Banjarbaru Religious Court Decision No. 259 of 2013 on Murabahah Jurisdiction

The plaintiffs, Sehatno Samiadoen and Tutik Ani Rahmawati, represented, Moses Antonius (complainant), who had filed a complaint with the Kalimantan Consumer Protection Group (Yayasan Lembaga Perlindungan Konsumen Kalimantan) on 30 May 2013, against the defendant's (PT Bank BNI Syariah) Banjarmasin branch. The complainant had entered into a shari’a-style home loan (Murabahah) with the defendant’s Banjarmasin branch for the purchase of a 150m2 property on 18 September 2012. The term of the loan was 120 months (10 years), with monthly repayments of IDR 8,638,583, and an initial down-payment of IDR 147.5 million. The complainant also provided the defendant with payment for the first two months (IDR 17,277,166) in a show of good faith. The complainant and defendant also entered into a power of attorney agreement on 28 May 2012, pursuant to which the complainant vested in the defendant the authority to sell, transfer and release all rights over the property to any person, including to the defendant itself.

The complainant then experienced financial hardship and went into arrears. The defendant sent to the complainant three separate written warnings in regards to his default. The plaintiffs, however, told the court that the agreement contravened shari’a principles, as contained in Law No. 21 of 2008 on Shari’a Banking, as well as standard clausal requirements, as regulated in Law No. 8 of 1999 on Consumer Protection. Moreover, that as the complainant had only recently become a Muslim (muallaf), he did not properly understand Islamic shari’a, nor did he properly understand the content of the agreement, or the fact that he could not novate its terms. Consequently, the complainant felt aggrieved by the inclusion of standard clauses, which he believed contravened art 18(1) of Law No. 8 of 1999 on Consumer Protection. Pursuant to art 18(3) of Law No. 8 of 1999, the plaintiffs argued for the agreement to be rendered null and void, and sought to invoke art 62 of Law No. 8 of 1999, which prescribes a penalty of up to five years imprisonment or a fine of up to IDR 2 billion. The plaintiffs also sought to rely on the principle of presumption of liability, thereby compelling the defendant to prove its innocence, as it claimed was supported by art 23 of Law No. 8 of 1999.

The plaintiffs requested that the court grant an interlocutory order precluding the defendant from dealing adversely with the complainant’s property. They also requested that the court declare the defendant’s conduct illegal by rendering the three agreements the complainant had with the defendant null and void.

The defendant lodged an objection in regards to the plaintiffs’ choice of forum, citing art 45(1) of Law No. 8 of 1999, which requires an aggrieved party to lodge an application with either an institution assigned to resolve consumer-related disputes, or a civil court. The defendant also cited art 25(2) of Law No. 48 of 2009, which states that civil courts are authorised to adjudicate civil matters, as further proof that a civil court was the appropriate forum to hear the matter. The defendant further argued that the plaintiffs had erred in submitting their application to the court because, per arts 18 and 19 of their Murabahah agreement, the complainant and defendant had agreed to resolve any disputes in the Registrar’s office of the Banjarmasin Religious Court. The defendant also submitted that the special power of attorney, pursuant to which the plaintiffs were acting on the complainant’s behalf, was invalid due to formulaic irregularities.

In addition, the defendant sought to impugn the fact that the plaintiffs’ statement of claim referred to the complainant as if he were the plaintiff. Moreover, it argued that the plaintiffs’ assertion that the Murabahah agreement contravened shari’a principles, as contained in Law No. 21 of 2008 on Shari’a Banking, as well as clausal standards, per Law No. 8 of 1999 on Consumer Protection, was illogical and lacked legal basis. The defendant also criticised the plaintiffs for seeking to bring a civil action, pursuant to a civil statute (Law No. 8 of 1999), to a religious court.

The court found that, pursuant to Constitutional Court Decision No. 93 of 2012, the elucidation of art 55(2), which prescribed a civil forum as a suitable venue for shari’a banking dispute resolution, was invalid. Moreover, that a 'civil judicature' (Peradilan Umum), per art 45(1) of Law No. 8 of 1999 on Consumer Protection, was to be read and interpreted as a religious court (Pengadilan Agama). Accordingly, the court found that religious courts had absolute jurisdiction over this matter. Crucially, however, the court found that the parties had clearly specified the Banjarmasin Religious Court as the appropriate resolution forum, precluding it from handing down a judgment.

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