The Working Committee of Commission III established to discuss and debate the Bill on the Supreme Court has agreed that the retirement age of justices of the Supreme Court should be raised to 70 years of age. However, it seems that the bill is not going to negotiate the halls of power in time for the current Chief Justice, Bagir Manan, to enjoy the benefits of the amendments.
The mandatory retirement ages for judges and justices (judges preside in lower courts and justices generally preside at the Supreme Court) has been steadily rising but is dependent on judges and justices satisfying required medical and health standards. Within this context there has been some debate as to whether judges should be appointed for life in the same way that justices are appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. The idea of life appointments was to free judges and justices from political interference as they would no longer be worried about future appointments when their respective terms expired.
The setting of a mandatory retirement age would be the middle ground between renewable term appointments and appointments for life. In Indonesia, for example, appointments to the Constitutional Court are for a term of five years. At the conclusion of this term a justice can reapply for reappointment for an additional five year term.
The most recent increase in the mandatory retirement age has allowed Manan to serve as Chief Justice through until his 67th birthday which falls on 6 October 2008. Manan has not been seen to be active in the debate and discussion on the latest push to raise the mandatory retirement age and dismissed persistent questions on the matter from journalists with, “that’s the business of government”. When pushed he simply said that the Supreme Court has no legislative function as a judicial body and that the bill is part of “the authority of the President and House of Representatives (DPR)”.
However, Manan did add that in a philosophical way the push to raise mandatory retirement age makes sense as the longer a judge or justice serves in that capacity the more capable they would become in the performance of their jobs and duties. In response to persistent whispers that Manan might benefit from the amendments to the retirement age he invited journalists to his office and happily pointed out all of the empty bookshelves adding that his personal library had been moved to Bandung.
The bill is expected to be finished after Eid or perhaps in the next parliamentary sitting according to M. Nasir Jamil who has been involved in the discussion and debate of the bill and represents the Prosperous Justice Party. Jamil went further to say that none of the discussion related to any particular individuals and that the bill, once passed, will not operate retrospectively. According to Jamil the only way for Manan to extend his term is for Manan to do it for himself. However, Manan has ruled this out unequivocally by informing all of the journalists present in his office that he has already submitted his resignation to the President and all that remains to make his retirement official is the completion of the necessary administrative procedures.
There are critics of the proposal to raise the mandatory retirement age of justices to 70 years of age. One of these criticisms is that there will be no ‘regeneration’ in the Supreme Court’s judicial ranks. This is unlikely to gain much of a foothold as there is clearly a belief and an understanding that the justices that are to sit on the highest court in the land are to be the best of the best and as such when a vacancy becomes available then the next and most highly qualified candidate will be vetted and subsequently appointed to fill the vacancy.
The current retirement age for Supreme Court justices is 67 years of age. Current justices on the Supreme Court that are going to reach the mandatory age of retirement over the next several months include the following:
1. Prof. Dr. H. Bagir Manan SH, MCL / 6 Oct. 1941 / Chief Justice
2. Marianna Sutiadi SH / 12 Oct. 1941 / Deputy Chief Justice (Judicial Matters)
3. Dr. H. Parman Suparman SH, MH / 13 Oct. 1941 / Junior Chief Justice (Criminal Matters)
4. Prof. Dr. H. Kaimuddin Salle SH / 23 Oct. 1941 / Justice
5. Iskandar Kamil SH / 31 Oct. 1941 / Junior Chief Justice (Special Crimes)
6. Soedarno SH / 9 Nov. 1941 / Justice
7. German Hoediarto SH / 24 Nov. 1941 / Junior Chief Justice (Military Matters)
8. Andar Purba / 19 Dec. 1941 / Justice
(Source: Supreme Court Law and Public Relations Bureau)
Nevertheless, there are those that believe that regeneration is the key to success in terms of reform of the judiciary. A former Supreme Court Justice, Benyamin Mangkoedilaga, is one of those. However, he is also in favor of raising the current mandatory retirement age to 70. This agreement is based on the condition that any amendment to the mandatory retirement age does not become effective until 2009.
Generally, there is agreement on the need for the increase in the mandatory retirement age, and as Jamil has stated, the bill is set to be finalized and passed in the near future.