Environmental activists praised the very progressive court ruling. Companies violating environmental laws had only been subjected to fines several times. The decision was later supported by the Supreme Court's cassation verdict and the attempt to review the verdict was also rejected by the Supreme Court. The environment and forestry ministry practically won the legal battle, with only the execution process to look forward to.
Law enforcement for the environmental violation fell to pieces when the Meulaboh District Court accepted Kalista's suit in April. The judicial panel chaired by Said Hasan with Muhammad Tahir and T. Latiful as members made a peculiar decision annulling the Supreme Court's verdict. The judicial panel justified the plaintiff's argument that the peatland's coordinates, as mentioned in the forestry ministry's lawsuit, were inaccurate, which means that sanctions could not be imposed. Even if it were true that the coordinates were inaccurate, the issue should have been discussed at previous court trials.
The Supreme Court and the Judicial Commission must immediately resolve this irregularity. Judge Said Hasan and colleagues may have ignored the principle ofnebis in idem, meaning the same violation can't be retried. The Supreme Court and the Judicial Commission must examine judges responsible for the odd decision. There's no need to wait for a report. Their material and ethical violations are very obvious. There is no legal basis to justify a district court ruling that annuls a Supreme Court verdict.
Because similar irregular verdicts are still frequently made, stricter action must be taken to deal with delinquent judges. Since the reform 20 years ago, various attempts have been made to improve judicature, including the formation of the Judicial Commission. But deviant court trials continue to occur. Remuneration has failed to cleanse courts of dirty judges. There are, in fact, severe sanctions such as dismissal and demotion, but these sanctions are rarely imposed.
Supreme Court and Judicial Commission authorities must understand how the poor integrity of judges creates protracted and high-cost legal processes. Now the environmental violation case has gone back to square one. The government can only file another lawsuit to challenge judge Said Hasan and his peers' decision up to the Supreme Court level.
Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine