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Constitutional Court and the alleged minor editorial changes with major implications

Tempo - January 30, 2023

Ima Dini Shafira, Jakarta – House of Representative (DPR) member Nasir Djamil commented on the controversy which involves the Constitutional Court (MK) changing the substance in the dismissal verdict of former supreme court judge Aswanto.

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) legislator laments that, if proven to be true, the editorial changes in the verdict are a serious endangerment of the Constitutional Court's integrity.

He also fears that arbitrary changes will only make the MK a tool to serve the agendas of a few. Nasir encourages the court to establish an ethics board to investigate the controversy.

"I urge the MK to form an ethics board to investigate the editorial changes that were contained in the copy of the verdict for the dismissal of MK judge Aswanto," he said on January 29.

Upon reading the 103/PUU-XX/2022 verdict on the judicial review of the Constitutional Court Law, the constitutional judges stated the sentence: "Thus, dismissal of constitutional judges before the end of their term of office can only be carried out for reasons....". However, in the minutes of the decision held by the applicant for the case, the phrase "thus" is changed to "in the future".

Even though the changes were only made to two syllables, Nasir suspects it would have major implications against the case filed by the applicant and he suspects the editorial change was intentional.

"I suspect that there was an intentional change in the editorial in the copy of the decision. This seems unusual as the Constitutional Court is always careful and prudent in transcribing its legal decisions," he explained.

Nasir said the establishment of an ethics board would be the first step to addressing public doubts about the existence of multiple editorial changes. He also hopes the formation of an ethics board can help maintain the authority of the Constitutional Court and its judges as statesmen.

Small changes with big implications

Zico Leonard Simanjuntak, who is the plaintiff for case No. 103/PUU-XX/2022, recalled the verdict inconsistency between the one that was read out by a constitutional judge and the copy that he received. He highlighted the changes in the aforementioned phrases.

"I felt there was something strange. I then started to carefully look into it. It turns out that the verdict that was read out stated 'thus' while the copy that I received had the word 'this' changed to 'in the future'," said Zico in a Youtube video published by Konstitusionalis TV, on January 28.

Zico explained that the change in phrases was significant as the phrase "thus" meant that the MK declared the replacement of judge Aswanto, which was not in accordance with Article 23 of the Constitutional Court Law, was unconstitutional.

However, Zico said that when the phrase 'in the future' is used then the MK considers that the replacement of judge Aswanto is a non-issue.

Aswanto was replaced by Guntur Hamzah who was appointed by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in November last year. Guntur's appointment as Constitutional Court Judge was stated in Presidential Decree No. 114 B/2022 concerning the Dismissal and Appointment of Constitutional Justices submitted by the Indonesian Parliament.

Aswanto's termination by members of the House was subjected to wide criticism, one of which came from the electoral watchdog, Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), that alleged the House of Representatives of committing a constitutional violation.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1685545/constitutional-court-and-the-alleged-minor-editorial-changes-with-major-implication