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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Menace of Adjournments in the Indian Legal System

Litigants, through adjournments, are abusing the system of delivery of justice in India.
The relevant provision (Order XVII Rule 1 of the Civil Procedure Code) fixes the maximum number of adjournments to be allowed to a party at three. However, this is not a mandatory provision and the Court has the discretion to grant more than three adjournments to a party if they present before the Court a 'justifiable cause'.

Litigants are too ready to seek, and Courts are too ready to grant adjournments. Judges often display misplaced sympathy and indulgence for the litigants and the legal proceedings are lengthened beyond reasonable time. Litigants look for adjournments for things like the advocate forgetting the papers at home or having lost them – and these are granted as well.

In a recent case, the Supreme Court dealt with the prevalence of adjournments in the Indian legal system, and said that the 'justifiable cause' mentioned in the Civil Procedure Code refers to “a compelling necessity like sudden illness of the litigant or the witness or the lawyer; death in the family of any one of them; natural calamity like floods, earthquake, etc. in the area where any of these persons reside; an accident involving the litigant or the witness or the lawyer on way to the court and such like cause.”

Adjournments are a menace to the legal system in India, and judges should realize that they need to become sensitive to delays in the pronouncement of judgements. If the widespread misuse of adjournments is not checked, the public will lose faith in the justice system.

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