It has to be noted right at the outset that in a sharp indictment against lawyers seeking repeated adjournments, the Gwalior Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court in a recent case titled Nandu @ Gandharva Singh Vs. Ratiram Yadav and others in MP No. 1887/2017 dated January 9, 2019 has come down heavily against it! Justice Gurpal Singh Ahluwalia who delivered this verdict came down heavily on a lawyer for seeking repeated adjournments stated that seeking adjournment for no reason by lawyers amounts to professional misconduct. This judgment leaves no room for doubt that lawyers have to be always careful not to seek repeated adjournments without any valid reason!
First and foremost, it is pointed out in this judgment that, 'This petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of India has been filed against the order dated 6/12/2017 passed by the Civil Judge, Class-1, Bhander, District Datia in Civil Suit No. 29A/2014. Before considering the facts of the case, this Court feels it appropriate to consider certain incidents, which have taken place in the Court at the time of argument of this case.”
To recapitulate, it is then pointed out in this judgment that, 'In the first half of the day when the case was called, the associate counsel of the counsel for respondent no. 1 prayed for time to argue the matter. Since this petition is pending from 2017 and the further proceedings of the civil suit have been stayed, therefore, this Court refused to adjourn the matter and at the request of the counsel for respondent no. 1, the matter was passed over. At 2:30 PM when the case was taken up, Shri Pratip Visoriya, counsel for respondent no. 1, the matter was passed over. At 2:30 PM when the case was taken up, Shri Pratip Visoriya, counsel for respondent no. 1, appeared and started his arguments by saying that 'in the first half of the day his junior had prayed for adjournment and since this Court has refused to adjourn the matter, therefore, under compulsion he has come to argue the matter.” The submission made by the counsel for respondent no. 1 was not to the good taste, however, this Court ignored the said submission and requested the counsel for the respondent no. 1 to proceed further with his arguments.”
Needless to say, it is then pointed out that, 'During arguments, on two occasions again Shri Pratip Visoriya, counsel for respondent no. 1, submitted that as he was not ready with the arguments, but since this Court has refused to adjourn the matter, therefore, under compulsion he is arguing the matter. It was further submitted by Shri Pratap Visoriya, counsel for respondent no. 1, that old matters are pending and, therefore, the old matters should be decided first and this matter is of the year 2017 and only because there is stay of the further proceedings in the civil suit, therefore, this matter cannot be treated as an old matter. When it was clarified by this Court that the cases are being taken up as per the serial numbers of the cause-list and the case has not been taken up out of turn, even then he stated that relatively new matter should not be decided first, even if they are listed in the cause-list.”
Be it noted, it is then pointed out that, 'As the submissions made by Shri Pratip Visoriya, counsel for respondent no. 1, were beyond tolerance, this Court requested Shri Pratip Visoriya, counsel for respondent no. 1, to publicly take the responsibility of seeking adjournment by passing a resolution in the Bar Association to the effect that unless and until both the lawyers agree for arguing the matter, the Court should not hear the matter, then he fairly conceded that he is not ready to take the responsibility of delay. Under these circumstances, Shri Pratip Visoriya, counsel for respondent no. 1 was informed that he had filed his Vakalatnama on 20/2/2018 and today we are in the month of January, 2019 that means near about more than eleven months have passed, but still if he has failed to prepare the case, then only he is at fault.” Who can deny this?
Going forward, the Court then states that, 'It is submitted by Shri Pratip Visoriya, counsel for respondent no. 1, that since his party (respondent no. 1) is a rustic villager, therefore, he is not in a position to obtain the certified copy of the order of the trial court, therefore, he could not prepare the case. The submission made by the counsel for respondent no. 1 cannot be accepted for the simple reason that if respondent no. 1 could have given him in writing the details of the documents, which he wants to go through before preparation of the case and respondent no. 1 could have informed his local counsel for obtaining the copies of the said documents. For the lapses on the part of the counsel for respondent no. 1 or respondent no. 1 himself, this Court cannot keep the matter pending unnecessarily and specifically when the counsel for respondent no. 1 is not ready to take the responsibility of delay in decision of the petition, then the counsel for respondent no. 1 has no authority either legally or morally to make prayer for adjournment.” Very rightly said!
It cannot be lost on us that it is then held by the Madhya Pradesh High Court that, 'As already observed by the Supreme Court, that adjournments are growing like a cancer, which is eroding the system. A time has come, where the Bar has to raise its standard and must fulfill the expectations of the litigating parties, for early disposal of the cases. Justice delayed justice denied.”
What's more, the Court then also minces no words in putting across its message in plain and simple words by stating that, 'The Bar must not try to create hurdles in the justice dispensation system, by unnecessarily seeking adjournments and above all, must not try to pinch the Court, by saying that since, the adjournment has been refused, therefore, under compulsion, they are arguing the matters. Once, the lawyer has accepted the brief, then it is his bounden duty towards the institution. They have a duty towards their client, they have a duty to prepare the case and present the case properly without suppressing any fact, so that they can effectively assist the Court.”
Not stopping here, the Court also underscores that, 'Seeking adjournments for no reason does amount to professional misconduct and the Bar Councils must also rise to the occasion either by issuing necessary instructions to the Advocates on its roll or by taking disciplinary action against the Advocate, if any complaint with regard to seeking unnecessary adjournments by the Advocate is made.” Both advocates and the Bar Councils must pay heed to what the Court has said so explicitly! It cannot be dismissed lightly!
Of course, the Court then also makes it a point to remind the lawyers that, 'The Advocates are not the mouth piece of their clients for the purposes of delaying the Court proceedings, nor should they avoid hearing but being the officers of the Court, they have sacrosanct duty towards the Court. Once, the case is listed in the Cause list, then any Advocate cannot refuse to argue the matter on the ground that older matters are also pending, therefore, the comparatively new matter should be adjourned, and should not be heard unless and until it becomes old. The lawyers must not forget, that by seeking unnecessary adjournments, they are frustrating the legitimate right of one of the litigating party and thus by adopting dilatory tactics, they are creating a situation, where the litigating party may lose its faith in the judiciary.”
Furthermore, the Madhya Pradesh High Court then also does not shy away from telling the Courts also along with advocates point blank that, 'It is the duty of the Courts to decide the matters as early as possible, and if the lawyers refuse to co-operate with the Courts, then a time has come, where the Court would be left with no other option but to decide the matters on its own, by going through the record, and this situation would never help the litigating party and the lawyers must understand that when they have been engaged by their clients with a hope and belief, that their Counsel would place their case before the Court, in a most effective manner, then after having accepted the brief, it is the duty of the lawyer to live upto the expectation of his client, so that the faith and belief of the client on his lawyer may continue. It is also high time, when the Bar must either accept its responsibility for unnecessarily seeking adjournments, or must teach their members, that having joined the noble profession, it is the duty of every lawyer to devote full time to prepare the cases.”
As it turned out, the Madhya Pradesh High Court then fervently hoped that, 'Under the hope and belief, that the lawyers would live upto the expectations of the litigants as well as of the Court, this Court, at this stage is not inclined to take any action in the matter.” A very balanced and commendable decision indeed! All lawyers and all Judges must go through it in its entirety! The Madhya Pradesh High Court while rightly underlining what it expected from lawyers and also the courts below while conducting cases also ensured that no action was taken against the respondent's counsel even though as the Court itself admitted were ‘not in good taste' and ‘beyond tolerance'.