Prof. Dr. Enny Nurbaningsih, S.H.,M.Hum.

Lady Justice Ready to Work in Silence

Enny Nurbaningsih was finally appointed to replace Maria Farida Indrati as the only female constitutional justice in Indonesia. She was chosen by the justice selection committee after going through a very tough selection process.

The lady justice, who was appointed by President Joko Widodo, had never any thought of becoming a constitutional justice. Young Enny originally dreamed of becoming a teacher. For her, teaching was not only a profession, but also a life calling. “Teaching was a life that I enjoyed and loved so much,” she said describing her dream when she was young.

According to Enny, teaching was not only for her own self-development, but also to transfer knowledge and experiences to the students she taught. The former Head of the National Law Development Agency (BPHN) of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, who was born in Pangkal Pinang on June 27, 1962 also shared that by teaching, she was able to build character and teach great life values to her students.

Another thing that Enny loved as much as teaching was the law. Since in high school, she was already determined to become a Bachelor of Law. To pursue that dream, she was willing to move from Pangkal Pinang to Yogyakarta in order to enroll in the Faculty of Law at Gadjah Mada University. In 1981, she finished her studies and received her law degree. Her journey did not stop there, as young Enny had a motto to live by: work hard, work smart, work sincerely. She pursued her other dream as teacher or lecturer at her alma mater. 

She did not only teach or give lectures, but was also actively involved in organizations related to her major, which was constitutional law, such as Parliament Watch, which she established along with former Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court (2008-2013) Mahfud MD back in 1998. The organization was established mainly to supervise the parliament as a regulator. “During the Reform Era, through several discussions, we felt then that we were needed by an organization that served as a watchdog of the parliament,” said Enny, who was also a Professor of Law at Gadjah Mada University.

It was not her only contribution to the society; she was also involved in preparing regulations both at district and national levels. Her commitment in exploring that path was driven by the thought that it was what this country really needed. She then was often asked to speak and lend her expertise.

“Everything happened without much planning. Later, I explored and studied legislation and constitutional law. I was then chosen as the Head of the National Law Development Agency (BPHN) of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights for four years,” she explained.

Asked about her new responsibility as a constitutional justice, Enny stated that she had never planned it. When she saw the opportunity, she was interested in becoming a female representation among the constitutional justices.

“I thought it would be interesting if I joined the Constitutional Court as a constitutional justice to put my knowledge and experiences regarding constitutional law and legislation to practice. That was the reason I applied to join the selection process,” she said.

Enny also shared that she applied as a candidate in the last minute of the selection process thanks to the support and encouragement she received from friends and colleagues at university. “At that time, because there was an opportunity to represent women in the Constitutional Court, many of my friends asked and encouraged me to apply. Therefore, I decided to try,” she reminisced.

Working in Silence

After being appointed as a constitutional justice, the wife of R. Sumendro realized that being a constitutional justice meant working in silence among the crowd. She knew that her responsibility as a constitutional justice to decide upon a case should be righteous, meaning that she should remain impartial. It also meant that as a constitutional justice, her family and social life would have to be restricted to avoid taking sides.

“If many people file cases to the Constitutional Court, my life would even be more restricted. As constitutional justices, we are not allowed to interact with the people involved with the cases. The more people file their cases, the smaller our social circle would be, the fewer people we would be able to interact with. Thus, justices indeed work in silence even though they are among the crowd,” she added when interviewed after a hearing.

For Enny, “the silence” can also be interpreted that when a constitutional justice is in the middle of deciding upon a case, he/she will “dig deep” to examine the case. However, Enny does not view it as a hardship; instead, she prefers to view it in a positive light as she explained, “It is like being in a silent position. A constitutional justice is a profession where we would not speak much, as the only time we speak is during court hearing. Therefore, we should not be influenced by anyone.”

During her tenure as the head of the National Law Development Agency (BPHN) of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, she was in the executive branch which demanded interactions. On the contrary, now that she has become a justice, she has to adapt and get used to the silence. She tries to minimize interactions in order to maintain her integrity as a constitutional justice.

Enny said the heavy weight of being a constitutional justice required her to be savvy about avoiding any conflict of interest. However, since the beginning, she has prepared to take the risk when applying for the position. The mother to a daughter, who enjoys swimming and cooking as a hobby, has already studied The Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct comprehensively. The code details six principles that a justice should have: independence, impartiality, integrity, propriety, equality, competence, and diligence.

“When I expressed my intention to apply for the constitutional justice position, I had already learned the dos and don’ts of a justice as listed in The Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct. I hold on to those things very deeply because as a justice I must avoid any conflict of interest,” she firmly stated.

Adaptable

Speaking of adapting, she claimed that the justice officers of the Constitutional Court have helped her immensely. They play a role in helping her understanding and examining cases.

“The first time I [started working at the Court], I directly coordinated with the justice officers here. The chief registrar, researchers, justice secretary, and I sat and discussed the cases that I had to catch up on. Moreover, the Constitutional Court is in the middle of handling the regional election disputes settlement (PHPKada) with a deadline of only 45 days. I need to accelerate and adjust my speed so as not to be left behind. I also received a lot of new information on democracy in the hearings,” she said.

On her vision and mission as a constitutional justice, she explained that a constitutional justice must share the institution’s vision and mission as—in this case the Constitutional Court. She said that a constitutional justice should be able to be independent, impartial, and fair. “Aside from that, a constitutional justice must also maintain the dignity and honor of the Constitutional Court,” she said.

Full Support

For Enny, her career is thanks to the full support from her beloved husband and daughter. The mother of daughter Prajaningrum Nurendra said that her family understood the true risks of her position as a constitutional justice. Their family time will be reduced due to the intensity of her work, especially during the PHPKada, but both her husband and daughter fully understand the risk.

"They actually advised me to work to fulfill the mandate given to me. Even when it means that our family time is reduced, it was a risk I took and they understand it well,” she said.

Enny also hopes that the Constitutional Court will continue to be better in the future. According to her, the Constitutional Court has an important role in determining the direction of legal development in Indonesia through its decisions. "The Constitutional Court's decisions can determine many things, since a person is still in the womb until he/she dies. For example, a decision on capital punishment or a decision on children born out of wedlock. That shows how the Constitutional Court's decisions greatly determines a person's rights," she said.