Report No. 77
A. Original Suits
This may be called the "Special List System". Under this system no contested suit will be taken up for trial unless it is posted for the day in the special list to be prepared and published in the following way. In a munsiff's court, the Bench Clerk will, as at present, post all ready contested suit in the hearing book at the rate of, say, about six a day, so that all the ready suits will be called up once in two months or three months.
But it will be clearly understood that this posting is merely formal and intended only for the purpose of reporting compromise, death or parties and the like, and that no suit will be called on for hearing unless it is in the special list. The special list will be prepared at the beginning of a month for the whole of the following month. For each day of the following month two suits (and no more) will be selected from out of the suits posted for the day in the hearing book.
One will invariably be the oldest of these suits; the other will be chosen from among the remaining suits having regard to the nature of the old suit. Almost always, the old suit will be a heavy suit and therefore the second suit chosen should be a light suit. The result will be that there will be only two suits posted for a day, and, roughly speaking, one will be heavy and the other light.
(When a statutory stay which has been in force for some time is vacated, there will generally be a large number of old suits available for trial, in which, by reason of the new law, there might not be much evidence to adduce and the trial of which might not take much time. Under such circumstances, both the suits selected may be old suits and more than two may be posted per day if there is a reasonable prospect of the trial being completed).
This list which is a provisional list will be published (by affixture to the court notice board, a copy being sent to the Bar Association) by the 5th of each month. Between the 5th and the 10th any representation which the lawyers might have to make will be heard and the necessary changes made. The final list will be published by the 10th-the list, it will be recalled, is for the following month-and it will be clearly understood that, except for compelling cause, no adjournment will be given thereafter. No hardship whatsoever is involved in this, since every lawyer and every party has clear notice ranging from three to seven weeks that his suit will be peremptorily taken up for hearing on a particular day.
So far as suits not appearing in the special list are concerned, it will be sufficient to formally adjourn them with the remark-
"Not in the list. Adjourned .........
With regard to suits that are in the special list, these suits must be taken up without fail so long as there is time, unless circumstances compel an adjournment. If for any reason, a suit posted for the day cannot be taken up, it will stand out of the list and be formally adjourned to some other day unless for some special reason, such as that the suit being a very old suit cannot wait till it gets into the special list again, the presiding officer thinks it necessary to post it peremptorily to a particular date.
(Such posting will be made in consultation with both sides, and, if necessary, one of the suits already posted for that day in the special list will be removed from the list, this being noticed on the notice board).
Failing that, the suit will not be taken up until it reappears in the special list and it will not be allowed to interfere with the postings already made in the special list for the month or for the following month.
Ordinarily, it can be expected that the evidence in the light suit will be completed before the lunch interval, and, by the lunch interval, it should ordinarily be possible to say whether that in the heavy suit will be completed that day or will go to the next day. If it is expected to take a substantial part of the next day also, the heavy suit posted for the next day will be taken out of the list and the lawyers concerned informed accordingly.
It will not ordinarily be necessary to take out the light suit which may be completed before the part-heard heavy suit from the previous day is taken up. And, so on, if the heavy suit goes to a third or a fourth day. In any event, once a suit is taken up for hearing, the trial must proceed from day-to-day, until the evidence on both sides is completed, and there should not be more than one part-heard suit at a time. Once the evidence is closed, the suit may be adjourned, if necessary, to some convenient later day for arguments. (This will be necessary only in the case of complicated suits.
In most suits arguments should be heard immediately after evidence is closed, when the evidence is fresh in the minds of the advocates and the presiding officer, and, if that is done, it should be possible to pronounce judgment within a week if it is not done forthwith by dictation from the bench, if the provisions of Order XVIII, rules 1 and 2 regarding the opening of a case and addressing the court at the close of the evidence are followed-they rarely are-the address or "argument", as it is called, should not take much time). But, the trial proper should be from day-to-day.
It is essential that for the proper working of this system that no adjournments are granted except for really compelling reasons. Even so, it might sometimes happen that both the suits posted for the day collapse. In that event, which can happen only very occasionally, the time left over can profitably be utilised by the presiding officer in checking the various branches of his office or in dictating judgments that have been reserved.
It is necessary that no suit should appear in the special list until it is fully ready for trial. Commissions and the like should be taken out at the earliest possible opportunity and the taking out of a commission after a suit has come into the special list should be discountenanced. Presiding officers should themselves settle issues (there is no objection to obtaining draft issues provided the actual settling is done by the officer after acquainting himself with the pleadings and the time spent by them on this will be amply repaid.
If this is done, the presidings officer will know at the time of settling issues whether a commission, or other preliminary work will be necessary before the suit can be taken up for hearing, and, if this is necessary, he will post the suit to a particular day for an application for the purpose and the suit will not be regarded as ready until the preliminary work is done. He will also be able to make a note in the notes paper regarding the light or heavy nature of the suit and this will be helpful in preparing the special list.
It is also necessary that the provisions of Order VI, rules 14 to 18, Order VIII, rule 1 and Order XIII, rules 1 and 2, Civil Procedure Code, are strictly enforced and that documents are filed long before the suit appears in the special list. This can be ensured by allowing applications to excuse delay, if they are allowed at all, only on terms which should be very heavy once a suit has come into the special list.
The provisions in question are designed not so much to check the production of spurious documents (which with some forethought can be manufactured in time) but to prevent either party from taking the other by surprise: and after some time it would be as well to enforce the provisions very strictly in respect of cases that have appeared in the special list.
In the Sub-Courts, of course, it will not be possible to post two suits for a day and some modification will be necessary. Posting can be on a weekly instead of on a daily basis. Three suits may be selected for a week. One must be the oldest of the suits posted in the hearing book for the week; the remaining two may be selected from the rest having regard to the heaviness of the first, preference being given to the older suits; it will be convenient if the old heavy suit is always posted to a particular day of the week, say. Monday, the two light suits being posted to Thursday for Wednesday and Friday.
In the hearing book also postings should be on those same days so that a selected suit will be posted in the special list for the same day as it stands posted in the hearing book. When sessions postings are made, the suit posted for the day should, if the sessions case is likely to take time, be removed from the list and the lawyers concerned informed forthwith. In Sub-Courts there can be no risk of the work entirely collapsing for a sufficient number of appeals can be posted for each day.
To enable a check as to how the system is being worked, each court will send the District Judge a copy of its list at the end of the month with remarks as to the progress made in each case as illustrated in the form given below. The District Judge will review the working of the system by each court and submit the lists with a copy of his review to the High Court.
It is made clear that the system is not intended to fetter in any way the discretion vested in the court to grant adjournments under Order XVII, rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure. It only emphasizes that an adjournment should, as the rule itself says, be granted only for sufficient cause, and that, as the proviso to the rule lays down, the hearing should be from day to day. An adjournment should, of course, be granted if otherwise justice would suffer but no one should be allowed to take advantage of his own default-he must suffer its consequences.