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Supreme Court introduces new ground rules to seek adjournments

ByAbraham Thomas
Feb 14, 2024 09:52 PM IST

The new guidelines also require lawyers to get the consent of the opposing side before circulating a request for an adjournment and prohibit two consecutive adjournments

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a circular tightening provisions relating to circumstances under which lawyers may seek adjournment of cases and imposed a bar on seeking two consecutive adjournments.

New Delhi, India- Sept 25, 2018: A view of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, India on Tuesday, September 25, 2018. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/ Hindustan Times) (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

The new guidelines also require lawyers to get the consent of the opposing side before circulating a request for an adjournment, prohibit two consecutive adjournments in a case and mandate that the party seeking an adjournment will not only have to list a specific reason for making the request but also indicate the total number of adjournments already sought in the case.

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The radical changes sought to be introduced by the new guidelines come two weeks after Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud spoke about the challenges presented by the “adjournment culture” in his foundation day lecture on the Supreme Court’s 75th year of establishment on January 28.

Wednesday’s circular started with a quick list of circumstances when the court will not entertain a request for an adjournment.

“Circulating letters for adjournment in fresh and regular hearing matters is not permitted.” In matters where notice has been issued, the top court’s instruction said, “No letters for adjournment shall be entertained in cases relating to bail/anticipatory bail, where an exemption from surrendering has been granted, where interim order is operating in favour of the party who seeks adjournment, and where suspension of sentence has been sought for.” In all other cases, the letter of adjournment will be entertained a day before the case list’s publication.

The new rules also stipulate that “letters (for adjournment) can be circulated by one party/counsel to the case only once.”

The circular makes it mandatory to obtain consent/no objection of advocates/parties appearing on the opposite side before moving a letter of adjournment. “Two consecutive adjournments, irrespective of which party is seeking an adjournment, shall not be permitted without the matter being listed before the Court.”

When a matter does get adjourned, it will have to be listed before the court within the following four weeks and no request to mention the matter to seek to advance the given date will be permitted, the circular said.

The circular also introduced a form that will need to be filled out to standardise the information that will need to be shared.

In his January 28 address, CJI Chandrachud deprecated the adjournment culture in courts.

“Our ability to remain relevant as an institution requires us to recognise challenges and begin difficult conversations. First, we must emerge out of the adjournment culture to a culture of professionalism and second, we have to ensure that the length of oral arguments does not interminably delay judicial outcomes.”

He further said, “The 75th year since the founding provides an opportunity to meet these challenges and step into the future with an honest assessment of our progress.”

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