Jakarta, Indonesia – Indonesians continue to hold their breath as they await the outcome of a major legal battle over who is responsible for Jakarta’s dirty air after a panel of judges delayed its decision for the second time in two months.
The city lawsuit was filed in 2019 in a bid for holds the Indonesian government responsible for air pollution in the Indonesian capital.
In the legal filing, the 32 complainants listed in the lawsuit also demanded that officials be compelled to improve the city’s air quality – which regularly affects hazardous levels according to the air quality index. – for harsher regulations and sanctions.
The case has been plagued by delays in recent months. Plaintiffs had originally waited for a verdict on May 20, before the judges issued a first remand until June 10. Thursday, it was postponed again – until June 24th.
During the hearing in Jakarta district court, Chief Justice Saifuddin Zuhri accused the number of documents presented in the case for the delay, telling the court that the three-judge panel needed more time to read it all. the legal literature.
“I hope you can accept that we are not able to read the verdict today. Therefore, we agreed to postpone the decision for two weeks,” he said during the hearing of just over three minutes, which was examined by the public. via Zoom due to coronavirus protocols.
In a press release issued by the Clean Air Initiative Coalition, which is composed of the plaintiffs in the civil process and their defense team, the plaintiffs ’legal counsel, Ayu Eza Tiara, said she was surprised and disappointed.
“Reading a verdict that lasts up to eight weeks is not something that can be considered reasonable,” he said. “This delay is clear evidence of poor time management … and a violation of the principle of a fast, simple and inexpensive process.
“If we refer to the proverb ‘delayed justice, denied justice’ … a slow judicial process certainly does not provide justice for the parties. Therefore, we hope that the panel of judges will not procrastinate further in the future.”
One of the 32 plaintiffs involved in the case, Elisa Sutanudjaja, told Al Jazeera that the repeated delays had only served to reinforce the premise of the case.
“As far as I’m concerned, the referral is further proof that air pollution and the climate crisis are not the main priorities of the state, and even the judiciary does not consider poor air quality as such. ‘and an urgent problem,’ he said.
The case has been controversial since it was filed in 2019, in part because the defendants include the president of Indonesia, the minister of environment and forestry, the interior minister, the governor of Jakarta and the governors of the provinces of Banten and West Java.
Defendants have also sought to question their responsibility for Jakarta’s dirty air, with Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan even going so far as to blame the plaintiffs themselves for having contributed to the dense smog that regularly covers the city. .
This Prayogi, who previously told Al Jazeera that he had been diagnosed with spots in his lungs and that he had suffered from headaches and congestion after living in Jakarta in the 1990s, said he felt that the court took advantage of legal loopholes to avoid making a decision.
“This is the judicial process we have been waiting for in Indonesia,” he said. “The panel of judges should have been able to give a verdict, but because they had the possibility to replace it, they used that option to gain time.”
Others who observed the case wondered if the three-judge panel was locked in a legal impasse, which would also explain the repeated delays.
Indonesian law follows the civil law system, and adopts a mixture of Dutch colonial law, customary law and modern Indonesian law. There are no juries in Indonesian courts and all verdicts, both in civil and criminal cases, are decided by a panel of judges.
“The length of the verdict and the repeated delays make us suspect that there is a heated debate among the panel of judges over whether to side with a healthy environment or continue to let the Jakartans breathe polluted air,” Dwi Sawung, Campaign of the Energy and Urban Manager of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI), he said in a statement.
“However, residents are looking forward to the jury’s decision to ensure the future of the air quality we breathe in Jakarta.”