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Civil Procedure in Indonesia

Dr. M. Idwan Ganie
Posted: 19th January 2012 11:02

Generally, the litigation process in a civil case in Indonesia proceeds as follows: (i) the plaintiff registers a suit with the District Court’s clerk’s office; (ii) the court then informs the defendant along with an order to appear in court on the first hearing day; (iii) on the first hearing day the judge orders the parties to select a mediator in order to resolve the dispute through mediation; (iv) if the mediation process fails to resolve the legal dispute, the mediator returns the matter to the judge in order to make a ruling thereof; (v) the defendant is then ordered to tender a response to the plaintiff’s claim; (vi) after receiving the defendant’s response, the plaintiff is given the opportunity to submit a rejoinder in order to respond to the defendant’s response; (vii) after receiving the plaintiff’s rejoinder, the defendant is given the opportunity to respond to it in a counterplea; (viii) after the response and counter response process stages have been completed, the judge will order the plaintiff to submit the relevant evidence, including, if so desired, witnesses in support of the arguments of the claim; (ix) the defendant is then given the opportunity of rebuttal by means of written evidence or witness testimony; (x) each of the parties is given the opportunity to submit their closing arguments; (xi) after receipt of the closing arguments, the court renders its judgment and announces it at the final hearing.  In accordance with Supreme Court rules, a civil case must be resolved and ruled upon by a District Court within a period of 6 (six) months.  If for whatever reason a case cannot be completed within a period of 6 (six) months, the Chief Justice of the District court must report the reasons to the Chief Justice of the relevant High Court.


In general, a civil suit filed in the District Court must be based on one of the 2 (two) following legal reasons: breach of contract or unlawful acts (tort). 

The suit must be brought in contract if a contractual relationship exists between the parties, and one of the parties believes that they have incurred damages as a result of violations of contractual provisions.  On the other hand, if there was no prior contractual relationship between the parties, then if one of the parties believes that they have incurred damages through actions of the other party, the claim must be based on tort. Alternative claims in contract and/or in tort are not possible.

The following legal heirs have the right to file a tort suit:  The husband or wife, children, or parents who enjoyed financial support from the deceased may submit a lawsuit for death caused by unlawful acts.  The parents of children who suffered injuries or who died due to the tort may also file suit on behalf of their children.

In unlawful acts, a plaintiff must prove the following: the occurrence of an unlawful act, the occurrence of fault or negligence, the occurrence of a monetary loss and the existence of a casual relationship between the unlawful act and the loss suffered by the plaintiff. 

Indonesian law permits plaintiffs to file claims for material and immaterial damages.  Material damages include economic losses, costs and financial losses incurred in connection with incidents or accidents, like the costs of medical treatment, damages due to loss of wages or financial support from deceased victims.  Immaterial damages include suffering due to loss of a partner and mental or psychological disability.  Indonesian courts possess a very broad authority to grant compensation for damages of these types, in amounts deemed proper based on the requests of the plaintiffs, the arguments, and the evidence submitted by the parties.

There is a time limit for plaintiffs to be able to bring a suit in Indonesian courts.  The principle is that a lawsuit may be filed within 30 years of the occurrences of the intended incident.  This time limit of 30 years is valid for a large portion of the cases of unlawful acts based on fault or negligence in Indonesia.

Evidence and Witnesses

Documentary evidence is the one most frequently used.  The parties are however free to submit various forms of other permitted types of evidence, which support their positions. The parties may for example submit expert testimony, which can provide evidence to the judicial panel on matters that are technically complicated, and may be subjected to cross-examination.

Indonesian courts do not recognize a “pre-trial discovery procedure.”  However, the rules of civil procedure permit the parties to obtain specific evidence.  If the opposing parties disregard these orders, then a court may draw the conclusion that such items of evidence are not favorable to the parties who disregard such orders.  Even though there is no pre-trial discovery, the parties have the opportunity to examine the evidence submitted by the opposing parties during the evidence stage.  The possibility exists to question the origins and legality of written evidence submitted by the opposing parties, and based on this procedure, courts may examine and determine whether the documents, the legality of which is being questioned, may or may not be used as evidence. Indonesian courts also have the power to summon witnesses to give testimony in court or to order the submission of certain documents to be entered as evidence.


Dr. Ganie, born in 1955 in Amsterdam, is the Managing  Partner of Lubis Ganie Surowidjojo, one of Indonesia's largest law firms, established in 1984. He has held this position for over a decade. He graduated from the Faculty of Law of the University of Indonesia and holds a Phd in Shipping Law from the University of Hamburg. Dr. Ganie is on the panel of arbitrators of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), a Fellow of the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators and Chairman of the Association of Indonesian Antitrust Lawyers. Dr. Ganie is admitted to the Indonesian Bar since 1984 and is a licensed Indonesian Capital Market lawyer and Chairman of the Indonesian Sports Arbitration Body.  Dr. Ganie can be contacted on +62 21 831 5005 or by email at

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