No more adjournment letters in after-notice bail cases: Supreme Court

Adjournments are a major factor for pendency, delay in court hearings, and a money-drainer for litigants

Updated - February 14, 2024 11:51 pm IST

Published - February 14, 2024 04:22 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A circular issued by the Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would not entertain letters of adjournment from lawyers in bail and anticipatory bail cases for which notice had been earlier issued by the court.

A circular issued by the Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would not entertain letters of adjournment from lawyers in bail and anticipatory bail cases for which notice had been earlier issued by the court. | Photo Credit: ANI

Adjournments, denounced as a major factor for pendency, delay in court hearings, and a money-drainer for litigants, is no longer going to be easy in the Supreme Court.

A circular issued by the Supreme Court on Wednesday said it would not entertain letters of adjournment from lawyers in bail and anticipatory bail cases for which notice had been earlier issued by the court.

Letters of adjournment are last-minute requests by parties for postponement of cases listed before a Bench of the court. The letters are filed in the Registry and circulated to the opposing parties. The case, when called for hearing in the day, is usually adjourned if all the parties agree. Usually, they do as a matter of professional courtesy.

The court said such letters seeking adjournment would also not be entertained in cases in which exemption from surrendering has already been granted; cases in which an interim order favouring the party seeking the adjournment is already in operation; and in matters in which suspension of sentence has been sought.

This would mean that the parties must necessarily appear in court in these categories of cases and the Bench would take a decision, in its own discretion, on whether to grant an adjournment.

In other cases, the circular said the request for adjournment of a case could be circulated till a day prior to the publication of the main list of cases. However, the request should contain the specific reason for seeking adjournment and the number of postponements sought earlier in the case.

The circular said a party or counsel can only circulate an adjournment letter once in a case.

The court would not allow consecutive adjournments, irrespective of which party in the case is making the request.

If a case is adjourned, it should be listed within four weeks. The specific date for the hearing would be given to the parties. No oral mentioning would be permitted to advance the date.

Finally, the Supreme Court made it clear that no letter would be permitted for adjourning fresh cases or regular hearing matters.

Both the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) had registered their protest against the move. A group of 281 lawyers had written to the Chief Justice of India raising their objections. The court had in turn constituted a committee of judges to prepare a standard operating procedure (SoP) on adjournments.

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