The Delhi High Court slammed the culture of adjournment that has created major bottlenecks in the country’s justice delivery system. The “latitude” shown by its courts is a reason why lawyers’ attempts to let a case drag on succeed, it observed.
Justice S N Dhingra said, “It is seen that these efforts of dragging the case succeeds because of the latitude shown by the High Court in allowing such mercy pleas and in acceding to requests of granting one more opportunity. It looks as if there is an understanding between the courts and the advocates that come what may, the orders of trial courts refusing adjournments shall be set aside on mercy pleas and one more opportunity shall be granted.”
The judge added, “It is because of this attitude that in almost all the cases where the advocates intend to drag the case, either they let the case get proceeded ex parte (without representation) or they do not examine the witnesses or seek adjournment subject to a cost that they do not pay. And when the evidence is closed, they rush to the High Court and pray for one more opportunity, which they normally get with some more costs.”
Justice Dhingra expressed anguish at the frequent pleas moved by the lawyers to get more opportunities to examine witnesses after the lower courts declined them more chances. The observation was made as he dismissed a similar application moved by a woman who was refused another opportunity to examine a witness by a guardianship judge in March and July last year.
“The entire unwritten procedure, which is followed on the basis of previous precedents, has created bottlenecks in the entire judicial system and a lot of the court’s efforts and time is wasted. Efficiency comes down,” the court noted.
It also slammed the lawyers for seeking adjournments on frivolous grounds. “A separate breed of advocates has cropped up: ‘adjournment experts’ and ‘case dragging experts’. Such advocates are deliberately engaged who put forward all kinds of excuses to see that the case is adjourned. “
Looking to improve the conditions prevailing in the courts, Justice Dhingra further appealed the litigants to be “vigilant” and not leave everything on their advocates. “I consider this culture has to be brought to an end and no petition setting aside orders of the trial court, wherein cross-examination is closed or other steps are taken by them to enforce the procedures laid down by the statutes concerned, should be allowed on the ground that the petitioner should not suffer for the negligence of the counsel.”
The court suggested a litigant should engage another counsel if he/she found his counsel was not diligently handling the case and should also claim damages from such lawyers.