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‘Adjournment culture’ must end

Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud’s comment that he does not want the Supreme Court to become a ‘tareekh pe tareekh’ court highlights a serious problem faced by the country’s courts at all levels. The CJI was pointing to the ‘adjournment culture’ that prevails in courts and has become the bane of the judicial system. Repeated adjournments of cases work against the interest of litigants. Lawyers are known to seek adjournments of cases for the flimsiest of reasons. The CJI said that on the day he made the comment there were 178 adjournment slips, and in the two months of September and October, there were 3,688 adjournment requests. He did not spare judges eitherfor the problem. The CJI requested members of the bar not to seek adjournments unless it was “really really” necessary. Last year, he had refused to adjourn a case saying that the court wanted to change the perception about itself.

Frequent adjournments defeat the ends of justice just as theyhurt litigants in many ways. Poor litigants are affected most because adjournments cost money and the right to get an early decision in cases. Justice delayed is justice denied, therefore the judicial system should ensure that timely justice is delivered to those who approach it. There are cases which are adjourned many times for some reason or the other. Adjournments are sought even for cases which are listed for urgent hearing. The CJImentioned that there were at least 2,361 cases mentioned by lawyers for assignment of early dates of hearing, but most of them were requested to be deferred when they came up before the benches concerned. Such adjournments also cause a big waste of resources at a time when money and judicial time should be utilised in the best possible manner. Courts from the lowest level to the Supreme Court are facing the problem.

There is a mountain of pending cases in the country and it is growing. Minister of Law and Justice Arjun Ram Meghwal told the Rajya Sabha in July this year that over 50 million cases were pending in various courts.Millions of them are there because they have been adjourned many times. Delays caused by adjournments will cause people to lose trust in the judicial system. The Law Commission has also called for limiting adjournments in order to reduce the pendency of cases. Adjournments are a necessary and legitimate tool on the judicial system. But what the courts have been witnessing over the years is gross misuse of the facility. All those who have a stake in the system of justice should see to it that adjournments are not used toundermine the system.

(Published 09 November 2023, 19:39 IST)

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