Indonesia’s Small Claims Court Procedure

In other jurisdictions, a small claims court system may be well established and be utilized effectively for simple and inexpensive cases claim-wise. However in Indonesia, the small claims court system was only recently established under Supreme Court Regulation No. 2 of 2015 regarding Procedures for the Resolution of Small Claims Lawsuits (“Regulation”).

The first case to be tried based on this new small claims court procedure was first heard earlier this year at the Jakarta Selatan District Court, which was filed by Smart Consulting, a corporate consulting firm, against PT Jasa Tambang Nusantara. In this case, the plaintiff is demanding that its client, the defendant, to pay for its consulting services fees of IDR 96 million. A decision is yet to be rendered as of the date of this article.[1]

Criteria

Indonesia’s small claims courts may only hear civil disputes with the following criteria:[2]

  1. Be a breach of contract or tort dispute;
  2. Damages of IDR 200 million at most;
  3. Must not fall under the jurisdiction of special courts, such as commercial courts, fisheries courts, or industrial relations courts;
  4. Does not involve land rights;
  5. Does not involve more than 1 plaintiff and 1 defendant;
  6. Address of the defendant must be known;
  7. Both the plaintiff and defendant must reside in the same court jurisdiction; and
  8. Both the plaintiff and defendant must be present during all of the court proceedings (cannot be absent and represented by an attorney).

Procedure

Compared to the normal civil procedural law, the small claims court procedure is relatively simple and is subject to a strict time frame. Despite as such, however, it should be noted that the normal civil procedural law will still apply to matters that are not stipulated under the Regulation (for example, evidence examinations).[3]

Registration

A case can be registered to be tried by a small claims court by filing a lawsuit and filing out a claim form provided by the registrar of the district court that has jurisdiction of both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s domicile (note that cases in which the plaintiff and defendant are under the jurisdiction of different courts cannot be processed in a small claims court).[4]

The claim form will contain details on the identities of the plaintiff and defendant, fact summary of the case, and the settlement being demanded by the plaintiff with a nominal value of no more than IDR 200 million. When filing the lawsuit and claim form, the plaintiff is also required to submit the document evidences of the case that must be validated, typically by the issuing authority (for example, for licenses and government approvals) or by a public notary (usually for agreements).[5]

Upon receiving the lawsuit and claim form, the registrar will review whether or not the case fulfils the criteria to be heard by the district court’s small claims court (as stated above). If it does not fulfil a certain criterion, for example if the claim demanded by the plaintiff is more than IDR 200 million, the lawsuit and claim form will be rejected and returned to the plaintiff. Otherwise, the registrar will register the case and charge the court fees to the plaintiff (which can be waived for poverty-stricken persons).[6]

Within 2 business days of the case being registered, the head of the district court will appoint the single and presiding judge for the case, as well as a court clerk.[7]

Preliminary Hearing

On the first proceeding, a preliminary hearing, the presiding judge will determine whether or not the case can be settled by the small claims court procedure.[8]

If the presiding judge is of the opinion that the small claims court procedure cannot or is not sufficient to resolve the case, the presiding judge will dismiss the case, remove the case’s registration, and order the registrar to refund the remaining court fee to the plaintiff. Such dismissal cannot be appealed.[9]

Otherwise, the presiding judge will set the date of the first trial and summon both the plaintiff and defendant.[10]

Trial

On the first trial proceeding of the case, if the plaintiff does not appear before the court without a valid reason, the case will be dismissed by the presiding judge. On the other hand, if the defendant is absent on the first trial proceeding of the case, the presiding judge will issue a second summons to the defendant. If the defendant fails to adhere to this second summons, the presiding judge will examine and adjudicate the case in the defendant’s absence (verstek).[11]

If both the plaintiff and defendant is present, before the case’s trial commences, the presiding judge will attempt to mediate the disputing parties in order to produce an amicable settlement (note that this mediation process is not subject to Supreme Court Regulation No. 1 of 2008 regarding Mediation Procedure in Courts). If a settlement is reached between the disputing parties, the presiding judge will draw up a deed of settlement that is binding to the plaintiff and defendant, which cannot be appealed.[12]

If the mediation process fails, the trial will continue with the plaintiff bringing and reading the lawsuit before the presiding judge and the defendant’s response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit.[13]

Subsequent proceedings will examine the evidences brought before the court by the plaintiff and defendant respectively (only if the defendant is present and denies the claims submitted by the plaintiff) until a decision is rendered by the presiding judge. The presiding judge must render a decision within 25 business days of the first trial.[14]

Under the small claims court procedure, neither the plaintiff nor defendant may submit an provisional claims (tuntutan provisi), counterclaim (rekonvensi), jurisdiction challenge motion (eksepksi), reply (replik), rejoinder (duplik), or conclusion (kesimpulan).[15]

Challenge

If any of the disputing parties is unsatisfied with the decision, a challenge to the decision may be submitted within 7 business days of being rendered.[16]

This challenge is submitted to the registrar of the same district court by signing a deed of challenge statement (akta pernyataan keberatan) before the court clerk and filling out the provided application form. In order to further support the challenge, the challenge applicant may submit a notice of challenge (memori keberatan) which outlines the main points of the challenge.[17]

The court will notify the other party regarding the challenge and notice of challenge within 3 business days of receiving them, to which the other party may respond with a counter notice of challenge (kontra memori keberatan) within 3 business days of receiving the said notification.[18]

In filling out the challenge application or drafting the notice of challenge or counter notice of challenge, it is important to note that during the challenge’s trial proceedings, the panel of judges will not examine any matter outside of the challenge application, notice of challenge, and counter notice of challenge.[19]

The head of the district court will appoint a panel of 3 judges on the next business day after the challenge application was filed. This panel of judges must render a decision to the challenge within 7 business days of being appointed. There is no further legal action, such as appeal, cassation and case review, that may be taken against the decision to the challenge. In other words, the decision to the challenge is final and binding on the disputing parties.[20]

Pros and Cons

There is no obligation for cases to be heard by a small claims court that fulfil the necessary criteria (as explained above). In other words, the plaintiff may choose the normal civil court procedure over being tried by a small claims court.

A main consideration for choosing the normal civil court procedure may be the further legal action, including appeal, cassation and case review, available in case the decision rendered is unsatisfactory. There may be other considerations based on the differences between the normal civil court procedure and small claims court procedure as set out here.

Implementation at Surabaya District Court

Below is an informational banner at the Surabaya District Court explaining the small claims court procedure.


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 FOOTNOTES

[1] Hukumonline, “Pertama Kali, Gugatan Sederhana Diperiksa PN Jakarta Selatan,” January 23, 2016

[2] Regulation, Arts. 2, 3, and 4

[3] Regulation, Art. 32

[4] Regulation, Arts. 6 (1) and (2), and 4 (3)

[5] Regulation, Arts. 6 (3) and (4), and 3 (1)

[6] Regulation, Arts. 7, and 8

[7] Regulation, Arts. 9, and 10

[8] Regulation, Art. 11 (2)

[9] Regulation, Art. 11 (3) and (4)

[10] Regulation, Art. 12

[11] Regulation, Art. 13

[12] Regulation, Art. 15

[13] Regulation, Art. 16

[14] Regulation, Arts. 18, and 5 (3)

[15] Regulation, Art. 17

[16] Regulation, Arts. 21 (1), and 22 (1)

[17] Regulation, Arts. 21 (2), 22 (2), and 23 (1)

[18] Regulation, Art. 24

[19] Regulation, Art. 26

[20] Regulation, Arts. 25, 27, and 30


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2 thoughts on “Indonesia’s Small Claims Court Procedure”

    1. Dear Ian,

      It is highly unlikely that a normal civil proceeding will dismiss a case that fulfills every criteria to be heard before a small claims court. This Regulation does not state the obligation nor absolute jurisdiction over the cases that satisfy the criteria to be examined and decided by a small claims court.

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