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 group of judges delayed their decision for the second time in two months.
The citizen demand was presented in 2019 in a candidacy to do so hold the Indonesian government accountable for air pollution to the Indonesian capital.
In court records, the 32 plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit also demanded that officials be required to improve the city’s air quality – which regularly reaches hazardous levels according to air quality indices – by tougher rules and sanctions.
The case has been plagued by delays in recent months. Plaintiffs initially waited for a verdict on May 20, before the judges issued a first adjournment until June 10. Thursday was postponed again, until June 24th.
During the hearing in the Jakarta Central District Court, Chief Justice Saifuddin Zuhri blamed the large number of documents filed in the case for the delay, telling the court that the group of three judges needed extra time to read all the legal literature. .
“I hope you can accept that today we will not be able to read the verdict. So we agreed to postpone the decision for two weeks, “he said during the just-three-minute hearing, which was examined by the public using Zoom due to coronavirus protocols.
In a press release issued by the Coalition Clean Air Initiative, which is made up of the plaintiffs of the citizen lawsuit and its defense team, the plaintiffs ’legal adviser, Ayu Eza Tiara, said he was surprised and disappointed.
“Reading a verdict that lasts up to eight weeks cannot be considered reasonable,” he said. “This delay is clear evidence of poor time management … and a violation of the principle of a quick, easy and low – cost test.
“If we refer to the adage ‘delayed justice, denied justice’ … a slow judicial process will not provide justice to the parties. Therefore, we hope that the jury will stop postponing it in the future.”
One of the 32 plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit, Elisa Sutanudjaja, told Al Jazeera that the repeated delays only served to reinforce the premise of the case.
“As for me, the postponement is another proof that air pollution and the climate crisis are not the main priorities of the state, and even the judiciary does not consider the poor quality of the ‘air is an urgent matter,’ 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 Minister of the Interior, the Governor of Jakarta and the Governors of provinces of Banten and West Java.
Defendants have also tried to question their responsibility for Jakarta’s dirty air, with Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan even blaming the plaintiffs themselves for having contributed to the thick smoke that regularly plagues the Jakarta. city.
Istu Prayogi, who previously told Al Jazeera that he was diagnosed with lung spots and suffered from headaches and congestion after living in Jakarta in the 1990s, said he felt the court was taking advantage of legal loopholes to avoid taking a decision.
“This is the judicial process we have been waiting for in Indonesia,” he said. “The jury should have been able to issue a verdict, but since they had the option to postpone it, they used that option to gain time.”
Others who observed the case wondered if the group of three judges was locked in a legal impasse, which would also explain the repeated delays.
Indonesian law follows the civil law system and uses a mixture of Dutch colonial law, customary law and modern Indonesian law. There are no juries in Indonesian courts and all verdicts, in both civil and criminal cases, are decided by a jury.
“The length of the verdict and the repeated delays make us suspect that there is a tough debate among the jury over whether to defend a healthy environment or continue to let Jakartans breathe polluted air,” said Dwi Sawung, The Energy and Urban Campaign manager of the Indonesia Forum for the Environment (WALHI) 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.”