Jakarta, Indonesia – Indonesians continue to breathe a sigh of relief as they await the outcome of a court battle over what is responsible for Jakarta’s dirty air, a decision that a jury has postponed for the second time in two months.
The citizen lawsuit was filed in 2019 through an offer The Indonesian government is responsible for air pollution In the Indonesian capital.
In the legal files, the 32 complainants listed in the lawsuit demanded that officials be forced to improve the city’s air quality – which regularly causes dangerous levels according to air quality indices – through tougher regulations and penalties.
The case has been delayed in recent months. The plaintiffs initially waited for the verdict on May 20, before the judges gave a first delay until June 10. On Thursday, it was postponed again – until June 24th.
At the Jakifa District High Court session, Chief Justice Saifuddin Zuhri blamed the delay on the large number of documents filed in the case, and told the judge that the three-judge jury needed more time to read all the legal literature.
“I hope you can accept that we are not able to read the verdict today. Therefore, we have agreed to postpone the decision for two weeks,” he said in a hearing that lasted more than three minutes due to Coronavirus protocols being zoomed out in public.
In a statement released by the Coalition for the Clean Air Initiative, which is made up of the plaintiffs and their defense groups, said Ayu Eza Tiara, a legal adviser to the plaintiffs, said she was shocked and disappointed.
“Reading the verdict, which takes eight weeks, is not something that can be considered reasonable,” he said. “This delay is clear evidence of poor time management … and that it violates the principle of fast, simple and low – cost testing.
If we refer to the saying “delayed justice, denied justice” … the slow judicial process will not provide justice for the parties. Therefore, we hope that the jury will not delay it in the future. “
One of the 32 plaintiffs involved in the case, Elisa Sutanudjaja, told Al Jazeera that repeated delays only served to strengthen the premise of the case.
“As far as I’m concerned, the delay is another nuance, as air pollution and the climate crisis are not the state’s top priorities, and even justice does not see poor air quality as an urgent issue,” he said.
Since the filing in 2019, the case has been controversial among the accused, including the President of Indonesia, the Minister of Environment and Forestry, the Minister of the Interior, the Governor of Jakarta and the Governors of Banten and West Java.
Defendants also sought to challenge responsibility for the dirty air in Jakarta, along with Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, even accusing the plaintiffs themselves of contributing to the thick smog that regularly covers the city.
Istu Prayogi, who previously told Al Jazeera that he had spots on his lungs and had headaches and congestion after living in Jakarta in the 90s, said the judge was taking advantage of legal loopholes to avoid making decisions.
“This is the judicial process we expect in Indonesia,” he said. “The jury should have ruled in their favor, but because they had a chance to postpone it, they used that opportunity to gain time.”
Others observing the case questioned whether the jury of the three judges was locked in a legal impasse, which would also explain the repeated delays.
Indonesian law follows the system of civil law, and uses a mixture of Dutch colonial law, customary law, and modern Indonesian law. There is no jury in Indonesian courts and a trial court decides all trials, both civil and criminal cases.
“The length of the verdict and the repeated delays give us suspicion that there is a heated debate among the jury over whether to advocate for a healthy environment or let the Jakarta-polluted air breathe,” Dwi Sawung, manager of the Indonesia Environmental Energy and Urban Campaign (WALHI) said in a statement .
“However, the residents are waiting for the jury’s decision to ensure the future of the air quality we breathe in Jakarta.”