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Judicial Delays: A menace

Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied- William E. Gladstone

This phrase has become too clichéd in contemporary times. It implies if justice is not being given out in due time, even if it is given later, it is not really justice as there will be an injustice for a considerable period of time[1]. Judicial delays are one of the major problems faced by the Indian Judiciary which affects the right of speedy trial of the accused granted under article 21 of the Indian constitution and also dilutes the faith of the public on the judiciary.[2]

There are several reasons such as inadequacy of judges and courts, vexatious litigations, multiple adjournments, and many more causes.[3] Adjournments (which account for more than 50%) have been a major cause for delay in judicial proceedings which is caused not only by lawyers but also by judges to a certain extent.[4]
Thesis Statement
In this paper, I have made the following thesis statements:
  1. The phrases Sufficient cause and Exceptional Circumstances in Rule 1 of Order XVII of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 which limits the adjournments to three per case should be applied more stringently and without exception.
  2. Changes can be made to Order XVII of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 and Section 309 of Criminal Procedure code, 1973 to include judge's liability for undue delay in cases.

  1. Rule 1(1) of Order XVII of the Code of Civil Procedure (which acts with adjournments) entails that the Court may grant an adjournment to "a party" where "a sufficient cause" has been established.[5] Sub-Rule (2) of that Rule then goes on to state that an adjournment is to be accorded only if the circumstances are beyond the control of the party seeking an adjournment; that the pleading of the party entering another court is not a ground for an adjournment; and that the sickness of the pleader may be a reason for an adjournment if it can be shown that the party did not have sufficient time to make another plea. Everyone is asking adjournments at the drop of hat is the view of Justice G.R.Gawai on the menace of adjournments in India where some counsel is asking for it on the grounds of lack of preparation and time.[6]
  2. There has to be a sufficient cause for adjournment. Seeking unnecessary adjournment on non-existent grounds with the motive of obstructing the proceeding of a case are instances of deviant conduct, tending to meddle with justice, inviting the wrath of contempt.[7]

    The Supreme Court of India rejected the application of adjournment on the ground of counsel being out of station by stating that adjournment cannot be granted on frivolous grounds and is not a reasonable cause for entertaining the application of adjournment.[8] As per Sub-Rule(2), the court imposes certain costs which ordinarily does not exceed fifty rupees in case of an ordinary suit and hundred in case of the special suit as per amendment by Bombay HC.[9] These costs are so trivial that they don't act as a deterrent for the filing of multiple adjournments. Indian Legislation could add proviso of imposing high costs on each adjournment without reasonable cause.
  3. Many advocated or counsels delay cases unnecessarily due to their propensity of earning higher professional fees.[10] According to a government panel, the principle of a maximum of three adjournments per case is not being followed in over 50% of cases leading to delay in decisions.[11] Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts (Amendment)Act,2018 should be made applicable to establish commercial courts to quicken the dispensing of justice in commercial disputes.
  4. In the case Nandu alias Gandharva Singh v. Ratiram Yadav and others, the high court repeatedly denied the request of adjournment to the respondent for various reasons. The counsel for the respondent has not prepared the case in eleven months citing frivolous reasons i.e. an order of trial court could not be obtained due to the ignorance of the client (which is not the sufficient cause). These reasons cause the court to delay proceedings and also witnesses have to bear the brunt of delays. Such professional misconduct' on the part of advocate should be made punishable and that person must be barred from practice.

    Black Law Dictionary defines misconduct as A transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction from duty, unlawful behavior, willful in character, improper or wrong behavior; its synonyms are a misdemeanour, misdeed, misbehavior, delinquency, impropriety, mismanagement, offense, but not negligence or carelessness.[12] In this case, counsel was professionally negligent in not guiding his client to obtain a copy of the order and he himself did not make any efforts to contact the local authorities.

    Bar Council must also take action against advocated found guilty of professional misconduct by referring it to a disciplinary committee. The word misconduct' must be added to Order XVII to held lawyers responsible for vexatious adjournments in the proceedings. The statute should define the conditions of exceptional circumstances' rather than keeping it vague such that counsels can't produce any frivolous reason other than those specified in the statute
  5. Judiciary is equally responsible for delays in a court judgment. Trial and District court judges cannot abdicate their responsibility by giving in to the demand for adjournments and become silent spectators to the way proceedings are conducted. In the above case, the learned counsel sought an adjournment in a non-chalant manner and the same was granted by the court in a routine fashion.
All those who are involved in dispensing of justice which also includes the judges have to show dedication to this controversy to rest. Also, most of the judges grant an adjournment to senior lawyers who are busy in other cases without application of Order XVII. Rule 1 of Order XVII of CPC,1908 and Section 309 of CrPC,1973 must be amended in a way such that it included liability for a public officer (also includes judges) of the high court or any other whatsoever for delaying cases without sufficient cause and regard them with monetary compensation or punishment.

This strict regulation will act as a deterrent to the menace of judicial delays in India and reduce the court proceedings to a large extent. Unlike developed nations, Indian courts should limit the verbosity of arguments on behalf of advocates which stretch the case to several days to bill the client for multiple proceedings. Also, judges should limit the time of adjournment to a particular limit so that decision can't be delayed by long because adjourning cases to long periods makes no sense.
The tragedy is that the problem of judicial pendency - unlike many other issues the country faces - can be resolved: filling up vacancies by the government, courts being defiant with frivolous litigants and insouciant lawyers and efficient case-management would take us a long way there. Taking cues from previous cases, Indian courts should limit the practice of adjournments so as to pace up the justice dispensing system.
  1. Priyanka Mittal, Reducing delays in justice system will help India improve its ease of doing business ranking' Live Mint < > accessed 13 September 2019
  2. The Constitution of India Act, 1950, Art.21
  3. Pending Case in judiciary The Financial Express accessed 11 September 2019
  4. Vidhi Centre of legal Policy
  5. No Breaks, Please The Telegraph   accessed 11 September 2019
  6. Mulla , Code of Civil Procedure 16 Edn.(2013)
  7. Ram Siromani Tripathy & ORS. v. State of U. P. & ORS.
  8. ibid
  9. Sukumar Mukhopadhyay Adjournment should be used to cause delay Business Standard   accessed  10 September 2019
  10. Rule of Adjournments not being followed The Indian Express accessed 12 September 2019

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