In the highest court of the land, an adjournment is not just a simple shifting of dates. It represents a colossal drain on the time of an institution that is already weighed down by cases that make up among the heaviest rosters for apex courts anywhere. It adds not only to the thousands-strong backlog of cases clogging the judicial pipeline in the top court but also raises the barriers for accessing justice for the citizen, for whom each court date means additional financial and logistical strain.
Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud emphasised this point last week when he urged lawyers not to let the Supreme Court devolve into a “tareekh pe tareekh” (a date after date) court. He disclosed that lawyers asked for adjournments in 3,688 cases in the last two months while most of these cases were mentioned for urgent hearings. This, the CJI argued, eroded the trust of citizens in this court and tarnished the image of the court in the eyes of the people. He also underlined the scale of the problem, noting that on average, every miscellaneous day, 154 adjournment notices were circulated. Worse still, he said 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.
The CJI’s criticism sheds light on an important point and must seep through to every level of the judiciary to effect a structural change. Adjournments are a necessary tool in the judicial system, of course, but these should not be used cavalierly, or as a stalling mechanism. The court’s time is precious, as is the money and effort of every litigant.
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