19 November 2021
As COP26 comes to a close in Glasgow, there has been a landmark victory for class action and environment campaigners in Indonesia. The Central District Court of Jakarta has ordered President Joko Widodo as well as Governor of Jakarta to clean up Jakarta's notorious air pollution, ruling that the Indonesian administration had been negligent in protecting citizens. The case summary is below and has also been added to Litigasia.
Citizen air pollution case
Year of the decision: 2021
Status: decision rendered on September 16, 2021
Court: Central Jakarta District Court
Parties: Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), Greenpeace Indonesia, and Friends of the Earth Indonesia (Walhi), as well as 31 people who joined the Clean Air Coalition (IBUKOTA) Vs. President of the Republic of Indonesia, the Minister of Environment and Forestry, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Home Affairs, the Governor of DKI Jakarta, as well as the co-defendants of the Governor of West Java, and the Governor of Banten
Case number: 374/PDT.G/LH/2019/PN.JKT.PST.
On July 4, 2019, a group of organization, association and residents from Indonesia filed a class action against the Indonesian government, including its president, Joko Widodo, Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan over the poor air quality in Jakarta.
The plaintiffs have raised the government’s failure to take meaningful actions to address the multiple sources of air pollution and requested it to update its safe threshold for pollutant exposure to be in line with global standards. The plaintiffs have also demanded that the Court considers the health of residents in examining the case and urged the defendants to promptly improve Jakarta’s air quality without waiting for the Court’s ruling, as the obligation of the defendants to guarantee the availability of clean air is imposed under the Constitution of Indonesia.
The defendants have counterargued that the air quality data provided by the plaintiffs is inaccurate, that the public is to blame for not taking mass transit, and that the problem isn’t as severe as it’s claimed to be by the plaintiffs. Among their demands, the plaintiffs also requested a comprehensive research-based plan to reduce air pollution, and an action plan to improve overall air quality across the country within five years. The plaintiffs have also required the government to systematically investigate and address all sources of air pollution.
On June 22, 2020, the Central Jakarta District Court has issued a preliminary decision that it has jurisdiction to preside over this lawsuit. Earlier on, the defendants filed a request asking the court to transfer the case to the jurisdiction of the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) based on the Supreme Court Regulation No. 2/2019 according to which any lawsuit on unlawful acts against the government to be handled by the PTUN. The Court dismissed defendants’ request and recognized the jurisdiction of the district court.
On September 16, 2021, the Central Jakarta District court issued a ruling in the plaintiffs’ favour. The presiding judge, Saifuddin Zuhri, ordered all seven officials, including the president of Indonesia, to tighten national air quality standards so they are "sufficient to protect human health, the environment and ecosystems, including the health of sensitive populations, based on science and technology”. The judges granted almost all of the plaintiffs’ requests, stating that the defendants had “committed an unlawful act by neglecting to take measures to control air pollution in Jakarta”. However, the judges dismissed a separate part of the lawsuit alleging the President had violated human rights.