Wednesday, September 22, 2010

‘Adjournments necessary part of complex legal proceedings’-Delhi HC

‘Adjournments necessary part of complex legal proceedings’-Delhi HC

22 Sep 2010

While one hears several orders by the courts slamming the practice of seeking adjournments, a Delhi High Court judge has an intriguing take on the same.

Adjudicating an appeal filed, not by the state or the complainant, but by an accused complaining of the several adjournments sought by the prosecution, Justice S N Dhingra observed it was being realistic in understanding the essential nuances of court proceedings in the manner they actually worked.

The judge defined adjournments in a trial as the “sine qua non” — a Latin legal maxim meaning an indispensable and essential action or condition— of the Indian justice delivery system. “Adjournments have become the sine qua non of our judicial system. When the trial court refuses to give adjournment, even on fake grounds, the other party approaches the next higher court. The next higher court normally allows such petitions and more delay in the trial occurs,” noted Justice Dhingra.

Given the tricky situation, it was better to defer the proceedings for a reasonable period, as it was the only “practical” move available, according to the judge. “Under the circumstances, I consider that the trial court always considers it better to give an adjournment instead of letting the case get delayed for several months. No fault can be found with this practical approach being adopted,” said Justice Dhingra.

Justice Dhingra was deciding an application by an accused, charged with murder and robbery, who claimed unnecessary adjournments were being sought by the prosecution. The judge called for the trial court records and asked the state prosecutor to give a chart detailing what had happened on every date of hearing. The chart showed that on several occasions, adjournments had been sought by both the prosecutor as well as the defence counsel jointly, hence no party could be blamed. Justice Dhingra then dismissed the petition. A senior prosecutor concurred, saying if the court was satisfied with the reasons, the Code of Criminal Procedure allowed adjournments to serve the ends of justice.

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