Report No. 240
11. Order XVII (Adjournments):
11.1 Closely allied to Section 35-B is Order XVII, Rule (2) of CPC which bears the heading "Costs of adjournment" we may quote sub-rules (1) and (2).
1. Court may grant time and adjourn hearin.-(1) The Court may, if sufficient cause is shown, at any stage of the suit, grant time to the parties or to any of them, and may from time to time adjourn the hearing of the suit for reasons to be recorded in writing: Provided that no such adjournment shall be granted more than three times to a party during the hearing of the suits.
(2) Cost of adjournmen.- In every such case the Court shall fix a day for the further hearing of the suit, and shall make such orders as to costs occasioned by the adjournment or such higher costs as the Court deems fit.
11.2 This is a general provision governing adjournments and it is complementary to section 35-B. The costs contemplated under this provision need not necessarily be confined to the expenses incurred by the party for attending the court. The expression "such higher costs as the Court deems fit" is significant. The quantum of costs under Order XVII, Rule 2, can be so fixed as to include advocate's fee to a reasonable extent. If a party is seeking repeated adjournments, naturally, heavy costs can be awarded depending on the various relevant factors such as the over-all conduct of the party, the stakes involved and so on.
11.3 It is common knowledge and in fact it has come to the notice of the Commission through the inputs received at various conferences that the quantum of costs awarded by the Courts against a party seeking unnecessary adjournments are by and large meagre. It may be couple of hundreds or even less in some parts of the country.
11.4 By awarding such meagre costs, the desired objective of discouraging adjournments is stultified. It is desirable that the High Courts should issue circular instructions to the judicial officers to stop the practice of awarding minimal or meagre costs for adjournments and to award reasonable costs adequate enough to reimburse the expenditure that would have been incurred by the other party and it may, in appropriate cases, include an estimated amount of advocate's fee.
The District Judges shall be instructed to evolve certain guidelines in this regard, if necessary after consulting the members of the Bar. In the alternative, the High Courts while framing/revising the Rules may specify the minimum amount payable by the parties seeking adjournments. If the request for adjournment is repeated, the costs should be higher than the minimum. If both parties seek adjournments which could have been avoided by exercising reasonable diligence and care, the costs should be directed to be credited to Judicial Infrastructure Fund or to the District/Taluka/Mandal/Legal Aid Centres.
11.5 Further, it must be ensured that the costs are actually paid by the party seeking adjournments. The receipt evidencing payment should be filed in the court or the costs should be paid to the other party (if present) in the court hall itself. The feasibility of costs being deposited in the Court may also be considered. The modalities can be prescribed by the Rules framed by the High Courts or by evolving uniform practices.
The Commission is adverting to this aspect for the reason that reports have been received from the judicial officers and even from the members of the Bar that reporting the payment of costs has become a farce and quite often representation is made to the court that costs awarded have been received, though not actually received.