not clear from the outset that the Supreme Court was going to strike down such interpretations, and neither have all judges gone along with the current. However, in a number of instances, for example state-owned limited liability companies, the judges involved must have known that their decisions were not going to last, because Supreme Court Junior Chair of Administrative Litigation Indroharto had published a book in which he clearly stated that the managers of these companies were not administrative officials (Indroharto 1993a: 68).
Similar interpretations aimed at widening jurisdiction have been proposed for the other elements of the definition of administrative decisions. Thus, courts have incidentally also accepted claims against decisions of a general nature. A good example is a case in Medan, where the court considered the appointment of a private agency as the administrator of requests for land certificates as an individual decision, in spite of the fact that the legal consequences of the litigated decision clearly affect an indefinite number of individuals (no. 16/G/1991/PTUN-Mdn).
Likewise, administrative courts have attempted to assume jurisdiction over decisions by the state auction office, which forms perhaps the most remarkable inroad on general court jurisdiction. The auction office acts under the authority of the Chairman of the general court of first instance in executing general court judgments, and thus clearly falls within the realm of general court supervision. None the less, at several occasions administrative courts accepted cases against these offices and even suspended their decisions – which were later always overturned by the Supreme Court (Bedner 2001a: 72–74).
A similar story can be told about term of limitation. Although the term of limitation in the Indonesian administrative court procedure is relatively long (90 days) it is obviously intended to act as a firm barrier in preventing uncertainty of government. As many government decisions constitute the basis for subsequent action, governing would become highly problematic if claims against them would be allowed.
Neither this argument nor the article concerned have prevented judges in some cases from attempting to develop new doctrines, that would give them virtually unlimited powers in circumventing terms of limitation. The most extreme example is Dahniar and others v. Head of the National Land Agency (no. 10/G/1991/PTUN-Jkt.), where the judges were asked to effectuate a 1967 sales contract concerning a plot of land in Central Jakarta. This contract involved a whole series of administrative decisions, the first one being a 1972 certificate of ownership, with only the last one – a land use permit – falling inside the 90 days’ term. The court accepted the case nonetheless, arguing that if the government issued a decision bearing a connection to earlier decisions, the entire ‘chain’ of decisions would fall within its jurisdiction. Just as in the other cases, this judgment was later overturned by the Supreme Court (no. 5K/TUN/1992).
The only field where the Supreme Court has allowed the administrative courts to assume jurisdiction over objects that in most jurisdictions would not qualify as administrative decisions, are those concerning land law. This idea has certainly not come from the Dutch AROB-example. It usually concerns land certificates and related acts, which are only corollary to civil law relations. Consequently, the administrative courts in fact have little to decide. However, instead of referring cases back to the general courts for the civil law questions, the administrative courts have tended to answer these questions themselves – and in this case not been blown the whistle on by the Supreme Court.
The administrative courts’ jurisdiction has also been gradually limited in some fields, notably concerning litigation against decisions taken on administrative appeal. Such decisions are open to administrative court review on the basis of Art. 48. They constituted the bulk of cases in the Administrative High Court in Jakarta, where both the Tax Tribunal and the Central Tribunal for Labour Disputes resided. However, both tax and labour disputes have now been brought under the powers of special courts, the former in 1994 on the basis of Law no. 9 of 1994 (later replaced by Law no. 14 of 2002) and the latter in 2007 by Law no. 2 of 2004. In both cases this led to critique by administrative court supporters, the first one a mere complaint about the violation of the formally prescribed structure of Indonesia’s court system (Lotulung: 1996), but in the more recent case of the industrial relations court even with an explicit reference to the consequences of the drop in caseload for the Jakarta Administrative High Court.
Altogether, the lower courts’ tendency at expansion has been unsuccessful. The Supreme Court has consistently struck down all decisions transgressing jurisdictional boundaries, with cases concerning land law as the main exception. The consequence is that the administrative courts receive few cases and that the relative number of land law cases has risen. According to the estimate of an administrative court judge, today about 95 % of all the cases in the administrative courts concern land and actually most of them should be dealt with by the general courts. While courts in the cities of Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya, Makassar and Medan still receive sufficient cases to keep their judges at work, this is certainly not true of those in more outlying areas such as Denpasar, Mataram, Kupang etc. These courts have from the start confronted a near complete absence of cases. This may have far-reaching consequences for all aspects of judicial performance and psychology. As one judge remarked during an interview in 2000: ‘I like to go fishing [...]. But if you don’t have any hobbies, like fishing, tennis, sports, etc., well, you get stressed. You just wait in your office every day.’
One can therefore imagine that the administrative courts are still tempted to continue their search for new cases – and to ignore the Supreme Court judgments. And indeed, this is apparent from the records. Thus, more recently administrative courts have again assumed jurisdiction over administrative decisions clearly outside their powers such as Environmental Impact Assessments (Wijoyo 2004), a decision to repeat a tendering procedure, a decision to build a road, a decision to use money from the district budget for new cars for members of the District Parliament, or a decision to raise parking tariffs.
This problem has been exacerbated by the equivocal status of precedent in Indonesia. Although in every civil law country Supreme Court precedents are effectively binding on lower courts, some Indonesian judges have developed an alternative theory, claiming that Indonesia is not a common law country and, therefore, judges are not bound by precedent. None the less, most judges probably still accept case law of the Supreme Court as binding, at least formally, but only so if the Court has twice used the same interpretation. Therefore, they feel unbound for future cases by a cassation judgment overturning their own decision. This explains why in 2005 the Supreme Court has published a volume containing several judgments on one interpretational subject – all of them concerning jurisdiction. This volume has probably closed the door for some of the more peculiar deviations of jurisdictional doctrine, but it is unlikely that anything else than a substantial extension of administrative court jurisdiction can really solve this problem.
In fact, that is what rather recently was promised by the Supreme Court Junior Chairman in the field of Administrative Litigation, Paulus Lotulung. Asked about the consequences of the allocation of labour cases to the Courts for Industrial Relations, Lotulung said that the administrative courts should not worry, because they are planned to acquire jurisdiction over all cases involving unlawful acts by the government. This plan, which would indeed strongly boost administrative court jurisdiction, should be realized through the enactment of a new Act on State Administration. However, the problems concerning the basic design of this bill seem to prevent it from being adopted in the near future. As a result the administrative courts will probably continue being creative in inventing jurisdiction.
Powers of Review
The ACA’s Article 53 lists three grounds for review: first, contravention of laws and regulations, second, misuse of power, and third, arbitrariness. If we compare this list to the Dutch AROB-law there is one remarkable difference: the AROB-law also included general principles of proper administration. The minutes of the parliamentary debates on the ACA show that these were not included explicitly for political reasons – as this would have antagonized certain powerful segments of the political establishment – but that the government did not altogether disapprove of their application (Bedner 2001a: 42).
Indeed, courts have invoked this ground for review, using the list of principles expounded by Indroharto in his influential book on administrative litigation as guidance. Of these, the Supreme Court has explicitly upheld carefulness and equality, and in interviews I conducted in 1994 all the judges concerned agreed that the courts held the power to apply the full list of Indroharto.
A problem with the application of principles of proper administration has been that there is little uniformity in their interpretation. The Supreme Court has failed to give guidance in this matter, as it has neither published judgments in which it applied any other principles than the two mentioned above, nor provided any guidelines in the form of circular letters. It is therefore not surprising that the novelty of this subject has spawned various readings, but in some cases these make one wonder whether the judges concerned really understand the objective of the principle they are applying. In a case at the Bandung administrative court, for instance, the judges quashed a decision on the basis of ‘fair play’. According to Indroharto this means that ‘the official who issues the decision will not attempt to frustrate the opportunity for someone holding an interest (in this decision) to acquire a favourable decision’ Indroharto 1993b: 179. In their ruling the judges instead argued that the fair principle meant that ‘all possibilities which are open to a citizen to defend his interest should never be frustrated by formal acts according to laws formulated by the authorities’ (No. 54/G/BPTUN-Bdg./1993). Taken seriously, this interpretation would mean that the government can hardly act at all, even if it would follow the rules conscientiously. Similar problems in interpretation have been recorded regarding the principle of trust and the hearing principle (Bedner 2001a: 99–100, Hamidi 1999).
Nonetheless, despite the troublesome communication between higher and lower courts, one would expect this problem to be resolved in the longer run – by means of courses and published judgments – as judges do not hold a clear interest in maintaining such interpretations. Unfortunately, however, this opportunity has now been thwarted by the legislator.
In a move that in itself should be lauded, the 2004 amendments to the 1986 ACA (Act no. 32 of 2004) have introduced principles of proper administration as a separate ground for judicial review – thus justifying the development of judicial practice since the start of the administrative courts. These grounds remain undefined in the law itself, but their interpretation is not left to the discretion of the judiciary. Instead, the Elucidation refers to the Anti Corruption Law no. 28 of 1999, and lists six principles largely unknown in administrative courts practice. Only two of them overlap with those of Indroharto – the principles of legal certainty and proportionality. The others – disciplined state management, openness, professionalism and accountability – are entirely new.
Except for the fact that in this manner most of what has been developed as common interpretation has been undone, these principles also seem hard to apply in the context of the administrative courts. They simply serve another purpose in the Anti-Corruption Act, where they apply to internal management of the state rather than external relations with citizens. This is for instance apparent when we compare the principle of proportionality’s definition in administrative court practice with its definition in the Anti-Corruption Act. While the former refers to the proportionality between the effects of the disputed decision with the purpose it serves, the Elucidation to the Anti-Corruption Act states that ‘proportionality is the principle that puts first the balance between the rights and the duties of the State Authorities (Penyelenggara Negara)’ – not a very lucid definition but definitely a different issue.
How these changes have worked out in practice is unclear, by lack of published data. If taken seriously, it would mean that the development of a consistent interpretation of these principles has to start anew and under much less favourable conditions than in 1991, when at least information regarding the application of these principles as it had developed in The Netherlands had been available.
One of the main improvements of the ACA for those seeking justice in cases against the government was the introduction of a form of injunction. Although civil procedure knew the possibility of a provisional claim in government tort cases, the possibility to demand suspension of the litigated decision on the basis of Art. 67 considerably reinforced the position of many plaintiffs.
Suspension finds its basis in the fact that a litigated decision in principle maintains its validity. This is obviously a serious problem in those cases where the said decision allows the government to perform actions that cannot be undone, or only at great cost or difficulty. A good example is demolition or eviction orders, which indeed have been frequently addressed in court for this purpose (Bedner 2001a: 112).
But it has not only been these kinds of orders which have been suspended. During the first years, the administrative courts developed a suspension practice that was rather similar to its expansive jurisdictional policy, with the Supreme Court attempting to bridle this tendency of granting suspension almost by default. A particular problem underlying this practice has been that the ACA’s Article 67 had not been drafted very well, as it basically argued that the suspension of the litigated decision remained in place until the judgment in the case concerned had entered. With such cases often going through at least appeal and cassation and therefore usually taking more than two years, suspension had in fact become a formidable weapon – a situation judges used to their own and some plaintiffs’ advantage.
However, even more than in the case of jurisdiction has the Supreme Court been able to put limitations on its use. By Circular Letter no. 2/1991 at VI-2 a., the Court has authorized the chairman of the court concerned to rescind a suspension order. In Tanumihardja v. National Electricity Company (no. 15K/TUN/1992) the Supreme Court moreover argued that if the court defeats the claim, the chairman was under the obligation to do this.
However, the Supreme Court is not always followed on other features of its limitations on suspension. Thus, the stipulation in Supreme Court Guideline no. 51/Td./TUN/III/1992 that a request for suspension can at the latest be submitted together with the rejoinder has at times been disregarded. It is hard for the Supreme Court to control this matter, as few or no such cases come up for cassation. The same goes for the reasoning underlying suspension orders. In many cases judges have simply granted suspension without giving any reasons at all, or providing statements such as ‘the case is not entirely clear yet’ or ‘ because it has not been clearly proven during the preparatory investigation where the faults of both parties lie’.
The main explanation for the unruliness of lower court judges in this matter, is that in some cases suspension itself is the main objective of the plaintiff. The simplest reason is that it can reinforce a party’s bargaining position. In a case in Bandung, for instance, a developer had in the view of the municipal authorities transgressed the limits of the building plan, by extending its basement under the sidewalk. After the fear of immediate demolition had been removed by a suspension order, the plaintiff could work out an agreement with the municipality where the basement could remain in place.
In other cases suspension allows the plaintiff to perform certain actions on time before the litigated decision takes effect. This mainly applies to eviction, where the leeway provided by a suspension order may grant the plaintiff sufficient time to save his belongings, knowing how slim his chances are of winning the case. In the early days of the administrative courts, when they still assumed jurisdiction over state auction orders (see above), the owners of property that was going to be auctioned went to court for similar reasons. I once met the owner of a beauty parlour that had gone bankrupt in the Bandung administrative court, who told me that she had now been able to sell her parlour by herself and thus retrieved a much higher price than had been the case had the property been auctioned.
In any case, suspension is an interesting service for many litigants in the administrative courts and judges are fully aware of this. Hierarchical control on the use of suspension is indirect or even absent and as a consequence the practice is neither consistent nor well-argued. It is therefore no wonder that, as I will further discuss below, many defendants have little respect for suspension orders and violations occur with some frequency.
While suspension has a clear added value for plaintiffs, the other remedies the administrative courts can offer are rather limited. As stated earlier in this article, the main difference with the situation as it existed before the administrative courts were established is that they can actually order the plaintiff to revoke his decision, whereas an action based on government tort could lead to damage compensation only. However, because the general courts gave a very extensive interpretation to the concept of damage compensation, in fact their powers equalled those of the administrative courts.
Superficial reading of Article 116 in its original form gives the impression that the administrative courts are even less powerful, in the sense that their powers are limited to ordering revocation of the judgment only. If the defendant fails to fulfil this obligation the court can address his superior. However, the courts do not depend on this superior legally, because if after four months the defendant still has not complied with this court order the decision ‘shall have no legal force anymore’ (Art. 116-2).
An important development has been the interpretation by the administrative courts of Article 116’s paragraph 9, which allows the administrative court to order the defendant to issue a new decision. In his textbook Indroharto already argued that the judge could give the defendant some guidance on this matter, by stipulating that the new decision should be in line with the considerations in the judgment. Given the general tendency of the administrative courts to widen their powers, it will not come as a surprise that the courts have interpreted this liberal reading of the ACA in an even more liberal manner. Not that judges have themselves issued an administrative decision in lieu of the original one, but in some cases they have actually prescribed the plaintiff what should be the contents of the new administrative decision.
Sometimes administrative court judges themselves seem to not fully understand the legal consequences of their judgment annulling the litigated decision. Thus, in the widely applauded Tempo case, the Jakarta administrative court not only ordered the defendant to rescind his revocation of Tempo’s publication permit, but also to issue a new one. Apparently the judges were not aware that rescission of the revocation would automatically bring back to life the original publication permit. In itself this is not such a serious matter, but it becomes an issue if we take into account how many problems occur in implementing administrative court judgments, a matter discussed below.
Damage Compensation and Rehabilitation
By shrewd resistance of Minister Ismail Saleh, who managed to get away with misinforming Parliament on this matter, the article on damage compensation in the 1986 Law on Administrative Courts had a very limited scope only (Bedner 2001a: 47). Damage compensation has been provided for by Article 97(10), which says nothing more than that this matter is to be further arranged in a government regulation. The required regulation was enacted with remarkable speed – in 1991 – but turned out to be an empty shell: damage compensation is limited to 5 million Rp, at that time the equivalent of 2000 USD, today reduced to a mere 530. For additional compensation the plaintiff has to start a separate suit at the general court. In short, the inability of the administrative courts to administer damage compensation is another example of the effective reduction of citizens’ protection against the government, this time by introducing complex procedures.
Upon reading Article 117 and 121(2) on rehabilitation of civil servants who have successfully litigated against their removal from office one gets the impression that here the legislator has provided the protection absent in the case of damage compensation. The said articles contain a detailed procedure for restoring unlawfully dismissed civil servants to their former position, and clear rules on full damage compensation if this is practically impossible. One can imagine that this procedure was not to the liking of the government at the time, and indeed Ismail Saleh strongly opposed its introduction. However, in this case Parliament proved immune to his arguments (Bedner 2001a: 47). Finding himself unable to defend his bill on this point, Saleh tried to introduce limitations on rehabilitation through the backdoor of Government Regulation no. 32 of 1991. Going flatly against the ACA, which speaks of full compensation, this piece of subordinate legislation sets a limit of 2 million Rp on the amount to be paid to the litigant if the latter cannot effectively be rehabilitated. It thus removes any monetary incentive for the government to seriously consider rehabilitation.
Remedial Powers in Practice: Claims Upheld
In summary, the administrative courts have provided an extension for citizens’ protection against the government regarding the grounds for compensation, but apart from this they have little more to offer to plaintiffs than the general courts had originally. By complicating jurisdiction and effectively limiting access, it seems that they have reduced rather than improved the position of those seeking justice against the government.
This is not to say that the administrative courts have nothing to offer at all. First, their sheer existence and visibility are likely to have promoted preventive measures of government officials in order to avoid being summoned to court. In some cases this has led to procedural changes, for instance by imposing the obligation on administrative bureaux to first submit their decisions to the legal department before issuing them. Likewise, several officials told me – in the framework of research on other matters – that after the introduction of the administrative courts they had become more cautious in issuing decisions. The question remains, however, to what extent the administrative courts do offer justice in individual cases. Have they upheld claims of litigants in a consistent manner, and has this led in practice to the realization of the plaintiff’s entitlement?
The start of an answer is to see how often courts have upheld claims by litigants. Unfortunately such data are not easily available. The Supreme Court website now features a search engine for case law, but offers insufficient data for this purpose. I therefore have to mainly rely on my own data of the early 1990s and those about the Bandung administrative court contained in a study by Fachruddin. These indicate that following an administrative court procedure is a rather unpredictable but by no means vain effort to redress unfavourable government actions.
The data referred to show that plaintiffs have a considerable chance of winning their cases in first instance. Even though during the New Order the political odds were very much against the courts, for their survival they had to show that they dared to defy officials. Rejecting all claims would have amounted to a bid for doing nothing. This is reflected in the numbers of cases won by plaintiffs in the administrative courts of Jakarta, Bandung and Semarang between 1991 and 1995. The following table shows the results of the cases taken to these administrative courts insofar as they had been completed by that time.
If we look at the number of claims upheld compared to the overall caseload, the chances of success are not strikingly high, standing at almost 15 percent. However, if we distract the number of cases withdrawn by the plaintiff or settled, we get a much higher percentage, of almost 25 percent. If we then take into account that most of the claims declared inadmissible or having fallen due were really outside the jurisdiction of the court, the conclusion is that if plaintiffs bring a case clearly falling within the jurisdiction of the administrative court they stand a chance of almost one to two to be successful in first instance.
However, the outcome of cases in first instance has turned not to be a very reliable indicator of the outcome on appeal. Neither plaintiffs nor defendants easily accept a judgment of the first instance court, appealing against almost half the cases where an appeal is legally possible. The following table gives an overview:
If, however, we take as our point of departure the cases that were really adjudicated in first instance on the substance of the matter, the picture changes further: In that case of 56 cases 44 were appealed against, which is almost 80 percent.
That appeal is so popular is no wonder if we see that almost half of the claims for appeal are upheld; if – again – we only look at the cases decided on substance, we even see that this turns into a majority of cases.
Cassation is not as popular as appeal, but between 1991 and 1995 more than half of the appellate judgments were submitted to the Supreme Court. The number of judgments overturned stands at about 20 percent and has tended to decrease to below the 15 percent (in 2000). This seems to indicate a rise in legal certainty, or at least predictability.
One problem of appeals for cassation is that they can take rather long; in fact appealing for cassation can be used as a strategy to delay a case by officials who have lost on appeal in cases where no suspension order applies. Although backlogs are not as serious as in the case of the general courts, 831 cases were waiting to be judged by the end of 2000, while the judges can just about keep up with the number of incoming cases.
We are not done with this subject yet, however, for a judgment in cassation in Indonesia is not as final as one might assume. Originally intended as a remedy for extraordinary cases, review of cassation judgments has matured into a sort of fourth instance in Indonesia. Between 1991 and 1999 more than 20 percent of cassation judgments in administrative litigation were submitted for revision and one in ten cases was overturned. To me this inconsistency within the Supreme Court is more worrisome than the number of appellate judgments overturned upon cassation and provides a clear incentive to parties to go all the way down the litigation road.
In any case, these figures do offer an indication that the interpretation of administrative law in individual cases considerably diverges in each instance. The Supreme Court record indicates that this even holds for one court itself. It seems therefore that there is not yet much consistency in judging, which could be an indicator for judicial professionalism.
While these figures thus provide some indication of the state of administrative litigation, they do not indicate how much chance of success a plaintiff has at the start of his suit to conclude the process victoriously, let alone to what extent the administrative courts provide an effective remedy, based on a proper application of the law. Legal assessments of administrative court judgments have not been very favourable (e.g. Bedner 2001a, Hamidi 1999), while allegations of corruption problems have continued to be voiced over the years. The next section will take up this matter, focusing on the execution of judgments.
Remedial Powers in Practice: The Problem of Non-Execution
Administrative court judges themselves usually refer to non-execution of their judgments as the most serious problem they have to confront. This is quite understandable given the damage non-execution does to the perception of their effectiveness in providing remedies. Given the dearth of cases administrative courts have to face, such a challenge to their authority is in fact a direct threat to their existence. As will be discussed below, this effectively led to amendments in the ACA. However, in fact few data are available concerning the magnitude of this problem.
When I did research in Indonesia in the administrative courts in the early 1990s few judgments were in the stage yet that they could be implemented. Press reports indicated that in three cases – two concerning certificates of land ownership and one concerning the license to harvest birds’ nests – the defendant did not implement the judgment. At that time already, many judges complained about execution problems, but this actually concerned suspension orders (of which I recorded 26 cases of disobedience at the time) (Bedner 2001a: 230–232).
A more recent PhD-study by administrative court judge Irfan Fachruddin provides more insight into this matter (Fachruddin 2004). The author, who conducted his research at the Bandung administrative court, found that from 1994 – when the court became operative – until 1999, 25 judgments had become liable for execution. A meagre five percent of all claims only, this number rises to eight percent if we take into account that almost half the claims are either withdrawn, settled, or clearly fall outside the boundaries of the administrative courts’ jurisdiction.
Fachruddin further shows that of these 25 judgments only eight were actually implemented. Of four the execution was suspended, and in 13 cases implementation refused. If cast in the terms of a black and white success rate, we find that one out of every 33 plaintiffs gets the result desired ab initio.
To put this gloomy image in a proper perspective, however, it is important to look at the reasons for non-implementation. The most valuable part of Fachruddin’s evaluation is the interviews he conducted with the officials involved in the cases concerned. These show that the problem of non-execution is not a simple one of corrupt or arrogant officials scorning the rule of law, but that in most cases problems with the courts’ jurisdiction underlie the decisions not to implement. It seems actually as if the faults in the design of the administrative courts haunt all aspects of its functioning.
The first reason officials put forward for non-compliance concerned three cases where the object of the claim was a land certificate. According to the interviewees, the factual situation in these cases had changed to the extent that the contested certificates could no longer be revoked. Absent a reliable system of land registration, they argued that third parties who had acquired the land concerned were entitled to legal protection. This problem seems to bear a direct relation to the fragmentation in jurisdiction between the administrative and the general court, with the administrative court having acted outside its jurisdiction by deciding questions of civil law.
Two other cases were not executed because of conflicting judgments from the administrative and the general court. One of them concerned the annulment of a location permit (a permit for land acquisition) by the administrative court, followed by a successful attempt to get an objection against execution of this judgment from the general court. In the other case, the defendant followed the same avenue, with the difference that the object of the original claim – a mortgage certificate – had been clearly outside the jurisdiction of the administrative court to begin with. Nonetheless, in these cases it was the general courts to have transgressed their jurisdictional boundaries, by interfering in the implementation of administrative court judgments. However, from a defendant’s viewpoint it is understandable to follow the road of least resistance in such cases by not implementing the judgment. This also applies to a case where the administrative court had ordered the annulment of a use right to land (Hak Pakai), but where litigation about this matter was still ongoing in the general court.
The reverse has also happened, in a case about land ownership when the administrative court ordered suspension of the execution of a general court order until the case had entered. However, as the defendant correctly considered that the administrative court held no jurisdiction, he did not follow this order.
Less extreme, but not dissimilar was the case where the administrative court ordered the defendant to issue a demolition order because the plaintiff claimed the wall concerned had been built on his land. Of course this is a matter of civil law which the plaintiff attempted to turn into administrative law, and therefore the defendant refused to implement this judgment.
The third reason for non-compliance also concerned problems with jurisdiction between the administrative and the general court. In two cases the administrative courts ordered the defendant to quash a notarial deed – one because it had been drafted on a national holiday, the other because the general court had ordered its annulment. The notary in the first case argued that since notaries fall outside the jurisdiction of the administrative courts – in which he was correct – he could not take any action. The second one refused to implement the judgment, because the deed was void anyway because of the general court judgment, so it made no sense to do anything more about it. Likewise, the Islamic registry refused to annul a divorce certificate because it considered this a matter of civil law.
The fourth reason given for non-implementation is of a less fundamental nature and concerns administrative unclarities in the object of the claim. Thus, in one case the numbers of the certificates in the register and the certificates that had been the object of the litigation did not match. Confronted by a similar case, the defendant in another instance started a re-examination of the data and in the end did provide the plaintiff with a new certificate, while in a third case the judgment had not been implemented yet because such an examination (rehabilitasi administrasi) had not been completed.
The fifth reason is less forgivable. The head of the Cianjur branch office of the NLA refused to revoke a certificate of ownership, because the ‘facts on which the judgment had been based had been incorrect’. Worse, still, was the ‘fake’- reason provided by his colleague from the Land Agency in Bandung. This official argued that he had not implemented because the chairman of the court concerned had failed to provide an execution order (which he only gives in case of non-compliance).
In summary, with the exception of two cases, the defendants interviewed had reasonable grounds to refuse implementation of these court judgments. In most of them issues of jurisdiction played a major role. The tendency of the administrative courts to deal with civil law issues concerning land therefore overshadows all its achievements in other fields – in the end frequently leaving plaintiffs empty-handed and the courts shown up. For the sake of clarity: almost all of the cases which were properly implemented concerned matters clearly outside the realm of general court jurisdiction.
As already indicated above, the perception of non-compliance has not been concerned much with such underlying problems, but rather portrayed officials as arrogant or corrupt ‘spoilsports’. This has led to an amendment in the Administrative Court Act, which now allows for a daily fine in case of non-compliance to be incorporated in the judgment (Art. 116-4), and a bailiff to collect that money (Art. 39 A-E). As the powers of the bailiff have not been elucidated in any manner, it is uncertain what he should do if an unruly official refuses to pay. Of course there are also clear cases of a truly administrative nature where officials do refuse to implement court judgments. For such cases this measure seems to be quite proper. However, if we take the data of Fachruddin as representative, the large majority of non-implementation concern cases that are equivocal at best.
After 15 years of administrative court practice, the inevitable conclusion is that these courts have not provided the improvements commonly associated with specialization and isolation. Rather on the contrary, by designing a system whose jurisdiction was neither broad enough nor well-attuned to the jurisdiction of the general courts, the lawmakers seem to have created rather than resolved problems of administration of justice. The political rationality of the New Order regime’s decision to introduce administrative courts explains why the administrative courts were designed in this way, but probably no one would have expected that for ‘common’ cases the administrative courts would complicate matters to this extent.
The dearth of cases has incited judges to constantly look for expansion of their jurisdiction and become ‘shopping forums’, to the detriment of legal certainty. This is not only visible in the large number of judgments overturned by the Supreme Court on account of inadmissibility of claims, but also in the high rates of cases overturned on appeal, in cassation and finally on review. There has been some improvement in this matter lately, but lack of communication within the court system has reduced the speed of this process considerably. Legislative interventions such as introducing new principles of proper administration rather than codifying those evolved in administrative court practice have further hindered this process.
Perhaps most remarkable is that jurisdictional problems even extend to the phase of execution of the administrative courts’ decisions. While complaints about non-execution are frequently heard in Indonesian newspapers and usually blamed on the ‘arrogance of power’ (arogansi kekuasaan), examination of such cases has demonstrated that more often than not the officials responsible for execution have proper reasons to be hesitant. As almost all these cases of non-implementation concerned land disputes where the administrative courts glossed over the civil law issues contained in them – sometimes even going flatly against general court judgments – one should wonder what the record of implementation would be if land disputes with civil law aspects would be excluded from administrative court jurisdiction altogether. In any case, it is unlikely that the new system of daily fines and bailiffs to collect them will improve the situation.
This overview indicates that the first task of those designing new courts administering justice in special fields of the law is to pay serious attention to harmonizing jurisdictions between the new and already existing institutions. In this process they should also be aware of the practical conditions judges have to face. Too narrow jurisdictions – including lack of review powers – with too few cases to keep judges busy, will inevitably render judges susceptible to forum shoppers. Inadequate judicial salaries, the spread of corruption, and a lack of hierarchical control will reinforce this process and ultimately lead to a situation where courts complicate matters rather than that they resolve them.
This raises the question whether it would be better to simply abolish the administrative courts and return to a unified system of jurisdiction. However, despite all these unfavourable observations the administrative courts also have had notable achievements. Their function as a symbol against government power should not be underestimated, while their existence has propelled many government officials and institutions to operate in a more careful manner. But apart from that, their record in cases for which they had originally been invented may not be bad at all – in fact we simply do not know by the absence of analyses.
The most proper way forward therefore seems to take away the jurisdiction in cases concerning land from the administrative courts, while at the same time extending their jurisdiction to include decisions of a general nature and damage compensation. If that would not bring the improvements desired, then perhaps the administrative courts should better be reintegrated with their general counterparts. That, however, is very unlikely to happen in the near future. My prediction is that we will rather see a new court emerge first: land courts, which will deal with both civil and administrative law aspects of disputes concerning land. And perhaps this institution will then finally be merged with the administrative courts
Bedner, A.W. (2001a) Administrative Courts in Indonesia: A Socio-Legal Study, The Hague/London/Boston: Kluwer Law International.
Bedner, A.W. (2001b) ‘De Indonesische bestuursrechtspraak : een windmolen tusen de sawah’s?’, Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Bestuursrecht, 6: 149–156.
Bourchier, D. (1999) ‘Magic Memos, Collusion and Judges with Attitudes: Notes on the Politics of Law in Contemporary Indonesia’, in K. Jayasurya (ed.) Law, Capitalism and Power in Asia: The Rule of Law and Legal Institutions, London and New York: Routledge.
Fachruddin, I. (2004) Pengawasan Peradilan Administrasi Terhadap Tindakan Pemerintah, Bandung: Alumni.
Hamidi, J. (1999) Penerapan Asas-asas Umum Penyelenggaraan Pemerintahan Yang Layak (AAUPPL) Di Lingkungan Peradilan Administrasi Indonesia (Upaya Menuju “Clean And Stable Government”), Bandung: Citra Aditya Bakti.
Indroharto (1993a) Usaha Memahami Undang-Undang Tentang Peradilan Tata Usaha Negara. Buku I: Beberapa Pengertian Dasar Hukum Tata Usaha Negara, Jakarta: Pustaka Sinar Harapan.
Indroharto (1993a) Usaha Memahami Undang-Undang Tentang Peradilan Tata Usaha Negara. Buku II: Beracara di Pengadilan Tata Usaha Negara, Jakarta: Pustaka Sinar Harapan.
Lotulung, P. (1996) Development of the Administrative Jurisdiction on Tax Cases in Indonesia’, Indonesian Law and Administration Review, 1: 28–31.
Pompe, S. (2005) The Indonesian Supreme Court: A Study of Institutional Collapse, Ithaca (New York): Cornell Southeast Asia Program.
Wijoyo, Suparto (2004) ‘AMDAL Dalam Gugatan Hukum: Studi Kasus Gugatan Terhadap AMDAL Reklamasi Pantura Jakarta)’, paper presented at a seminar organized by LP3ES, 27-1-2004.
 For a detailed account, see Chapter 2 of Bedner (2001) Administrative Courts in Indonesia: A Socio-Legal Study, The Hague/London/Boston, Kluwer Law International.
 A survey of reported general court cases on government tort shows that the general court record was in fact not as bad as often assumed. However, with the appointment in 1974 of Oemar Seno Adji as Supreme Court Chairman the judiciary did lose many of its teeth in this respect (Pompe 2005: 120 ff.). It shows, however, that this was a matter of policy rather than limits to the jurisdiction of the general courts.
 Article 10(1) of Act no. 14 of 1970 only determines that justice is administered by courts in the areas of general, religious, military and administrative justice.
 Just as the National Human Rights Commission, established a few years later.
 In the end they were smuggled in through the backdoor. They were not listed in the relevant Article 53, but only hinted at. See Indroharto 1991b: 311. For a comparison in detail between the Dutch form of administrative litigation and the Indonesian see Bedner 2001b.
 A survey of newspaper comments in 1991, when the courts became operative showed that expectations were not extreme.
 In 1993 the Supreme Court moreover issued a Circular Letter (no. 1/1993) which allowed a direct action against provisions of a general nature, below the level of acts of parliament, to the Supreme Court.
 The administrative courts of appeal have not always sided with the courts of first instance in these cases, but they have mostly left their judgments in place (see Bedner: 53-92).
 An explanation would be that the Supreme Court prefers to get the case resolved rather than refer it back for some legal questions to the general courts and for another to the administrative. This would also be hard to explain to plaintiffs, however, from a jurisdictional perspective it is not a very wise policy (Bedner 2001a: 169–170.
 Hukumonline 24-1-2005. According to the registrar of the Jakarta Administrative High Court about 80 % of the court’s caseload concerned labour disputes.
 Interview at the Jakarta Administrative High Court, June 2007.
 Interview, Bandung Administrative Court, July 1999.
 Viz. Kompas 1-8-2000 and 4-8-2000, Kompas 6-3-2000, Kompas 13-10-2000, and Kompas 16-5-2002.
 As I have argued elsewhere, the Supreme Court has to blame itself to a large extent for the present situation by its own inconsistency in judging (Bedner 2001: 216–217). See also Pompe 2005: 428–438.
 Hukumonline 17-1-2006.
 According to the Director of Harmonization of Law from the Department of Justice Wicipto Setiadi the draft has been developed in co-operation with the German Development Agency GTZ, and because of its having been oriented on German administrative law it contains a number of mismatches with the Law on Administrative Courts. These need to be resolved first before the draft can proceed to the next stage (interview, September 2006).
 These included formal carefulness, fair play, justification, formal legal certainty, substantive legal certainty, trust, equality, substantive carefulness and proportionality.
 No. 10/K/TUN/1992 (Nov. 1994, 6, Gema Peratun).
 See Pompe 2005: 252–255.
 The principle of ‘public interest’, also listed in the Elucidation of the Anti-Corruption Act, has been left out of the list. The reason probably is that if the administrative court could apply this as a ground for review, it would become a ‘full’ review of the efficiency of the administrative decision at stake instead of only a ‘marginal appreciation’. The drafters of the administrative court amendment have apparently not considered the practice of the administrative courts developed thus far, but they have certainly made sure that such wide powers were not given to the administrative courts.
 It seems that this court ruling is generally followed. This is not surprising if we take into account that an important reason for judges to disregard jurisdiction or remedial limitations is improper – meaning that they have received a bribe from one of the parties. In cases where they have granted suspension for such reasons, common sense dictates that they will make sure that this party will also win the case.
 See for instance no. 140/G/1992/PTUN-Jkt.
 No. 140/G/1991 /PTUN-Jkt.
 No. 45/G/1993/PTUN-Jkt.
 Interview with an employee of the plaintiff (October 1994).
 A fact she attributed to the unfairness of the auction procedure, where according to her usually secret deals had been concluded by the participants (interview, October 1994).
 This is a rather technical issue, as in principle the general court could allow compensation of a non-monetary nature. In fact, there are several precedents where the general courts quashed government decisions on the basis of government tort, for instance a housing permit (PN Jakarta, no. 278/1953 G, contained in Ali, C. Yurisprudensi Indonesia Tentang Perbuatan Melanggar Hukum Oleh Penguasa (Onrechtmatige Overheidsdaad): Tahun 1950 s\d Tahun 1977, Bandung, Binacipta), or an eviction order (No 95/K/Sip/ 1962, Ali, C. supra). Other examples can be found in the same collection of cases.
 This issue raises all kinds of problems concerning the consequences of the annulment. It is unclear whether a decision must have been assumed to have never existed, or that it must be supposed to have been legal until it lost its legal force. This has important consequences for determining damage compensation in particular, but as yet no legal doctrine on this matter has been developed.
 E.g. no. 04/G/TUN/1994/PTUN-Smg., no. 25/G/PTUN-Bdg./1993, no. 06/G/TUN/1994/PTUN-Smg.
 It is moreover exceedingly difficult to calculate the amount of damage incurred because of the abovementioned problems in determining the day from which the litigated decision must be deemed to have lost its legal consequences.
 167 appeals from 321 cases from 1991–1995.
 These data derive from the Blueprint for the Reform of the Supreme Court in Indonesia (published by The Supreme Court 2003).
 Unfortunately no research is available to provide any insight into how plaintiffs evaluate their experiences in the administrative courts, or why they made their decision to go to court in the first place.
 No. 8/G/PTUN-Bdg./1995 jo. no. 68/B/1995/PTTUN.Jkt jo. no. 285K/TUN/1995; no. 12/G/PTUN-Bdg./1995 jo. no. 02/B/1996/PTTUN Jkt jo. no. 310/K/TUN/1999); no. 27/G/PTUN-Bdg./1994 jo. no. 41/B/1994/PT.TUN.JKT jo. no. 108K/TUN/1994 jo. no. 14PK/TUN/1996); no. 60/G/PTUN-BDG/1997 jo. no. 60/B/1998/PT.TUN.JKT jo. no. 277K/TUN/1998;
 No. 59/G/PTUN-Bdg/1995 jo. no. 145/B/1996/PT.TUN.JKT jo. no. 240K/TUN/1997.
 No. 42/G/PTUN-Bdg/1999.
37] In both cases the defendant was no party to the original dispute.
 No. 68/G/PTUN-BDG/1999 jo. no. 109/B/2000/PT.TUN.JKT jo. no. 152K/TUN/2001.
 No. 100/G/PEN/2000/PTUN-BDG jo. no. 100/G/PTUN-BDG/2000.
 No. 10/G/PTON-BDG/1995 jo. no. 88/B/1995/PT.TUN.JKT jo. no. 91K/TUN/1996.
 No. 18/G/2001/PTUN-Bdg.
 No. 62/G/PTUN-Bdg/1995.
 No. 74/G/PTUN-Bdg/1996 jo. no. 38/B/1998/PT.TUNJKT jo. no. 210 K/TUN/1998. The reason the plaintiffs sought the annullment of the certificate was that they wanted to stay married after all, so now they had to marry again.
 No. 52/G/PTUN-Bdg./1995 jo. no. 132/B/1996/PTTUN-Jkt. jo. no. 340 K/TUN/1998.
 No. 17/G/PTUN-BDG/1998 jo. no. 06/B/PT.TUN.JKT jo. no. 358K/TUN/1999.
 No. 46/G/PTUN-Bdg/1999 jo. 66/B/2000/PT.TUN.JKT jo. 289 K/TUN/2001)
 Fachruddin provides data on this matter for most, though not all of them. Three concerned the appointment of plantiffs as members of the Provincial Parliament of West Java (no. 64/G/1999/PTUN-Bdg. jo. no. 69/B/2000/PTTUN Jkt. jo. No. 207K/TUN/2001, no. 64/ PEN/G/1999/PTUN-Bdg. and no. 80/G/2000/PTUN-Bdg.), one a document providing data on a piece of land (no. 18/G/PTUN-BDG/1994), one concerning the revocation of a nuisance license (no. 58/G/PEN/1998/PTUN-BDG and 58/G/PTUN-BDG/1998)
 See for instance the article by human rights lawyer Frans Hendra Winarta in Sinar Harapan 26-7-2004.