PN, PA, PT, MA, and PK


The initials stand for
  • PNPengadilan Negeri or National Court, the local court which first hears the case.
  • PAPengadilan Agama or Religious Court which replaces the PN for divorce, child custody, and division of marital assets under Islamic law for marriages which originally took place under Islamic law.
  • PTPengadilan Tinggi or High Court, the court of first appeal for decisions of the PN or PA. The PT is located in the same judicial district or at least the same regional district as the PN.
  • MAMahkamah Agung or Supreme Court, the court of final appeal located in Jakarta. The appeal is called a kasasi or “cassation”, and a decision of the Mahkamah Agung is a Putusan Tetap or Final Decision.
  • PKPeninjauan Kembali or Extraordinary Appeal. This actually also takes place at the Mahkamah Agung. The Final Decision of the kasasi is not necessarily so final after all. A PK is supposed to be based on the appearance of new evidence not available in the original trial, or on gross judicial error. But in fact a request for a PK can be entered based on any spurious claim of gross error.

These courts hear both civil and criminal cases—excepting of course the Pengadilan Agama which hears only civil cases involving Islamic law.

To quote from a well-recognized judicial authority:

“In the current era there has developed a fashion for entering every possible appeal. It does not matter whether the decision of the PN or the PT is clear and exact or not. The point is to enter appeals regardless of whether the appeals are irrational and a waste of time and expense.”

“This practice has now become normal. Obtaining a Final Decision requires a long process, going through every stage of trial starting with the PN as the court of first instance, then the PT as the court of appeal, then to the MA for another decision of kasasi. This means that to obtain a Final Decision which can finally be enforced by law is a long and exhausting proses. The proses can become even longer if one side wishes to take advantage of the extraordinary appeal. ”

from Hukum Acara Perdata by M. Yahya Harahap, Sinar Grafika 2013, p. 708


The reason for this uncontrolled proliferation of appeals is that whichever side loses at a lower level has no reason not to appeal. The appeal itself is simple and has no requirements for content aside from the entry of a Letter of Appeal within 14 days of receiving the previous decision. The Letter of Appeal is simple, only stating that a party is entering an appeal, while the detailed Memo of Appeal or Memori Banding does not need to be entered until many weeks later.

The decision of a lower court is held in abeyance or status quo while a decision is on appeal. The Putusan Tetap or Final Decision is only final if the parties do not file for appeal within the requisite 14 days, or with the Final Decision of the Mahkamah Agung in kasasi. Even that Final Decision can be difficult to execute if a party has entered a PK appeal.

Status quo means that nothing changes, there is no granting of relief as known in the Common Law system, meaning no interim court orders pending a Final Decision. If your case involves child custody, nothing changes, and there is no Family Court to mediate visitation or support. In cases involving property or businesses, whoever has managed to gain control of the assets by force will maintain control throughout the appeals processes.

There are provisions for relief and interim judgments; they are called Putusan Sela or Putusan Serta Merta or U.V. (for the unpronouncable Dutch term uitvoerbaar bij voorraad), but they are seldom granted. There is no good and obvious legal reason why not; they just are not.

There are recent attempts to speed up the appeals, mandating for instance that the Mahkamah Agung must render decisions within six weeks, but whether they will have permanent effect remains to be seen.

Just a few years ago a reasonable timeline for a lawsuit might be:

  • PN—six months,
  • PT—three months,
  • MA—two years,
  • PK—two years.

If the mandates to speed up the work of the Mahkamah Agung are effective, time required for a typical lawsuit might shrink from five years to one year.

But the problems are not over when one party obtains a Final Decision, because the decision must still be enforced. If the losing party is in possession of the property or business and they refuse to cooperate, the decision must be enforced with an eksekusi (not actually an “execution” no matter the wishes of the winning party) involving a further court ruling called a Penetapan, and action by the police to carry out the Penetapan which might include physically removing the occupants from a property or sealing a business.