Report No. 154
39. Adjournment in Criminal Trials
39.1. Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which deals with postponement and adjournment of Criminal proceedings provides:
"(1) In every inquiry or trial, the proceedings shall be held as expeditiously as possible, and in particular, when the examination of witnesses has once begun, the same shall be continued from day to day until all the witnesses in attendance have been examined, unless the court finds the adjournment of the same beyond the following day to be necessary for reasons to be recorded.
(2) If the Court after taking cognizance of an offence, or commencement or trial, finds it necessary, or advisable to postpone the commencement of, or adjourn, any inquiry or trial, it may, from time to time, for reasons to be recorded, postpone or adjourn the same on such terms as it thinks fit, for such time as it considers reasonable, and may by a warrant remand the accrued if in custody:
Provided that no Magistrate shall remand an accused person to custody under this section for a term exceeding fifteen days at a time:
Provided further that when witnesses are in attendance, no adjournment or postponement shall be granted, without examining them, except for special reasons to be recorded in writing:
Provided also that no adjournment shall be granted for the purpose only of enabling the accused person to show cause against the sentence proposed to be imposed on him.
Explanation 1.-If sufficient evidence has been obtained to raise a Suspicion that the accused may have committed an offence, and it appears likely that further evidence may be obtained by a remand, this is a reasonable cause for a remand.
Explanation 2.-The terms on which an adjournment or postponement may be granted include, in appropriate cases, the payment of costs by the prosecution or the accused."
39.2 In A. Lakshman Rao v. Judicial Magistrate, AIR 1971 SC 186 the Supreme Court while examining the Constitutional validity of section 344 of the Code of 1898 which corresponds to section 309 of the Code of 1973 observed:
"Apart from the fact that it is only when either from the absence of a witness or some other reasonable cause the Court considers it either to be necessary or advisable to postpone the commencement of the inquiry or trial or adjourn the hearing of the case that the order can be made, the court is also required to record the order in writing giving the reasons why it thinks fit that the case should be postponed or adjourned. It is further open to the Court to impose terms and to fix the period which cannot exceed 15 days at one time.
This discretion being vested in Court of law has to be exercised judicially on well-recognised principles and is in our view immune from challenge on the ground of arbitrariness or want of guidelines. In our opinion, therefore, not only are the guidelines clearly contained in the statute but the discretion being judicial is required to be exercised on general principles guided by rules of reason and justice on the facts Of each case, and not in any arbitrary on fanciful manner. It may also be remembered that if the discretion is exercised in an arbitrary or unjudicial manner remedy by way of resort to the higher Courts is always open to the aggrieved party."
39.3 It is, however, unfortunate that despite the provision under section 309 of the Code which contemplates for holding the proceedings as expeditiously as possible and examination of witnesses day to day yet it is an open fact that on account of adjournments there is inordinate delay in disposal of criminal cases. Such adjournments often take place on unsound grounds at the instance of the accused and prosecution and also due to laxity on the part of the court and the investigating agency. The causes which led to such untenable and avoidable adjournment both at the stage of trial, appeal and revision may be classified as under: