Hearing at the District Court During the COVID-19 Spread
The COVID-19 spread in Indonesia has caused several institutions in Indonesia to make certain adjustments, including in to hearings in district courts. On 23 March 2020, the Supreme Court issued Circular Letter No. 1 of 2020 on Guidance for the Implementation of Work during the Prevention of the Spread of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) within the Supreme Court and the other Courts, as was later amended by Circular Letter No. 2 of 2020 dated 3 April 2020 and further amended by Circular Letter No. 3 of 2020 dated 20 April 2020 (“SEMA 1-2020”). In principle, SEMA 1-2020 provides the basis for Indonesian judges and court civil servants to “Work From Home (WFH)”, and to use e-Court and e-Litigation. Under SEMA-1 2020, the Chairman of the Court is also authorized to apply “working in shifts” for the court’s employee/judges, and ensure that the court’s activities apply the social distancing measures and the use of the necessary protection equipment (such as face masks and gloves). The Work From Home policy may result in some judges not being present at the district court to lead the hearings.According to the latest amendment to SEMA 1-2020, the Supreme Court’s order to judges and court civil servants to Work From Home will remain in effect until 13 May 2020.In practice, the civil courts are applying various methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including, for example, adjourning hearings for more than 3 weeks (normally, courts will only adjourn hearings for 1-2 weeks), and allowing parties to file their submissions (e.g. Response, Counter-Plea or Rejoinder) by email.
While adjourning a civil case may be more straightforward (especially in a normal civil case trial when there are no actual legal consequences to prolonging proceedings), adjourning proceedings in a criminal case may not be so straightforward and even raise some concerns. This is especially true if the defendant (culprit) is being detained. How long a defendant may be detained for is limited under the Penal Procedural Law. Therefore, it is not easy for a District Court to postpone hearings “merely” because of the COVID-19 issue.
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