A Brief Note on Law Development in Batavia

When the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company or VOC) came to Indonesia in 1596, the Dutch found out that there were already existing small kingdoms (kerajaan or kesultanan)  with their own law and order. While being different, the Dutch did not  eliminate and disregard such law and order. Instead, there were two applicable legal systems in Indonesia back then; Dutch law, which was applied to Netherland citizens, and customary law for native Indonesians.

In the beginning, the applicable law for Dutch citizens in VOC commercial centers was the so-called “the law of the commercial boat” or “hukum kapal”, consisted of the ancient Dutch law and Roman law principles, and mostly disciplinary order.

Due to the trade development and social interaction within VOC-controlled territories, the so-called “hukum kapal” was not sufficient enough to settle the disputes. VOC’s commercial centers needed new laws and regulations to fulfill their need.

VOC’s wish was finally answered in 1609, when the Staten General of the Netherlands authorized the Governor General VOC and Raad van Indie in Banten to issue new laws and regulations for VOC interest. Since then, the applicable laws and regulations in VOC-controlled territories are those that were issued by VOC Governor General and Raad van Indie in Banten.

In addition, the VOC Board of Directors (Heeren Zeventien) also issued other implementing regulations for VOC-controlled territories, which were announced in Plakat (Plakaat). Due to so many issued plakat, these documents were not well-managed and well-collected by the VOC. This had caused a considerable disorder when the public did not exactly know which plakat that was still applicable.

As a solution, Governor General van Diemen ordered Mr. Joan Maetsuycker to collect and those plakat. The effort was finished in 1642 and it was titled as “Statuten van Batavia”, validized by Heeren Zeventien in 1650. Since 1650, there were three applicable law in VOC-controlled territories: Statute van Batavia, ancient Dutch law, and Roman law principles.

When the Jacatra kingdom lost its power in on 30 Mei 1619, Governor General Coen established a court at Casteel van Batavia in 1620, under the name “d’ ordinaries luyden van den Gerichte in’t Casteel”, located in Stadhuis.

In 1626, the court’s name was changed into “Ordinaris Raad van Justitie binnen het Casteel Batavia”. The court was appointed in 1798 as an oversight institution for every court in VOC-controlled territories, and the name was changed again into “Hooge Raad van Justitie”.

There was also a court (similar to pengadilan negeri) in Batavia, under the name of College van Schepenen. The court consisted of two VOC employees and two Batavia citizens. If the court handled a case related to Chinese descendant, another official, namely Kapitien der Chinezen, was added into the court.

At the end of the day, “College van Schepenen” became the main court for all Batavia citizens. The composition of the court itself consisted of three VOC employees, four Batavia citizens, and two Chinese descendants. It is fair to say that “College van Schepenen” was the embryo of “Raad van Justitite Batavia”.

Note: Picture is taken from here


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