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Adjournments Are The Bane of Civil Proceedings: How CPC Attempt To Answer This Criticism?

What Is Adjournment?

Denial of timely justice amount to denial of justice itself. Timely disposal of case is essential for maintaining the rule of law and providing access to justice which is guaranteed under the fundamental right.

When the hearing of evidence has once begun, the hearing of the suit shall be continued from day to day until all the witnesses in attendance have been examined, unless the Court finds the adjournment of the hearing beyond the following day to be necessary for reasons to be recorded[1]. Adjournment is a kind of hold to a current proceeding or postpones the proceeding to a later date.

Adjournment is entirely discretionary, but the discretion must be exercised in a judicial and reasonable manner not arbitrarily or with capriciousness manner No hard and fast test can be laid down as to how this discretion should be exercised on each occasion. It would vary according to the facts and circumstances of each case[2].

Adjournment will be given to both the parties to present their arguments with evidence to call witnesses or bring evidence to the court due to this adjournment will be granted to the parties and this leaves will often be repeated by lawyer, parties and judges this adjournment will be given for deliberately delaying the case. The Madras High Court observed in the case of Unit Traders vs. Commissioner of Customs[3]- that when there is a deliberate absence on the date of hearings the plea of denying natural justice is not admissible.

One of the most interesting arguments I encountered when I appeared as a witness for the prosecution in a CBI case where I had sanctioned the prosecution of a junior officer who had been found with property in excess of his known source of income. After a few minutes of cross-examination, the lawyer told the judge that there was a procession in the city and he wanted to exercise his democratic right to join the procession for which he wanted adjournment of the proceedings. The adjournment was readily granted.[4]

The reason stated by the writer if true then-lawyer and judges are the main show cause behind the delay in justice to parties. Sometimes even the parties because when the call for the hearing they will not appear then the court will dismiss the suit or pass an ex parte decree. Then the procedure of O.IX of civil Procedure Code will be applied. Adjournment which is a notorious problem in the functioning of the civil proceeding and criminal proceeding this rule of giving adjournment is a discretion of a court to grant time to parties with sufficient cause see if there is any sufficient cause then the only court can grant an adjournment

What Is The Effect Of Adjournment?

Adjournment affect the whole system of law or the whole system of justice there will be a notorious problem is affecting the functioning of the court this malady will erode the confidence of the people in the judiciary. Adjournment cannot be claimed as of right, as the adjournment is in the discretion of the Court and cannot be claimed as a right[5]. Adjournments contribute to delays in the disposal of cases. They also contribute to hardship, inconvenience and expense to the parties and the witnesses. The witness has no stake in the case and comes to assist the court to dispense justice. He sacrifices his time and convenience for this.

If the case is adjourned he is required to go to the court repeatedly. He is bound to feel unhappy and frustrated. This also gives an opportunity to the opposite party to threaten or induce him not to speak the truth. Adjournment considerably a delay in a suit even after amendments of Civil Procedure Code which restricts that no adjournment shall be granted more than three times. At present applications for adjournments are made in the apex court on grounds which would have been unthinkable before and which, if made, would have met with a thundering rejection. Today adjournments are the order of the day.

This practice must stop even though it may make the judge unpopular. Judges are not participating in a popularity contest.[6] As an article by IIM Calcutta states about the Adjournment There is a huge delay due to the processes of court functioning during the trial stage for reasons namely non-attendance of witnesses, non-appearance of lawyers, lengthy oral arguments, arbitrary adjournments and delayed judgments, the study said. Adjournment for even passing judgment took an average nine weeks, while court holidays and strikes consumed about five weeks. Then there were other causes of delay such as the absence of lawyers of both plaintiff and the defendant and quite often, court entertaining requests for postponement due to delay in producing the required information[7].

The lawyers must not forget, that by seeking unnecessary adjournments, they are frustrating the legitimate right of one of the litigating party and thus by adopting dilatory tactics, they are creating a situation, where the litigating party may lose its faith in the judiciary. It is the duty of the courts to decide the matters as early as possible, and if the lawyers refuse to co-operate with the courts, then a time has come, where the court would be left with no option but to decide the matters on its own, by going through the record, and this situation would never help the litigating party.[8]

How Civil Procedure Code Attempt To Answer Adjournment?

Amendment Act 1999 (w.e.f 1-7-2002) some and most important medication has been amended with respect to O.XVII Rule 1 it has become obligatory for the court to record the reasons for adjournments of the hearing and restricts at the number of adjournments to three only during the hearing the suit. A civil suit should be decided at the earliest and in any case within one year from the date of its institution[9]. But the suit will continue more than 3 years even after so many precedents this rule is not following by judiciary.

This provision was challenged in the case of Salem Advocate Bar Assoc. v. Union of India[10] the provision limiting adjournments cannot be held to be ultra vires or unconstitutional in some extreme case it may become necessary to grant adjournment despite the fact of three adjournments have already been granted like the example of Bhopal gas tragedy, riots and other extremely serious matter then Court can grant an adjournment.

While considering the factor necessary to keep in mind the legislative intent to restrict the grant of adjournments. Even the committee hold by Justice V.S Malimath made a recommendation on adjournment in criminal and civil reform that adjournment should be granted only when the court finds it necessary and reason should be recorded to give adjournment this condition is not followed the Committee proposed an Arrears Eradication Scheme to tackle cases that are pending for more than two years. Under the scheme, such cases will be settled through Lok Adalats on a priority basis. These cases will be heard on a day-to-day basis and no adjournment shall be permitted [11].

Conclusion
Adjournments which a notorious problem in the functioning of courts by granting time to parties without sufficient cause then this is a mistake on part of judges they do have a discretion they can pass any order which they think fit so even if the parties are not appearing the court can dismiss or pass an ex parte decree. Even this is not working a reasonable amount should be imposed wherever court deems fit so. The deliberate intention is to delay the matter which is present before the court of law.

The reason will be stated by parties, a lawyer on the ground that sudden illness or physical ailment for that fact evidence will be given that evidence should properly examine if there is any proof that evidence which was given was false immediate action should be taken against them in terms of fine or misleading court of law or wasting court time can be considered as willful disobedience of the process of court. By concluding the fact that adjudicator or the court should see that there should not be any undue advantage of adjournment by giving frivolous adjournment.

End-Notes:
  1. Provisio to R 1 O.17 Kishan Lal Gupta v. Dujodwala Industries, AIR 1977 Del 49
  2. Makbul v. Sidik, A 1966 Or 41
  3. Unit Traders vs. Commissioner of Customs 2012(281) ELT659 (Mad.
  4. Mukhopadhyay, S. (2019). Adjournment should not be used to cause delay. [online] Business-standard.com. Available at: https://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/adjournment-should-not-be-used-to-cause-delay-113063000518_1.html [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].
  5. Chandra Prakash Ojha v. District Judge Barielly, AIR 2004 All 204.
  6. SORABJEE, SOLI J. Role of the Judiciary—Boon or Bane? India International Centre Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 3, 1993, pp. 1–17. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23003966. [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].
  7. News, I. (2019). What delays the delivery of justice in lower courts? IIM study finds out | India News - Times of India. [online] The Times of India. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/what-delays-delivery-of-justice-in-lower-courts-iim-study-finds-out/articleshow/71679266.cms [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].
  8. SANJAY PINTO, ‘Time' for adjournments running out? Deccan Chronicle (2019), https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/in-other-news/160219/time-for-adjournments-running-out.html (last visited Oct 22, 2019).
  9. Anita Bhandari v. Union of India, 2003 (2) Guj LR 1093
  10. Salem Advocate Bar Assoc. v. Union of India, AIR 2005 SC 3353.
  11. Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs headed by Justice V.S Malimath.

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