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Pointless revisions

Tempo - May 30, 2020

Jakarta – Senayan has approved the proposal to revise the Constitutional Court Law. There is no urgent need to do so.

The House of Representatives (DPR) is never short of idiocy. This time, the "peoples' representatives" have dreamed up another unimportant issue: revising the Constitutional Court Law. This political move by the DPR is far removed from the serious problems that the people are facing as a result of the Corona pandemic.

This waste of time began on April 2. The House agreed to deliberate a proposal based on the DPR's right of initiative to revise Law No. 24/2003 on the Constitutional Court, despite the changes being proposed by only one person, Supratman Andi Agtas from the Gerindra Party. The deliberations will begin once the president sends a government representative.

The initiative from Supratman, who is also chairman of the DPR Legislation Body, aims to make 14 changes. These revisions can be grouped into three main points: the term of office of the Constitutional Court chief justice and deputy chief justice, the minimum age of judges, and the term of office of judges. Article four of the Constitutional Court Bill revises the term of office of the chief justice and deputy chief justice from two and a half years to five years. It also increases the minimum age for perspective judges from 47 years to 60.

In the same bill, the term of office for judges who are at least 60 years old is 10 years. Under the current Constitutional Court Law, the term of office is five years and judges can be reelected for one further term.

These proposals are not substantial, especially since there is no correlation between age or length of the term of office with integrity or capacity of the judges. In a number of nations, the minimum age for constitutional judges is between 35 and 45 years. In Germany for example the average age of judges is 48 to 53 years, while Iceland has a minimum age of 30 years.

The approval of these proposed revisions in a plenary session of the DPR made many people suspicious because the revision to the Constitutional Court Law was not included in the 2020 national legislation program. The public has lived through a bitter experience when the DPR proposed similar changes in its revision to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law. Instead of strengthening it, this political move finished off the anti-graft agency.

There are a number of suspicious elements. The DPR appears to be giving the Constitutional Court judges a sweetener. It is possible that this is to persuade the Court to repay the favor by not revoking laws passed by the DPR if they are the subject of a legal challenge.

After all, the Constitutional Court is currently carrying out a formal examination of the KPK Law. And in the near future, the court will hear a challenge to the Mineral and Coal Mining Law that was passed by the DPR on Tuesday, May 12. This law is to be challenged by a civil group that believes that it disadvantages people affected by the impact of mining activities.

It needs to be said that revisions to the Constitutional Court Law are not taboo. Changes can be made as long as they strengthen the body. For example, revisions could be made to give the Court additional authority to allow it to hear constitutional complaints. At present, the Court only examines the legality of laws under the 1945 Constitution and rules on general election disputes. It also has the authority to rule on disputes between state institutions and on the dissolution of parties, as well as to decide on the impeachment of the president following a proposal from the DPR.

Constitutional complaints are important to protect citizens' rights that have been violated by state policy, such as the joint decree by the home affairs minister, the religious affairs minister, and the attorney general that infringed the rights of Ahmadiyah followers. Currently, these citizens have no right to ask the Supreme Court to reexamine this ruling despite the fact that it clearly violates their rights.

The Supreme Court arose out of the reformasi of 1998. Therefore, instead of weakening it, the revision to the law should strengthen the body.

Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine: https://magz.tempo.co/read/36705/pointless-revisions

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1347865/pointless-revisions