The Supreme Court penalized nearly every judge at the Religious Affairs Court in Ponorogo district, East Java, on Tuesday for allowing members of an unrecognized bar association to practice law in the court, according to reports in local media.
The court's chief judge reported the 11 other members of the Religious Affairs Court to the Supreme Court for allowing law graduates with certifications from the unofficial Indonesian Congress of Advocates (KAI) to practice as attorneys in legal matters, according to reports in the Indonesian news portal Detik.com. Indonesia's 2003 Law on Attorneys stipulates that the country can have only one bar association — the Indonesian Association of Advocates (Peradi) — and barred attorneys who passed the rival KAI bar from practicing.
Peradi was formed in 2005 when eight individual bar associations merged into a single entity. But in 2008, a rival association — the KAI — was formed to license law graduates.
The court has ruled the KAI invalid and disqualified any licensed attorneys from practicing law in Indonesia. The controversial move, which resulted in a brawl on one occasion between Indonesian lawyers, has been criticized as unjust by those affiliated with the KAI.
The KAI still exists in Indonesia, despite Peradi's status as the nation's sole bar association being decided more than two years ago. It was unknown if the law graduates practicing in Ponorogo were recent graduates to the KAI, or those who had passed the association's bar years ago.
It is unknown what sanctions the Religious Affairs Court judges face. Reports in local media remained vague on Tuesday and the Supreme Court was unavailable for comment by deadline. But the Supreme Court has handed down severe sanctions in the past for similar offenses.
In December 2011, the court dismissed the head of the Maluku higher appeal court, Tusani Djafri, for having officiated at the swearing-in of new members of the local KAI chapter.