Lawyers Should Decrease the Number of Adjournments Sought for Faster Disposal of Matters: Allahabad HC

While talking sense and displaying full maturity of the highest order, the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court while picking up the gauntlet in a most learned, laudable, landmark, logical and latest judgment titled Banwari Lal Kanchhal vs State of UP Thru. Addl. Chief Secy./Prin. Secy. Home Lko and cited in Neutral Citation No.-2023:AHC-LKO:77688 that was reserved on November 17, 2023 and then finally pronounced on November 28, 2023 has minced just no words absolutely to say in no uncertain terms that counsel should decrease the number of adjournments sought for faster disposal of matters. The Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Subhash Vidyarthi most sagaciously and most commendably suggested observing quite uprightly that, “Counsel should decrease the number of adjournments sought and they should decrease the number of adjournments sought and they should not object to the submissions being heard in their absence, more so when there is a Counsel present to take notes of the submissions.” No denying it!

Truth be told, the Bench noted that the Allahabad High Court is generally talked about for its highest pendency, which at the start of this day was 10,60,451, out of which, 4,96,876 cases are of a criminal nature. The average number of cases decided per Judge of this Court per year is the maximum in the Country. The Judges are trying to reduce the pendency by enhancing the speed of dispensation of justice, but they cannot do so without the fullest cooperation of the learned Advocates.

Let me submit here most humbly: Why can’t Centre approve more High Court Benches for Uttar Pradesh when it knows fully well that the number of pending cases in High Courts is maximum in Allahabad High Court and so also in lower courts the figure is about to touch one crores yet has just one Bench and States like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Assam, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh have multiple High Court Benches? Why is it that when Justice Jaswant Singh Commission appointed by Centre itself in mid 1970s had very strongly recommended 3 High Court Benches for undivided UP yet not one created and for peaceful States like Maharashtra which already had multiple High Court Benches at Nagpur and Panaji yet one more was created at Aurangabad and one more at Jalpaiguri in West Bengal which already had a Bench at Port Blair and one for Tamil Nadu at Madurai but not a single more for UP which was in desperate need for the same because the litigants of hilly areas had to travel thousands of kilometers all the way to Allahabad to seek justice but they got statehood in 2000 but the more than 10 crore people of West UP of 30 districts who have to travel 700 km on an average all the way to Allahabad as not a single Bench created even though recommended by Justice Jaswant Singh Commission for West UP which is utterly most shocking and disgusting to see!

At the very outset, this notable judgment authored by the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Subhash Vidyarthi of Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “Heard Sri Jaideep Narain Mathur Senior Advocate assisted by Sri Amit Jaiswal, Sri Nadeem Murtaza and Sri Mohit Singh Advocates, the learned Counsel for the applicant, Dr. V. K. Singh, the learned Government Advocate for the State, Sri Vijay Dixit and Sri Devam Shukla Advocates, the learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the intervenors.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench envisages in para 2 that, “Briefly stated, facts of the case are that a First Information Report was lodged by a Sales Tax Officer against the applicant and 10-12 unnamed persons on 06.10.1991 alleging that when the informant was performing his duties in his office, the applicant and the other accused persons entered his office and beaten him up and that some other businessmen had abused and threatened him as to why the informant used to intercept the vehicles loaded with goods. The informant stated that other Sales Tax Officers present in the Sales Tax Office came to the spot due to which the accused persons ran away while threatening that in case any other vehicle is intercepted, the informant will be killed. The informant further alleged that earlier also, the accused persons had abused another Sales Tax Officer Sri D. C. Chaturvedi, had broken some chairs kept in the office and had threatened the officers.”

Do note, the Bench notes in para 79 that, “The applicant is a 78 year old person who is a leader of the traders, a former member of Rajya Sabha and a former member of Legislative Council of Uttar Pradesh. He is a life member of an educational society and his membership is sought to be terminated because of his conviction for the offences under Section 332 I.P.C. and 506 I.P.C. alleging that those offences involve moral turpitude, whereas in some of the cases noted above, even the offence of murder has been treated to be an offence not involving moral turpitude. There may be serious consequences of the applicant’s conviction, which cannot be undone or reversed in case his appeal against conviction is allowed.”

As a corollary, the Bench holds in para 80 that, “In view of the aforesaid discussion, I am of the considered view that the applicant’s conviction deserves to be stayed.”

Further, the Bench observes in para 81 that, “Accordingly, The application under Section 389 (2) Cr.P.C. filed by the applicant is allowed and it is ordered that order of conviction dated 23.02.2023 passed by Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate-III, Court No. 27, Lucknow in Criminal Case No.2824/2022 (State vs. Banwari Lal Kanchhal) arising out of Case Crime No.1039/1991, under Sections 332, 506 I.P.C., Police Station Hazratganj, District – Lucknow, shall remain in abeyance till decision of Criminal Appeal No. 46 of 2023 in the Court of Sessions Judge, Lucknow filed against the aforesaid order.”

Quite significantly, while dwelling on the repeated adjournments, the Bench expounds in para 82 that, “Before parting with the case, this Court is constrained to observe that on date of commencement of hearing in the present case, one of the learned Counsel for the interveners had made a request for passing over the case for sometime as the other learned Counsel was busy in some other Court. When the case was called out again after sometime, the same request was repeated. The Court declined the request and started hearing submissions of the learned Counsel for the applicant in presence of the other learned Counsel for the interveners and the learned Government Advocate. A serious objection was taken against the hearing having commenced in absence of one of the Counsel and it was said that it has been the normal practice of this Court to accommodate Advocates. It is true that in the past the Courts were more liberal in granting adjournments and even presently the Courts normally accommodate Advocates. But we cannot lose sight of the changing scenario of the entire judicial system. The work load is ever increasing and this Court has not less than 150 matters listed before it on any single day, several of those are not taken up due to paucity of time. The practice of passing over the matters due to engagement of the learned Counsel elsewhere has also played its bit in increasing pendency of the cases as every such request consumes at least a minute or two and in case such requests are accepted in numerous matters, it would result in a considerable waste of time, because every minute of the Court is precious and should be used productively.”

Most significantly, the Bench propounds in para 84 that, “The Allahabad High Court is generally talked about for its highest pendency, which at the start of this day was 10,60,451, out of which, 4,96,876 cases are of criminal nature. It is seldom mentioned that the average number of cases decided per Judge of this Court per year is the maximum in the Country. The Judges are trying to reduce the pendency by enhancing the speed of dispensation of justice, but they cannot do so without the fullest cooperation of the learned Advocates.”

Equally significant is what the Bench then hastens to add in para 85 expounding that, “It is often said that the Judges and the Advocates are wheels of a chariot. For enhancing the speed of this chariot, the other wheels of the chariot, i.e. the learned Advocates, should also change gears and assist the Courts more efficiently in order to enhance the speed of dispensation of justice in the Courts.”

Finally and far most significantly, the Bench then concludes by holding succinctly in para 86 that, “I take this opportunity to request to all the learned Counsel to cooperate in speedy dispensation of justice by decreasing the non-productive expenditure of the Court’s time. The learned Counsel should decrease the number of adjournments sought and they should not object to the submissions being heard in their absence, more so when there is a learned Counsel present to take notes of the submissions. The precious time of the Court can also be better utilized if the learned Counsel refrain from citing multiple case-laws on a single point. The same old practices will continue to produce the same old results but as the society needs faster disposal of matters, all of us should change our practices to produce better results.”

All told, there can be no quibbling with what the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court has held. But I must hasten to add here that apart from the lawyers becoming more disciplined to restrain themselves from seeking much lesser number of adjournments for the faster disposal of matters, what also must be done is that High Court Bench must be created in West UP which alone owes for more than half of the total number of pending cases and still has no Bench and so also Bench must be created in Bundelkhand and Purvanchal so that the number of huge pending cases are reduced most substantially as we see in Maharashtra which tops in the “State List” of “Justice Index Ranking” primarily because of having multiple High Court Benches!

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