How Adjournments Adjourn Justice
The meaning of the word "adjourn" is to suspend till a later time. Indian law defines adjournment as a suspension of legal proceedings to another time or place. The unwanted ‘adjournment culture’ has never been new to the legal system in India. Cases pile up when they are adjourned for years and take years to be heard and finally settled.
Examples of Adjourned Cases
In July 2010, a matter came up before the Delhi High Court, and an adjournment was sought by a lawyer who cited vague reasons. However, it was observed that after two days the same advocate presented the same case, before another Bench. The court recommended the complainant to seek relief from the Bar Council of India, against the advocate for causing unnecessary delay.
In another case, the court imposed a fine of Rs. 5,000 on Lily Jassawalla who sought adjournment of her case on 20 occasions citing vague reasons. The court observed that such unnecessary delays have caused harassment to the complainant.
Safeguards From Adjournment of Cases
As per order XVII of the Code of Civil Procedure, a case can be adjourned for a maximum of three times on the request of a party, during the course of a lawsuit. It also stipulates that an adjournment will be approved only for valid reasons, which were beyond the control of a party. However, unnecessary delay of justice due to adjournment of cases continues to be practised in Indian Courts. The major cause of this issue is the general absence of proper enforcement of Indian laws. Moreover, insufficient awareness among public adds to the ineffectivesness of the system.
How Adjournment Can Be Made Justice-Friendly
The following initiatives will also help to deliver speedy justice:
- Judges should be more stringent while approving adjournments and also adhere to Indian laws on adjournment.
- Fixed time limits should be set for filing of documents. Advocates often take months to file their documents.
- Vacancies should be filled up, to overcome the shortage of judicial staff.
- The working hours of the courts should be increased.
- Court holidays should be reduced.
The High Courts and the Supreme Courts can make the system function better by ensuring that the cases are time bound. Special fast track courts with designated criminal jurisdiction should be established.