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Southeast Asian Legal Research Guide: Case Law

Indonesian Trial Process and Court System

The Indonesian legal system is a Civil Law system rather than a Common Law system. As the Indonesian legal system is derived from French and German models, its procedures are entirely different to those in Australia. For example, Civil Law systems do not use juries. Instead, decisions as to guilt or innocence are made by a panel of three judges. One of these judges is the Chair (ketua). Typically, the judges produce single, joint judgment (Putusan).

Precedent, in Common Law systems, is the principle that previous cases with similar facts on an identical point of law will bind courts of equal or lower status. In Civil Law systems, courts are not bound by decisions of courts at the same level or higher. This means that there is little need for law reporting in Indonesia and certainly not for published authoritative sets of judgments. Some, limited collections of judgments are published (for example, Yurisprudensi) but they are ad hoc in nature. In fact, statements as to preferred interpretation or policy issued by the Supreme Court in the form of surat edaran (circular letters), rather like practice notes in the Common Law System and tend to be more influential than previous decisions, even of the Supreme Court.

Source: Indonesian Trial Process and Legal System: Background Notes by Tim Lindsey

In recent years, however, the Supreme Court has made a huge improvement with its online case tracking system (Sistem Informasi Penelusuran Perkara). District, high and supreme courts as well as religious courts are obligated to upload decisions online. Check the databases listed below to see online decisions. These are in Indonesian only, apart from Constitutional Court decisions, which are also in English.

Supreme Court Database

Books on Courts and the Judiciary

Constitutional Court Judgments

The Constitutional Court was first established on November 9, 2001 as a consequence of the third amendment to the Constitution of the Republic Indonesia. Unlike the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court is not an appellate court. Its decision is final and binding and, therefore, cannot be challenged. Article 24C of the Constitution states that the powers of the Constitutional Court are first, to review the law made against the Constitution; second, to resolve disputes between state institution; third, to resolve dissolution of political parties; fourth, to resolve disputes over election results; and fifth, to rule on the president’s impeachment.

District and High Court Databases

Full judgment of district and high courts are available through the Supreme Court databases. But if you want to track down a progress of a particular case, you can go directly to individual courts. Note down the name of the court and the easiest  way is to find the database is to google the court name. For example: Pengadilan Negeri Surabaya SIPP ( Surabaya District Court). Decisions are only in Indonesian but basic information such as case numbers, party names and trial schedules can easily be identified.