Surabaya State Administrative Court Decision No. 37 of 2005: Blasphemy

The plaintiff (KH. Moch. Yusman Roy) was the caretaker of Jamaah Pengajian Lelaku at Pondok Iktikaf, an i'tikaf (seclusion in a mosque) study group venue in Malang, East Java, where Qur'anic study and recitation activities were held, and the production of prayer carpets (sajadah), pillows, and bolsters was conducted. The defendant, the Regent (Bupati) of Malang, had issued a decree declaring the cessation of the activities of Jamaah Pengajian Lelaku at Pondok Iktikaf. The plaintiff submitted that he had received the decree, dated 7 May 2005, through a family member. On 6 May 2005 at 8.00pm, however, the plaintiff submitted that he had been arrested and interrogated by the Malang Regional Police. Therefore, the legal process had been implemented prematurely and without authority. Moreover, that in issuing the decree, the defendant had acted unilaterally, without considering all the relevant concerns. Therefore, pursuant to art 53(1) and (2)(a) and (b) of Law No. 9 of 2004 on Amendments to Law No. 5 of 1989 on the State Administration of the Judiciary, as the plaintiff had suffered loss as the result of a state administrative decree, he was entitled to submit a written application to the authorised court seeking that the decree be declared null and void, and seeking damages as an additional remedy. The plaintiff also requested that the court suspend the implementation of the defendant's decree, pursuant to art 67(2) of Law No. 5 of 1986, and that the investigation of the case be conducted as quickly as possible, pursuant to art 98 of Law No. 5 of 1986.

In its exceptions, the defendant submitted that the plaintiff's submissions were incorrect and inaccurate because the plaintiff had already submitted a request for protection, dated 6 May 2005, to the Malang Regional Police, expressing concern and fear for the consequences of his having taught sholat and do'a (prayers) in both Arabic and Indonesian. The plaintiff's conduct had allegedly generated a negative reaction from the community towards the plaintiff. It was in accordance with the plaintiff's request that the Malang Police conducted its investigation and arrest on 7 May 2005. The legal consequences that followed had, therefore, resulted from the plaintiff's request, rather than the issuance of the regental decree. The regental decree had been issued in consideration of Presidential Determination No. 1 of 1965 on the Prevention of Abuse and/or Defamation of Religion, meaning that both an administrative action and criminal conduct had occurred, for the purposes of art 10 of Law No. 32 of 2004 on Regional Administration. Moreover, purusant to art 27(1)(c) of Law No. 32 of 2014, the regental decree had been issued in accordance with the obligations of a regional head to maintain peace and order. More specifically, it was issued in anticipation of anarchic reactions from other parties who did not share the religious opinions of the plaintiff that it was acceptable to conduct sholat in Indonesian, as well as the original Arabic.

The defendant also submitted that the state administrative court was precluded from adjudicating the case pursuant to art 49 of Law No. 5 of 1986, because it had issued the regental decree during a time when the public interest dictated it do so. In addition to adhering to Presidential Determination No. 1 of 1965, the regental decree also accorded with art 156(a) of the Criminal Code because it acknowledged that the plaintiff's conduct was defamatory towards a religion.

The court dismissed the defendant's exceptions in their entirety. It reiterated the constitutioanlly-guaranteed freedom to practise one's religion and beliefs in accordance with their own conscience, as found in art 28E(1) and (2) of the 1945 Constitution, as well as Law No. 39 of 1999 on Human Rights. The court noted that these guarantees derive from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, which identifies basic human rights and freedoms which are naturally connected to, and inseparable from, humans from the moment they are born. The court also noted, however, that as the defendant had deemed the activities of Pondok Iktikaf Jamaah Njagi Lelaku to have the potential to disturb the peace and order of the community, it was of the opinion that the cessation of these activities constituted a preventative measure to protect the human rights of others, and that maintaining the peace was in the public interest, per art 73 of Law No. 39 of 1999, which states that rights and freedoms can only be limited by, and pursuant to, statute. Accordingly, the court dismissed the plaintiff's request that the regental decree issued by the defendant be revoked on the grounds that it was not contrary to any statute. Moreover, it dismissed the plaintiff's request that the defendant reinstate the good name of the plaintiff on the same grounds.

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