Skip to main content Accessibility help

Judicial Reasoning and Review in the Indonesian Supreme Court

  • Simon BUTT (a1)


This article describes and critiques the judicial reasoning of Indonesia’s Supreme Court, through the lens of the Court’s reviews of subnational laws during 2011–17. The resulting picture is a negative one. Most of the Court’s decisions were critically flawed, with either very little or no reasoning, and inconsistencies with past decisions. Worse, the Court appears keen to avoid hearing important cases that raise difficult political issues, even though the law governing those issues is clear and easy to apply. These inadequacies are perpetuated by genuine uncertainty about the precise jurisdiction of the Court in judicial review cases. However, the Court has not sought to resolve this uncertainty. Indeed, these decisions appear to reflect a court paying little regard to judicial transparency and accountability, and unwilling or unable to act as an effective check on government power.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Judicial Reasoning and Review in the Indonesian Supreme Court
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Judicial Reasoning and Review in the Indonesian Supreme Court
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Judicial Reasoning and Review in the Indonesian Supreme Court
      Available formats



Hide All

Professor of Indonesian Law at the University of Sydney Law School. Correspondence to Simon Butt, The University of Sydney Law School, Building F10, University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia. E-mail address:



Hide All
ADB (2005) Capacity Building to Support Decentralization in Indonesia, Jakarta: Asian Development Bank.
Ahmad, Ehtisham, & Mansoor, Ali (2002) “Indonesia: Managing Decentralization.” Working Paper, 136 International Monetary Fund 1–20.
Ahmad, Junaid, Shantayanan Devarajan, Stuti Khemani, & Shekhar Shah (2005) “Decentralization and Service Delivery.” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3603, The World Bank, 1–27.
Almanaf, Rival (2017) “Perda Perangkat Desa Demak Beda Dengan Pemerintah, Ini Tanggapan DPRD.” Jateng News, 8 August.
Amindoni, Ayomi (2016) “Government Annuls 3,143 Bylaws.” Jakara Post, 13 June.
Anggara (2013) “Bendera Dan Lambang Aceh: Problem Hukum Yang Tersisa.” Hukumonline, 2 April.
Arnold, Luke Lazarus (2009) “Acting Locally, Thinking Globally? The Relationship between Decentralization in Indonesia and International Human Rights.” 2 Journal of East Asia and International Law 177203.
Aspandi, Ali (2002) Menggugat Sistem Hukum Peradilan Indonesia Yang Penuh Ketidakpastian, Surabaya: Lembaga Kajian Strategis Hukum Indonesia dan Lutfansah Mediatama.
Aspinall, Edward (2006) The Helsinki Agreement: A More Promising Basis for Peace in Aceh?, Washington, DC: East-West Center Washington.
Assegaf, Ibrahim (2002) “Legends of the Fall: An Institutional Analysis of Indonesian Law Enforcement Agencies Combating Corruption,” in T. Lindsey & H. W. Dick, eds., Corruption in Asia: Rethinking the Governance Paradigm, Annandale: Federation Press, 127146.
Asshiddiqie, Jimly (2008) Menuju Negara Hukum Yang Demokratis, Jakarta: Sekretariat Jenderal dan Kepaniteraan Mahkamah Konsititusi.
Aziz, Noor M. (2010) Laporan Akhir Pengkajian Hukum Tentang Eksistensi Peraturan Perundang-Undangan Di Luar Hierarki Berdasarkan UU No.10 Tahun 2004 Tentang Pembentukan Peraturan Perundang-Undangan, Jakarta: Badan Pembinaan Hukum Nasional Departemen Kehakiman.
Barr, Christopher M. (2006) Decentralization of Forest Administration in Indonesia: Implications for Forest Sustainability, Economic Development, and Community Livelihoods, Bogor: Center for International Forestry Research.
Bedner, Adriaan (2010) “Consequences of Decentralization: Environmental Impact Assessment and Water Pollution Control in Indonesia.” 32 Law & Policy 3860.
Bedner, Adriaan (2013) “Indonesian Legal Scholarship and Jurisprudence as an Obstacle for Transplanting Legal Institutions.” 5 Hague Journal on the Rule of Law 253273.10.1017/S1876404512001145
Bell, John (1997) “Comparing Precedent.” 82 Cornell Law Review 1243.
Bird, Richard M. (2007) Fiscal Fragmentation in Decentralized Countries: Subsidiarity, Solidarity and Asymmetry, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.10.4337/9781781007617
BPHN (1993) Laporan Penelitian Tentang Peningkatan Yurisprudensi Sebagai Sumber Hukum. Jakarta: Badan Pembinaan Hukum Nasional, Departemen Kehakiman.
Butt, Simon (2007) “Judicial Review in Indonesia: Between Civil Law and Accountability? A Study of Constitutional Court Decisions 2003–2005.” PhD diss., Law Faculty Melbourne University.
Butt, Simon (2008) “Surat Sakti: The Decline of the Authority of Judicial Decisions in Indonesia,” in T. Lindsey, ed., Indonesia: Law and Society, Annandale, NSW: Federation Press, 346358.
Butt, Simon (2010) “Regional Autonomy and the Proliferation of Perda in Indonesia: An Assessment of Bureaucratic and Judicial Review Mechanisms.” 32 Sydney Law Review 177.
Butt, Simon (2014) “Judicial Responses to the Death Penalty in Indonesia.” 39 Alternative Law Journal 134135.10.1177/1037969X1403900215
Butt, Simon (2015) The Constitutional Court and Democracy in Indonesia, Leiden: Brill.10.1163/9789004250598
Butt, Simon (2018) “The Indonesian Constitutional Court and Regional Autonomy: Reconfiguring Decentralisation for Better or Worse?” Asian Journal of Comparative Law (forthcoming).10.1017/asjcl.2018.19
Butt, Simon, & Lindsey, Tim (2010) “Judicial Mafia: The Courts and State Illegality in Indonesia,” in G. Van Klinken & E. Aspinall, eds., The State and Illegality in Indonesia, Leiden: KITLV Press, 189216.
Butt, Simon, & Lindsey, Tim (2012) The Indonesian Constitution: A Contextual Analysis , Oxford: Hart.
Butt, Simon, & Lindsey, Tim (2018) Indonesian Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/oso/9780199677740.003.0002
Butt, Simon, & Parsons, Nicholas (2012) “Reining in Regional Governments? Local Taxes and Investment in Decentralised Indonesia.” 34 Sydney Law Review 91106.
Butt, Simon, & Parsons, Nicholas (2014) “Judicial Review and the Supreme Court in Indonesia: A New Space for Law?97 Indonesia 5585.10.1353/ind.2014.0011
Butt, Simon, & Schutte, Sofie (2014) “Assessing Judicial Performance in Indonesia: The Court for Corruption Crimes.” 62 Crime, Law and Social Change 603619.10.1007/s10611-014-9547-1
Cochrane, Joe (2013) “Rebel Flag Flies Over a Province, and Indonesia Wants It Torn Down.” New York Times, 14 April.
Cochrane, Joe (2017) “Trouble with Facts Plagues Indonesian Courts.” Financial Review, 29 October.
Crouch, Harold (2010) Political Reform in Indonesia after Soeharto, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.10.1355/9789812309211
Effendi, Maftuh (2013) Kewenangan Uji Materil Peraturan Perundang-Undangan Dibawah Undang-Undang, Jakarta: Mahkamah Agung.
Esposito, John (2017) ‘Qanun’ the Oxford Dictionary of Islam, (accessed 18 June 2018).
Fachrudin, Fachri (2017) “Tertutupnya Proses Uji Materiil Di MA Dinilai Rentan Penyimpangan,”, 1 March.
Geeroms, Sofie M. F. (2002) “Comparative Law and Legal Translation: Why the Terms Cassation, Revision and Appeal Should Not Be Translated ....” 50 American Journal of Comparative Law 201228.
Hendrianto, Stefanus (2009) “Institutional Choice and the New Indonesian Constitutional Court,” in A. Harding & P. Nicholson, eds., New Courts in Asia, London: Routledge, 158176.
Hendrik, (2014) “Umam: Investor Yang Bangun Pabrik Di Brebes Harus Taat Aturan Dan Pro Rakyat,”, 10 October.
Hill, Hal (2014) Regional Dynamics in a Decentralized Indonesia, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.10.1355/9789814519175
Horowitz, Donald L. (2013) Constitutional Change and Democracy in Indonesia, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Hosen, Nadirsyah (2010) Human Rights, Politics and Corruption in Indonesia: A Critical Reflection on the Post Soeharto Era, London: Republic of Letters.
Hukumonline (2002) “Banyak Penyebab Putusan MA Tidak Konsisten,” 13 November.
Hukumonline (2010) “Banyak Putusan Kasus Korupsi Di MA Tanpa Pertimbangan Jelas,” 27 August.
Hukumonline (2017) “Putusan MA: ‘Surat Edaran’ Bukan Objek Hak Uji Materiil,” 11 April.
ICW, (2001) Menyingkap Tabir Mafia Peradilan (Hasil Monitoring Peradilan ICW), Jakarta: Indonesian Corruption Watch.
Ismail, Tjip (2003) “Kebijakan Pengawasan Atas Perda Pajak Daerah Dan Retribusi Daerah,” in R. David, ed., Decentralization, Regulatory Reform, and the Business Climate, Jakarta: Partnership for Economic Growth, 87.
Kamil, Sukron, & Bamualim, Chaider eds. (2007) Syariah Islam Dan HAM: Dampak Perda Syariah Terhadap Kebebasan Sipil, Hak Perempuan, Dan Non-Muslim, Jakarta: Center for the Study of Religion and Culture, State Islamic University Syarif Hidayatullah.
Kine, Phelim (2017) “Indonesia’s Aceh Authorities Lash Hundreds Under Sharia Statutes,” Human Rights Watch, (accessed 18 June 2018).
Kristiansen, Stein, & Santoso, Purwo (2006) “Surviving Decentralisation? Impacts of Regional Autonomy on Health Service Provision in Indonesia.” 77 Health Policy 247259.10.1016/j.healthpol.2005.07.013
Lasser, Mitchel (2004) Judicial Deliberations: A Comparative Analysis of Judicial Transparency and Legitimacy, New York: Oxford University Press.
Lev, D. S. (1972) “Judicial Institutions and Legal Culture in Indonesia,” in C. Holt, ed., Culture and Politics in Indonesia, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 246318.
Lev, D. S. (1978) “Judicial Authority and the Struggle for an Indonesian Rechtsstaat.” 13 Law and Society Review 3771.10.2307/3053242
Lewis, Blane D. (2003) “Tax and Charge Creation by Regional Governments under Fiscal Decentralization: Estimates and Explanations.” 39 Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies 177.10.1080/00074910302016
Lewis, Blane D., & Pattinasarany, Daan (2009) “Determining Citizen Satisfaction with Local Public Education in Indonesia: The Significance of Actual Service Quality and Governance Conditions.” 40 Growth and Change 85115.10.1111/j.1468-2257.2008.00462.x
Lewis, Blane D., & Sjahir, Bambang S. (2009) “Local Tax Effects on the Business Climate,” in N. McCulloch, ed., Rural Investment Climate in Indonesia, Singapore: SEAS, 224245.10.1355/9789812308542-011
Lieberman, Samuel, & Marzoeki, Puti (2002) “Health Strategy in a Post-Crisis, Decentralizing Indonesia.” Discussion Paper Series, Washington: World Bank.
Lindsey, Tim (2012) Islam, Law and the State in Indonesia, London: IB Taurus.
Litvack, J. Ilene (1998) Rethinking Decentralization in Developing Countries, Sector Studies Series, Washington: World Bank.
Lotulung, Paulus Effendie (1997) Peranan Yurisprudensi sebagai Sumber Hukum, Jakarta: Badan Pembinaan Hukum Nasional, Departemen Kehakiman.
Lubis, T (1993) In Search of Human Rights: Legal-Political Dilemmas of Indonesia’s New Order, 1966–1990, Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama.
Mahkamah, Agung (2003) Blueprint for the Reform of the Supreme Court of Indonesia, Jakarta: Supreme Court of Indonesia.
Mahkamah, Agung (2015) Laporan Tahunan 2014, Jakarta: Mahkamah Agung.
Mahkamah, Agung (2017) Laporan Tahunan 2016, Jakarta: Mahkamah Agung.
Manor, James (1999) The Political Economy of Democratic Decentralization, Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.10.1596/0-8213-4470-6
Muhyiddin, Muhammad (2014) “Komnas Perempuan: Perda Diskriminatif Meningkat,”, 20 January.
Parlina, Ina, & Dipa, Arya (2013) “MA Chief Expects High Court Leaders to Combat Judicial Mafia.” Jakarta Post, 3 December.
Parsons, Nicholas, & Mietzner, Marcus (2010) “Sharia By-Laws in Indonesia: A Legal and Political Analysis.” 11 Australian Journal of Asian Law 190.
Pemberton, John (1999) “Open Secrets: Excerpts from Conversations with a Javanese Lawyer, and a Comment,” in V. Rafael & R. Mrazek, eds., Figures of Criminality in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Colonial Vietnam, Ithaca, NY: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 193209.
Pompe, S. (2005) The Indonesian Supreme Court: A Study of Institutional Collapse, New York: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University.
Pratikno (2005) “Exercising Freedom: Local Autonomy and Democracy in Indonesia, 1999–2001,” in M. Erb, P. Sulistiyanto, & C. Faucher, eds., Regionalism in Post-Suharto Indonesia, New York: Routledge Curzon, 2035.
Ray, David (2003) Decentralization, Regulatory Reform, and the Business Climate, Jakarta: Partnership for Economic Growth.
Saputra, Andi (2017) “Timbulkan Konflik, Seluruh Uji Materi Peraturan Harusnya Di Bawah MK,”, 14 November.
Satuan Tugas Pemberantasan Mafia Hukum (STPMH) (2010) Mafia hukum: modus operandi, akar permasalahan dan strategi penanggulangan , Jakarta: Satuan Tugas Pemberantasan Mafia Hukum.
Schwarz, Adam (2000) A Nation in Waiting: Indonesia’s Search for Stability, Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Sholikin, Nur, Ronald Rofiandri, Fajri Nursyamsi, Anfidja Mauli, Simon Butt, & Nicholas Parsons (2013) Laporan Kajian Implementasi Pengawasan Perda Oleh Pemerintah Dan Mahkamah Agung, Jakarta: Pusat Studi Hukum dan Kebijakan.
Stockmann, Petra (2007) The New Indonesian Constitutional Court: A Study into Its Beginnings and First Years of Work, Jakarta: Hans Seidel Foundation.
Tanzi, Vito (1995) Fiscal Federalism and Decentralization: A Review of Some Efficiency and Macroeconomic Aspects, Washington: World Bank.
Thoolen, Hans (1987) Indonesia and the Rule of Law: Twenty Years of “New Order” Government: A Study, London: Frances Pinter Publisher.
Wells, Michael (1994) “French and American Judicial Opinions.” 19 Yale Journal of International Law 81133.
World Bank (2004) Village Justice in Indonesia: Case Studies on Access to Justice, Village Democracy and Governance, Jakarta: World Bank.
Wulandari, Indah (2010) “Satgas Mafia Hukum Tak Diperlukan Jika Hukum Membela Kepentingan Publik.” Republika, 3 August.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed