1st Indonesian Minister of Law and Human Rights
In office
19 August 1945 – 14 November 1945
Preceded byPost created
Succeeded bySoewandi
In office
20 December 1949 – 6 September 1950
Preceded bySusanto Tirtoprodjo
Succeeded byAbdoel Gaffar Pringgodigdo
Personal details
Born(1903-01-22)22 January 1903
Sukoharjo, Central Java, Dutch East Indies
Died12 September 1958(1958-09-12) (aged 55)
Jakarta, Indonesia

Soepomo (22 January 1903 – 12 September 1958), known as the father of Indonesia's constitution,[1] was Indonesia's first Minister of Justice, serving in the Presidential Cabinet from 19 August to 14 November 1945 and from 20 December 1949 to 6 September 1950.

Early life

Soepomo was born in Sukoharjo, Central Java, Dutch East Indies on 22 January 1903.[2] He came from a noble family; his maternal and paternal grandfathers were high-ranking government officials.[2]

Soepomo began his schooling at the Europeesche Lagere School in Boyolali in 1917, later studying at a Meer Uitgebreid Lagere Onderwijs in Surakarta beginning in 1920.[2] In 1923 he moved to Batavia, where he studied at the Bataviasche Rechtsschool.[2] After graduating, he initially took a job at a court in Surakarta,[3] later going to Leiden, Netherlands to spend three years studying at Leiden University under Cornelis van Vollenhoven. He graduated in 1927, with his thesis, entitled "Reorganisatie van het Agrarisch Stelsel in het Gewest Soerakarta" ("Agrarian System Reform in the Surakarta Area"), containing both a description of the agrarian system in Surakarta and veiled critiques of Dutch colonialism.[2]

After his return from the Netherlands, Soepomo became a court employee in Yogyakarta, later being transferred to the Justice Department in Jakarta.[4] While serving at the Justice Department, he took a side job as a guest lecturer at the Institute of Law there.[4] He joined the youth group Jong Java, and wrote a paper entitled "Perempuan Indonesia dalam Hukum" ("Indonesian Women and Law"), which he presented with Ali Sastroamidjojo at the 1928 Women's Congress.[3]

Father of the Indonesian constitution

On 1 March 1945, the final year of the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, the Japanese administration established the Investigating Committee for Preparatory Work for Independence (BPUPK) on 1 March 1945 to work on "preparations for independence in the region of the government of this island of Java". Soepomo became one of the 62 members. In the first session, which lasted from 29 May to 1 June, he expressed support for the future Indonesia to be a strong unitary state, arguing that it was in accordance with Indonesian societal norms. He also spoke out against the idea of an Islamic state. On 1 June 1945, future president Sukarno made a speech, in which he outlined the future basis of the state, the five-element Pancasila. During the BPUPK recess, this was subsequently incorporated into a preamble for the future constitution, the Jakarta Charter by a Committee of Nine, which did not include Soepomo.[5]

When the BPUPK reconvened for its second session, which began on 10 July, a 19-member committee was set up to produce a draft constitution, and Soepomo played the dominant role in its deliberations, which took place over three days. He deliberately produced a constitution that had a strong central government with power concentrated with the president, and without a clear system of checks and balances, in line with his opinions. Specifically, he supported integralist totalitarianism based on the family ideology and proposed the Indonesian state be modelled on Nazi Germany and Imperal Japan.[6] He believed this system would avoid conflicts of interest between the government and the people. In the discussions, he was strongly opposed by Mohammad Yamin, who called for a more western-style democracy with guarantees for human rights. Future vice-president Hatta also wanted a bill of rights to be included, but Sukarno sided with Soepomo. The compromise reached Article 28, which stated that human rights would be regulated by law. After heated discussions, particularly over the role of religion n the news state, the draft constitution and preamble were accepted on 16 July.[7][8][9][10][11]

Following the surrender of Japan, on 17 August 1945, Sukarno and Hatta proclaimed Indonesian independence. The following day, the Preparatory Committee for Indonesian Independence (PPKI), which had been formed on 7 August, met and approved the draft constitution produced by the BPUPK committee.[9]

The constitution also had an elucidation providing further information about the preamble and body, which was also written by Soepomo. As this was not a product of the BPUPK or the PPKI, its legal status was uncertain.[11]

Dr. Soepomo (left) on a visit to the Netherlands in 1951
Dr. Soepomo (left) on a visit to the Netherlands in 1951

Post-independence career

After his terms as Minister of Justice, Soepomo became a lecturer at Gadjah Mada University,[4] as well as the Jakarta Police Academy.[3] He was also President of the University of Indonesia.[3] From 1954 to 1956, Soepomo was Indonesia's ambassador to the United Kingdom.[3][12]

Soepomo died in Surakarta on 12 September 1958.[2]


On 14 May 1965, Soepomo was posthumously declared a national hero of Indonesia by President Sukarno.[3]


  1. ^ Drooglever 1997, p. 69.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Bahari 2011, p. 12.
  3. ^ a b c d e f, Salah Satu Perumus.
  4. ^ a b c Bahari 2011, p. 13.
  5. ^ Elson 2009, pp. 108–111.
  6. ^ Bourchier, David (2016). Illiberal democracy in indonesia : the ideology of the family state. London and New York: Taylor & Francis. pp. 65–69. ISBN 9781138236721. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  7. ^ Anderson 1961, p. 18.
  8. ^ Kusuma & Elson 2011, p. 196.
  9. ^ a b Elson 2009, p. 114-118.
  10. ^ Butt & Lindsey 2012, pp. 39–41, 51.
  11. ^ a b Indrayana 2008, p. 98-100.
  12. ^ Embassy of Indonesia, Indonesian Ambassadors.


Diplomatic posts Preceded bySubandrio Ambassador of Indonesia to the United Kingdom 1954–1956 Succeeded bySoenario