The latest bribe scandal involving a substitute court clerk of the South Jakarta district court added to a long list of case-brokering offenses in this country. The Corruption Eradication Commisson (KPK) must probe all pertinent elements, including the judges. The internal oversight system at the Supreme Court (MA) and Judicial Commission (KY) proven ineffective by the case should also be overhauled.
A further investigation is also warranted, as so far only three suspects have been named: Tarmizi, the substitute court clerk; Yunus Nafik, the CEO of Aquamarine Divindo Inspection and his attorney Akhmad Zaini. The illicit dealing was exposed after the KPK caught Tarmizi red-handed on August 21 receiving Rp425 million from the Aquamarine’s boss and his lawyer, in exchange for winning the case filed by Eastern Jason Fabrication Services, a Singaporean maritime company, against Aquamarine.
It is highly unlikely that Tarmizi acted alone given his position as a non-decision maker. The bribe money could also be just an initial payoff. Therefore, it is imperative that the KPK also investigates the panel of judges, comprising Agus Widodo and Sudjarwanto, and presided by Djoko Indiarto. Those handling this case are susceptible to bribery as the company is in dire straits. If it loses the lawsuit, the company stands to pay US$7.6 million, or around Rp101 billion, plus S$131,000 or around Rp1.2 billion to the plaintiff.
The scandal is another indication of weak oversight over court processes. The KPK so far has uncovered 43 graft cases within the judiciary system involving judges, prosecutors, police officers and court clerks. Almost every year, new cases appear. Last year, at least six judges and two court clerks were implicated in graft cases, whereas five judges and two court clerks were arrested in 2015.
Being at the forefront of the justice system managing cases, a court clerk has a strategic function. His close liaison with the panel of judges allows him to manipulate cases, particularly when he has served long in a given court whereby over time he can form close relations with many lawyers. The chief justice must keep a close watch on their behavior.
The judicial oversight mechanism also needs to be fixed to prevent judges from being in cahoots with those involved in cases, directly or via court officials, or case brokers. The Supreme Court, already overburdened with loads of activities-from recruitment and remuneration of judges, reviewing of cases to overseeing judges-should delegate more authority to the Judicial Commission to monitor judges and court officials.
Having been excluded from the recruitment process of judges, the Judicial Commission now has very limited authority for proposing sanctions against crooked judges to the Supreme Court. For example, the current requirement for the commission to involve the Supreme Court in setting up a joint ethics committee is not practical. The commission should be given more authority.
Courts usually have free rein and are free of intervention from the outside, a principle they should staunchly uphold in trying cases. But it does not mean that judges should be exempt from oversight. If the oversight system is left unfixed, corruption will remain rampant in courts, and cases similar to Tarmizi’s are sure to recur.