In the pursuit of justice, the courts in Pakistan face the perpetual challenge of balancing the scales between due process and expeditious resolution of cases. The practice of seeking adjournments, a request to the court to postpone a hearing to a later date, is a procedural aspect that, while legitimate, can often be a double-edged sword, leading to delays in the administration of justice. This article will explore how the Pakistani courts approach adjournments, drawing insights from recent case law.

Adjournments in Pakistani courts are a procedural tool intended to ensure that both parties have a fair opportunity to present their case. However, the cases cited reflect a growing judicial intolerance for adjournments that are perceived as tactics for delaying justice. The Supreme Court and High Courts of Pakistan have made it clear that while adjournments are a part of due process, they must not be abused.

The Attitude of Pakistani Courts Towards Adjournments

Pakistani courts have consistently held a stringent view towards the indiscriminate grant of adjournments. The principle that justice delayed is justice denied underpins the courts’ approach to adjournments. In the case of Basharat Hussain vs. Mst. Irum Tahir (2019 YLR 2883), the High Court of Azad Kashmir emphasized that the court has the discretion to grant time extensions, but such discretion must be exercised judiciously. The court is not to grant adjournments in a routine manner but must consider the consequences and grounds presented for the adjournment. This ruling echoes the sentiment that while procedural laws allow for adjournments, their misuse is frowned upon.

The approach is further highlighted in the judgment of Noor Bibi vs. Meer Muhammad alias Meer Jan (2018 CLC 87), where the Quetta High Court set aside a trial court’s decision to dismiss an application to summon witnesses, noting that the courts are not silent spectators and should act to unearth the truth. This decision underscores the courts’ proactive role in ensuring that adjournments do not hinder the course of justice.

Key Takeaways for Pleading Successful Adjournments

To plead for a successful adjournment, a party must demonstrate that the request is made in good faith and is not a tactic for unnecessary delay. In Prime Capital Management (Pvt.) Limited vs. Commissioner (SMD), SECP, Islamabad (2018 CLD 1332), the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan took a stern view on non-appearance and non-prosecution, dismissing an appeal for want of prosecution when the appellant failed to appear or request an adjournment.

A party must also ensure that the reason for seeking an adjournment is substantial and credible. In Mohammad Adnan vs. State (2018 PLD 823), the Supreme Court of Pakistan highlighted that juvenile courts should not entertain routine requests for adjournments and should only do so in exceptional circumstances, emphasizing the need for a well-grounded and significant reason to defer proceedings.

Justice in the Face of Adjournment Abuse

When one party abuses the process of adjournments, the courts have demonstrated their willingness to step in and curtail such practices. For instance, in National Accountability Bureau (NAB) vs. Hudaibya Paper Mills Limited, Lahore (2018 PLD 296), the Supreme Court condemned the indefinite and unreasonable postponement of a reference, affirming that the abuse of legal process to delay justice constitutes a denial of the right to due process.

A Review of Case law where frequent adjournments had legal consequences

  1. The courts have shown particular impatience with adjournments in criminal cases involving serious offenses, such as murder and narcotics. In Mohammad Naseeruddin vs. State (2019 MLD 558), the Karachi High Court granted bail due to the delay in the trial, noting that no purpose would be served by keeping the petitioner in custody when the trial had become uncertain.
  2. Similarly, in cases involving financial offenses and corruption, such as in the case of Muhammad Nazir Ahmed vs. The Commissioner Inland Revenue, R.T.O., Islamabad (2019 PTD 598), the Inland Revenue Appellate Tribunal of Pakistan vacated orders that were void ab initio, indicating that procedural irregularities, including delays caused by unnecessary adjournments, would not be tolerated.
  3. The case of Muhammad Ali v. State [2023 SCMR 1131 SUPREME-COURT] highlights the issue of adjournments sought for tactical reasons. The Supreme Court observed that the accused had sought adjournments despite the presence of prosecution witnesses, with the court interpreting this as an intentional delay to create grounds for bail. The decision underscores the courts’ approach to consider the reasons for delay critically and to refuse bail if the accused is found to be responsible for the delay.
  4. Similarly, in Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi v. Main Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif [2023 SCMR 636 SUPREME-COURT], the court was faced with a defendant’s contumacious conduct in failing to comply with orders, which led to a striking out of his right of defence. The court’s majority view was that repeated and deliberate delaying tactics could result in punitive action, while the minority opinion emphasised the need for courts to exhaust all other alternatives before striking out a defence.
  5. In other cases, the Peshawar High Court [2023 CLC 1066] and Lahore High Court [2023 PLD 334 LAHORE-HIGH-COURT-LAHORE] have similarly expressed their expectations that trials should proceed according to a prescribed timetable. The Lahore High Court criticised the indefinite adjournment, noting that the term “forthwith” in judicial directions indicates the expectation of action without undue delay, and “from time to time” implies the need for specificity in adjournment dates.
  6. In the case of Muhammad Ali vs. State (2023 SCMR 1131), the Supreme Court of Pakistan set a precedent that bail could be denied if the delay in trial was intentionally caused by the accused. This principle was further reinforced in Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi vs. Main Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif (2023 SCMR 636), where the Court took a firm stance against dilatory tactics used by the parties. The Court underscored the importance of adherence to timelines provided in the relevant laws and the need for a court-controlled case management system to ensure that litigation progresses in a timely manner.
  7. The Lahore High Court, in Tehsil Municipal Administration (TMA) vs. Raja Khan (2023 CLC 1066), dismissed an appeal for failing to file a written statement within the granted time, highlighting the Court’s commitment to efficient case management and its reluctance to permit unjustified adjournments.
  8. In a similar vein, NIB Bank Limited vs. Pasban Agro Chemicals Company (2023 CLD 1131) and Nadeem Sultan vs. Hamza Shamim (2023 PLD 334) demonstrate that the Courts are prepared to penalize parties who fail to comply with procedural timelines, emphasizing that an efficient and expeditious trial is a right of the accused.
  9. The Lahore High Court in Shabbir Ahmad (deceased) vs. Mst. Shaher Bano (2023 MLD 957) highlighted that denying a party the opportunity to be heard due to an adjournment request contravenes principles of natural justice and procedural fairness. This underscores the judiciary’s balancing act between expeditious justice and ensuring each party’s right to be heard.
  10. Saleem Mehmood vs. Ch. Saeed Asghar (2023 CLC 1131) illustrates that when a request for adjournment is made, the Court must consider the period of limitation while granting time. This is key to avoiding undue delays and ensuring that adjournments do not become a tool for injustice.The Lahore High Court in 2023 MLD 957 highlighted the importance of hearing both parties, where an appeal was disposed of without the appellant’s counsel being heard, stressing that even a few days’ adjournment would not have caused any harm in comparison to the miscarriage of justice resulting from a unilateral decision. Similarly, in 2023 CLC 1131, the Lahore High Court recognized the legitimacy of adjournments granted within the period of limitation, reflecting a balanced approach that respects procedural deadlines while also accommodating the right to a fair hearing.
  11. In contrast, the Supreme Court in 2022 SCMR 133 disapproved of adjournments sought for personal reasons, underscoring the primacy of court work over personal matters. This sentiment is echoed in 2022 PLD 247 where the Supreme Court dismissed a petition for non-prosecution due to the absence of a medical certificate to justify the counsel’s non-attendance, signifying the court’s intolerance for adjournments lacking substantial justification.
  12. The judgements from the Quetta High Court in 2022 CLC 1966 and 2022 PTD 760 from the Lahore High Court emphasize the principle ‘actus curiae neminem gravabit’, which ensures that the act of the court shall prejudice no one. This principle mandates that delays attributable to the court should not adversely affect the parties involved. The decisions manifest a consensus across the judiciary to discourage adjournments that are not essential or are employed as dilatory tactics.
  13. The Lahore High Court in the case of Abdul Ghaffar v. Hafiz Atta Ur Rehman (2022 YLR 2174) exemplified the courts’ intolerance for delay tactics, affirming that a party cannot indefinitely delay proceedings by failing to produce evidence, especially after being given ample opportunities. This was mirrored in the case of Muhammad Shahid Yousaf v. State (2022 MLD 1331), where the court posited that the power to adjourn must be accompanied by the authority to impose costs, thus discouraging frivolous adjournments and promoting efficient administration of justice.
  14. In Qaiser-Ur-Rehman v. Civil Judge (2022 CLC 391), the court observed that Family Courts are particularly designed for the swift resolution of disputes and that unnecessary extensions serve only to frustrate their very purpose. This sentiment is echoed in Syed Qaiser Mehmood v. The State (Chairman NAB) (2022 YLR 2452), where adjournments were deemed an affront to the accused’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.
  15. Further, the courts have shown a tendency to be more stringent in criminal cases involving serious offences or public interest litigations, such as in the case of Mir Ghulam Abbas Jakhrani v. Director General NAB (2022 PCrLJ 781), where the High Court took a strong stance against the “inordinate and unconscionable delay” in the trial process, especially when the accused’s liberty is at stake.
  16. The Costs of Litigation Act, 2017, introduced through amendments such as Section 35-A of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), empowers courts to impose costs for adjournments, reflecting the legislative intent to deter delay tactics (2022 PLD 68). This is a clear indicator of the seriousness with which the judiciary now approaches the issue of adjournments.
  17. Additionally, in specific types of litigation such as family law disputes, the courts are notably less tolerant of adjournments, as seen in the case of Tausif Ahmad v. Mst. Shaista Malik (2022 CLC 269). This intolerance extends to administrative and financial matters, where the courts have shown a disposition to penalize dilatory practices, as illustrated in Muhammad Rafique v. Tasadaq Hussain (2022 MLD 1232).
  18. The key to pleading successful adjournments lies in demonstrating genuine need, substantiated by compelling reasons, rather than using adjournments as a strategy for delay. As seen in the case of Collector/Deputy Commissioner Gilgit v. Muhammad Issa (2022 YLR 2343), courts expect a proactive and timely approach from the parties, and any deviation without valid justification is swiftly reprimanded.
  19. To ensure justice when facing an adversary who abuses adjournments, a party must meticulously document these delays and present a compelling case to the court highlighting the prejudice suffered due to such tactics. This approach was effective in Iftikhar Ahmed v. Bashir Ahmed (2022 YLR 2002), where the court took cognizance of the intentional delays and granted relief accordingly.
  20. In conclusion, the courts in Pakistan are increasingly averse to adjournments, particularly in cases that affect the family unit, involve public interest, or where the right to liberty is imperilled. Successful adjournments require a substantive and honest need, with the overarching principle being the delivery of justice without undue delay. The strategic abuse of adjournments not only undermines the legal process but also risks incurring the judiciary’s censure and possible sanctions. [end of response]
  21. One key takeaway from the cited cases, such as 2021 CLC 2119 Lahore-High-Court-Lahore, is that courts require proper and timely notice to the parties involved. In this case, the court found that proceeding ex-parte without issuing fresh notices or publications after multiple adjournments was a “grave illegality” that caused injustice to the petitioners. The courts emphasize the importance of ensuring that all parties are adequately informed and given the opportunity to present their case.
  22. Another important aspect is the courts’ focus on due process. In 2021 CLC 2119 Lahore-High-Court-Lahore, it was highlighted that the plaintiff filed a suit against a deceased person, which the court deemed “defective in nature.” The High Court allowed the constitutional petition and set aside the ex-parte preliminary decree, instructing the trial court to proceed afresh. This reflects that due process is paramount, and any deviations can lead to a reversal of decisions.
  23. In terms of obtaining justice when the opposing party is abusing adjournments, it’s clear that the courts are mindful of such tactics. In 2021 PCrLJ 656 Karachi-High-Court-Sindh, the court set aside the trial court’s sine die adjournment, which was granted because civil and criminal cases on the same matter were being heard simultaneously. The High Court underscored that there is no legal barrier to conducting both proceedings concurrently and directed the trial court to proceed on merits.
  24. The courts appear to frown upon frequent adjournments in criminal cases, especially where it impedes the timely conclusion of trials. For example, in 2021 YLR 1309 Karachi-High-Court-Sindh, the court refused bail because the accused’s conduct in seeking multiple adjournments caused delays, showing that the accused was not entitled to bail based on “statutory delay/hardship.”
  25. Furthermore, in civil matters, as seen in 2021 PLD 381 Karachi-High-Court-Sindh, courts have limited tolerance for repeated adjournments without valid reasons. The case emphasizes that a party cannot indefinitely postpone proceedings by seeking multiple adjournments on frivolous grounds.
  26. In the case of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan v. Wasif M. Khan (2020 CLD 1440), the court underscored the principle that an adjournment may be granted if a concurrent legal proceeding in a higher court could resolve the core issues pertinent to the case at hand. The court directed both parties to keep the Appellate Bench informed about the High Court’s decision, demonstrating a willingness to grant adjournments when they could potentially obviate the need for the appeal.
  27. On the other hand, the Supreme Court in Moon Enterpriser CNG Station, Rawalpindi v. Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (2020 SCMR 300) vehemently criticized the lower courts’ practice of granting multiple adjournments on frivolous grounds. The Court mandated that for Order XVII, Rule 3 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) to apply, a clear warning that no further adjournments would be given must be issued. This reflects the court’s determination to enforce its orders and maintain the integrity of the legal process.
  28. Similarly, in Mst. Sadia Jamshaid v. Province of Punjab (2020 CLC 1972), the Lahore High Court highlighted the importance of granting parties the opportunity to present their case, even if they had previously failed to produce evidence after numerous adjournments. This suggests a balanced approach, wherein courts may grant adjournments to ensure justice but expect parties to respect the court’s time and comply with its directions.
  29. In the criminal context, the Lahore High Court in Muhammad Tariq v. State (2020 PCrLJ 1315) accepted the petition against the closure of the petitioner’s right to cross-examine due to repeated adjournments sought by the defense. The court emphasized the right to a fair trial and the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses as a ‘legal engine’ for truth discovery. The court’s decision demonstrates an understanding of the importance of cross-examination in ensuring a fair trial, while also being mindful of the need to avoid unnecessary delays.
  30. The Lahore High Court’s decision in Munawar Hussain v. State (2020 PCrLJ 1184) regarding the recording of statements via video link establishes detailed protocols to ensure the integrity of such testimony. It reflects the courts’ increasing openness to embracing technology to prevent delays in judicial proceedings.
  31. The grant of bail in Irfan Masih v. State (2020 MLD 1877) due to excessive delays in trial proceedings caused primarily by the prosecution illustrates the courts’ recognition that the right to a speedy trial is fundamental, and its denial is a miscarriage of justice.
  32. In contrast, in Muhammad Mustansir v. Mahndi Khan (2020 CLCN 4), the Lahore High Court dismissed a revision petition against the setting aside of an ex parte decree, citing that the petitioner failed to provide a sufficient cause for the delayed filing of the application. This showcases the courts’ disapproval of adjournments and delays when they are used as tactics to evade legal responsibilities.
  33. Also, in Labbaik (Pvt.) Ltd. v. Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (2020 PLD 343), the High Court disposed of the appeal by setting aside the prohibition on the host, noting that enough opportunities were given to the appellant to present their case, which they did not utilize, indicating the court’s intolerance towards adjournments sought without substantial justification.
  34.  The Lahore High Court in the case of Abdul Majeed v. Hussain Bibi (2021 CLC 2119) made it clear that the initiation of ex-parte proceedings on an adjourned date of hearing without fresh notices or publication constitutes a grave illegality and injustice to the petitioners. This demonstrates the court’s stance that due process must be followed, especially in providing adequate notice to the parties involved.
  35. In another case, Mashooq Ali Rajpar v. Raja Abdul Hameed (2021 CLD 783), the Karachi High Court highlighted the strict adherence to the limitation period when granting adjournments, emphasizing that an adjournment should not be used to circumvent statutory time limits.
  36. The principle that mere delay should not be a ground for adjournment was further solidified in the case of Nazir Ahmed v. State (2021 YLR 1309), where the court refused bail on the basis of hardship due to the accused’s own conduct in seeking frequent adjournments, thereby delaying the trial.
  37. The Karachi High Court in Muhammad Saleem v. Haresh Kumar (2021 PLD 381) dismissed a revision petition on the ground that multiple opportunities for producing evidence were given, yet the party failed to appear. This underscores the courts’ diminishing tolerance for adjournments sought without valid reasons.
  38. Moreover, in the case of Mst. Abida Begum v. Late Fazlur Rehman (2021 MLD 1158), the High Court outlined the criteria under which a party’s right to produce evidence may be closed. It specified that a case should not be adjourned at the request of one party without a significant cause.
  39. In terms of obtaining justice when one party is abusing the adjournment process, the courts have been proactive. The High Court in State v. Shahzad Riaz (2021 PCrLJ 656) reversed a sine die adjournment, emphasizing that there is no legal bar to civil and criminal proceedings occurring simultaneously and that the trial must proceed on its merits.
  40. The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s appellate bench decision in 2020 CLD 1440 illustrates the delicate balance courts maintain when considering adjournments. The appellate bench did not issue a sine die adjournment pending a High Court decision, instead directing both parties to keep it informed—a decision illustrating the courts’ preference for progress over pause, unless a higher court’s determination could potentially resolve the underlying dispute.
  41. Similarly, the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2020 SCMR 300 severely criticised the practice of seeking multiple adjournments on frivolous grounds. The ruling highlighted the necessity of courts adhering to their own orders, particularly when a final opportunity to present evidence has been granted. This decision signals the apex court’s impatience with delays and its commitment to the swift administration of justice.
  42. In 2020 CLC 1972, the Lahore High Court overturned a decision where the trial court had dismissed a suit immediately upon the plaintiff’s failure to produce evidence, without allowing the plaintiff’s personal testimony. This judgment reinforces the principle that while courts discourage adjournments, they also strive to ensure that a party’s right to be heard is not unfairly curtailed.
  43. The Lahore High Court, in 2020 PCrLJ 1315, demonstrated its willingness to close the right to cross-examination when a party repeatedly resorts to dilatory tactics. This shows that while the courts protect the right to a fair trial, they are also prepared to take decisive action when this right is abused to hamper the trial.
  44. The same court, however, in 2020 PCrLJ 1184, outlined the protocols for recording statements via video link, which could reduce the need for adjournments due to witness unavailability. This decision is an example of how courts are adapting to technology to mitigate delays.
  45. In 2020 MLD 1877, the Lahore High Court granted bail due to inordinate delays in trial proceedings, underscoring the courts’ awareness of the adverse impacts prolonged adjournments can have on defendants.
  46. The High Court of Lahore’s decision in 2020 CLCN 4 regarding the setting aside of an ex parte decree due to the defendant’s failure to appear after initially seeking an adjournment for filing a written statement serves as a warning against employing adjournments as a tactic for evading legal responsibilities.
  47. Moreover, in 2020 PLD 343, while the Islamabad High Court acknowledged the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (PEMRA) prohibitory powers, it also noted the necessity of providing a fair hearing, indicating the courts’ preference for procedural fairness over regulatory expediency.
  48. The  High Court of Azad Kashmir in 2020 MLD 594, and the Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Court in 2020 YLR 226, both addressed issues of adjournment abuse. These cases underscore the courts’ intolerance for adjournment misuse, especially when it impedes the course of justice.
  49. In the case of Gul Murad vs. State (2020 YLRN 67), the Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Court displayed an understanding approach by suspending the sentence due to the delay in hearing the appeal, which was not attributable to the accused. The court noted the consistent presence of the counsel at hearings without seeking adjournments, emphasizing that the delay in the justice process was due to the court’s administrative issues, not the accused’s dilatory tactics.
  50. Conversely, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s decisions in Incomeon (Pvt.) Limited vs. Director (Corporatization and Compliance Department) SECP, Islamabad (2019 CLD 1266), Saqib Raza vs. Deputy Director (CSD), SECP, Islamabad (2019 CLD 1240), and Dewan Zubair Ahmed Farooqui vs. Commissioner (Securities Market Division), SECP (2019 CLD 892) reflect an intolerance for unexplained absences and unwarranted adjournments. In these cases, the appellants’ failure to appear or seek adjournments resulted in the dismissal of their appeals for non-prosecution or withdrawal. The principle is clear: parties must engage with the process or face the consequences.
  51. The Supreme Court in Meera Shafi (Meesha Shafi) vs. Additional District Judge, Lahore (2019 SCMR 1104) set terms for the progression of a case, including the filing of affidavits and cross-examination schedules, with an explicit directive to refrain from undue adjournments. This directive underscores the courts’ preference for a disciplined approach to case management.
  52. The Punjab Environmental Tribunal Lahore, in Cantonment Board Sialkot vs. Provincial Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2019 CLD 555), and the Lahore High Court in Muhammad Waseem alias Vicky vs. State (2019 YLR 626), both granted relief due to the adverse effects of delay caused by the other side’s actions. These cases underscore the courts’ awareness of the principle ‘audi alteram partem’ (hear the other side) and the importance of not condemning a party unheard due to procedural delays.
  53. Conversely, in Gajdhar alias Anand vs. State (2019 YLR 1971), the Karachi High Court denied bail, attributing the delay in the trial primarily to the petitioner’s own requests for adjournments. This demonstrates that courts may refuse relief when they find that a party has been responsible for the delay.
  54. In cases of misuse of adjournments, such as Rashid vs. Mst. Farah Naz (2019 CLC 1384), where the petitioner accused the presiding officer of bias after a request for adjournment was denied, the courts have shown that they are likely to dismiss such claims unless there is substantial evidence to support them.
  55. In Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Court, the case of Gul Murad (2020 YLRN 67) illustrates a scenario where adjournments were not sought by the defence, and the delay in the trial was due to institutional backlogs. The court’s decision to suspend the sentence recognized the right of the accused to a timely hearing, which had been compromised due to no fault of their own.
  56. Contrastingly, in the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan cases, adjournments—or the lack thereof—had different outcomes. For example, in Incomeon (Pvt.) Limited (Proposed) (2019 CLD 1266), the dismissal of an appeal for non-prosecution due to the appellants’ absence demonstrates the court’s intolerance for unexplained non-attendance. Similarly, Saqib Raza, Director Nimir Industrial Chemical Limited (2019 CLD 1240), showcases the court’s willingness to dismiss an appeal when the appellant expresses disinterest.
  57. The case of Dewan Zubair Ahmed Farooqui (2019 CLD 892) is particularly telling, highlighting the court’s disapproval of repeated adjournments that aim to procrastinate the proceedings. The court emphasizes that neither party is allowed to regulate the proceedings according to their whims and that justice should not be delayed without sufficient cause.
  58. In the Supreme Court’s view, as seen in the case of Meera Shafi (Meesha Shafi) (2019 SCMR 1104), adjournments should not be used to unduly prolong a case. The court enforced a consent order stipulating timelines for the submission and cross-examination of affidavits, reflecting a stringent stance against undue delays.
  59. Environmental cases, such as the Punjab Environmental Tribunal Lahore case involving the Cantonment Board Sialkot (2019 CLD 555), demonstrate the court’s application of the maxim ‘audi alteram partem’, ensuring that no party is condemned unheard and that adjournments do not compromise the principle of fair hearing.
  60. Insurance disputes, like Muhammad Haroon vs. East and West Insurance Company Limited (2019 CLD 500), reveal that non-production of vital documents like surveyor’s reports can lead to adjournments. However, persistent failure to produce evidence can result in the court disregarding such reports, as the insurer’s right to present further evidence was closed after frequent adjournments.
  61. In criminal cases involving serious charges such as qatl-i-amd (murder), the courts seem to adopt a more stringent view on adjournments. In Muhammad Waseem alias Vicky (2019 YLR 626), the Lahore High Court granted bail due to the prosecution’s excessive requests for adjournments which led to a prolonged trial period, recognizing the individual’s liberty when the delay in trial was not attributed to the accused.
  62. From the cited cases, it becomes evident that the courts consider adjournments with a critical eye, particularly in instances where such requests contribute to significant delays in the administration of justice. For example, in the case of Muhammad Yaqoob v. State (2018 PCrLJN 19 Lahore-High-Court-Lahore), the court refused bail on account of the accused’s rash and negligent actions leading to the death of two individuals. The counsel for the accused had sought adjournments to negotiate a compromise with the victims’ family, but these efforts were fruitless, and the court did not find it a reasonable ground to grant bail.
  63. The attitude of Pakistani courts towards adjournments becomes even clearer when we consider the case of Khalilur Rehman v. 2nd Additional Sessions Judge, Mirpurkhas (2018 YLR 1711 Karachi-High-Court-Sindh), where the court dismissed an application for the re-transfer of a case due to the applicant party’s instrumental role in delaying the trial by seeking adjournments on various pretexts.
  64. In the realm of accountability and embezzlement cases, as seen in Abid Wali Khoso v. National Accountability Bureau (NAB) through DG NAB, Sindh (2018 PCrLJ 1607 Karachi-High-Court-Sindh), courts are more inclined to grant bail when delays are not attributable to the accused. The court granted bail, noting that no adjournments were sought by the petitioners or their counsel and that the trial was not progressing at a reasonable pace.
  65. For pleading successful adjournments, the key takeaways are to ensure that the reasons for seeking an adjournment are genuine and not a tactic for delay, as shown in the case of Jan Nisar Zafar v. State (2018 MLD 1857 Karachi-High-Court-Sindh). Here, the High Court took a compassionate approach, recognizing that the surety for the accused, who was implicated in a case under S. 489-F of the Penal Code (XLV of 1860), was not treated with undue harshness and had not sought adjournments without reasonable cause.
  66. When one party has been abusing adjournments, the opposing party can urge the court to consider the conduct of the party seeking adjournments and demonstrate how such requests have been prejudicial to the interests of justice. The court in Shah Muslim v. State (2018 YLRN 235 Karachi-High-Court-Sindh) refused bail, noting that the accused was responsible for the delay in the trial by repeatedly seeking adjournments.
  67. The types of cases where courts are more likely to frown upon frequent use of adjournments include those involving grave crimes, such as qatl (homicide) as in Muhammad Adil alias Topi v. State (2018 YLRN 101 Karachi-High-Court-Sindh), where the accused had been in custody for six years. The court granted bail, emphasizing that the adjournments sought by the defense were not substantial enough to hold the accused responsible for the inordinate delay.

 The key takeaways for successfully pleading adjournments in Pakistani courts include:

  • Establishing that the request for adjournment is not a tactic for delay.
  • Demonstrating a consistent record of compliance with court schedules.
  • Ensuring that any request for adjournment is well-substantiated and communicated promptly.
  • Being prepared to proceed with the case as scheduled whenever possible.
  • Ensuring that any request for adjournment is well-grounded in reason and necessity, with respect to the principles of natural justice and due process.
  • Avoiding the use of adjournments as a tactic for delay, as this can result in negative inferences and outcomes.
  • Being aware of statutory limitations and ensuring that requests for adjournments do not infringe upon these periods.

When facing a party that abuses the use of adjournments, it is essential to:

  • Meticulously document all instances of delay and adjournment requests by the opposing party.
  • Bring these instances to the court’s attention, highlighting the impact on the administration of justice.
  • Request the court to enforce its timelines and procedures to prevent further delay.

The courts are more likely to frown upon the frequent use of adjournments in cases where:

  • There is a statutory right to a speedy trial, such as in criminal cases.
  • Delays can lead to substantial injustice, such as in environmental cases or where interim relief is sought.
  • One party is perceived to be using adjournments to gain an unfair advantage or to unduly pressure the other side.

From these rulings, the key takeaways for successfully pleading adjournments are:

  • Sufficient Cause: The party seeking an adjournment must show a sufficient cause. An adjournment is not a right, and the reason presented must be compelling enough to justify the delay.
  • Non-abusive Use: The courts frown upon the use of adjournments as a delay tactic. If a pattern of abuse is detected, such as deliberately not submitting required documents or failing to appear, this may lead to adverse consequences, such as the striking out of defence or refusal of bail.
  • Procedural Compliance: Parties must comply with the procedural timelines established by the courts. Courts have the power to impose a stricter timeline to prevent the abuse of process.
  • Mitigating Circumstances: If a party has genuinely been delayed by circumstances beyond their control, they must provide clear evidence of this. The courts may show leniency if the reasons are justifiable and not within the control of the party seeking the adjournment.
  • Adjournments should not be sought without a legitimate cause, and frivolous requests are frowned upon.
  • Courts expect adherence to scheduled hearings, especially when a final opportunity has been communicated.
  • The right to a fair hearing is paramount, and courts may allow adjournments to ensure that a party is not unduly prejudiced.
  • Abuse of adjournment privileges can lead to the loss of rights, such as the right to cross-examine witnesses or present evidence.
  • Technological solutions to circumvent the need for adjournments are encouraged and increasingly becoming the norm.
  • Inordinate delays caused by adjournments can result in bail being granted in criminal cases or in civil cases may lead to decisions being made in absentia.

To ensure justice when the opposing party is abusing adjournments, a party should:

  • Diligently document all instances of delay and the reasons provided.
  • Demonstrate a consistent readiness to proceed with the trial.
  • Highlight the opposing party’s patterns of abuse, such as non-compliance with court orders or procedural rules.
  • Request the court to enforce its powers to regulate the pace of proceedings and prevent abuse of the process, which can include imposing costs or striking out pleadings.
  • The overarching theme in Pakistani jurisprudence is the promotion of expeditious justice, as seen in the Lahore High Court’s admonishment of sine die adjournments without a fixed date [2023 PLD 334 LAHORE-HIGH-COURT-LAHORE]. The court’s stance is clear: the power to adjourn must be balanced with the constitutional right to a fair trial and timely conclusion of cases.
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From these rulings, several key takeaways and cautions emerge for litigants

  • Legitimate Grounds: Adjournments must be sought on legitimate grounds, with compelling reasons that justify the delay (2023 CLC 1131; 2023 MLD 957).
  • Procedural Compliance: Compliance with procedural timelines is critical. Courts are likely to be unsympathetic to requests for adjournments that push proceedings beyond prescribed limits without valid reasons (2022 CLC 1966).
  • Punctuality and Preparedness: Parties and counsel must demonstrate punctuality and preparedness to proceed. Habitual requests for adjournments due to unpreparedness are frowned upon (2022 SCMR 133; 2022 PLD 247).
  • Impact on Justice: Courts are conscious of the impact of adjournments on the swift administration of justice and are inclined to penalize delays that are perceived as obstructive or as a means to procrastinate (2022 YLR 2174; 2022 CLC 391).
  • Enforcement of Court Orders: Courts expect their orders to be taken seriously. Once a ‘final’ adjournment is granted, parties should not expect further leniency (2022 YLR 2174).
  • Equitable Treatment: Even if one party is responsible for delays, the courts seek to ensure that justice is not denied to the other party (2022 PCrLJ 781; 2022 YLR 2343).
  • In light of the above, it is evident that the courts have a particular aversion to adjournments in cases that affect personal liberty (bail hearings, criminal trials) and family law matters, where delays can exacerbate personal conflicts and hardships (2022 CLC 391; 2022 YLRN 15). Moreover, the courts are less tolerant of adjournments in commercial cases where financial stakes are high and delays can have significant economic repercussions (2022 CLD 522; 2022 CLC 2013).

Conclusions from Case Law

  1. The  Pakistani judiciary’s approach to adjournments is progressively aimed at discouraging unwarranted delays, thereby promoting a more efficient and timely resolution of disputes. This emerging jurisprudence is an encouraging sign for those seeking swift justice and a warning for those who might contemplate using adjournments as a dilatory tactic.
  2.  In the landscape of Pakistani legal proceedings, the courts have shown a marked preference for expeditious justice, clearly frowning upon unnecessary delays caused by frequent adjournments. This attitude is evidenced by a series of judgments that underscore the judiciary’s intent to curb the abuse of the adjournment process, ensuring that justice is not only done but is seen to be done swiftly and effectively.
  3.  Adjournments in the courts are often necessary for a variety of reasons, including the need for additional time to gather evidence, the absence of key individuals, or unforeseen circumstances. However, the habitual or strategic use of adjournments can be viewed as an abuse of process, leading to unnecessary delays in the administration of justice.
  4. From the citations provided, the attitude of Pakistani courts towards adjournments seems to reflect a balance between accommodating genuine needs for more time and curtailing any abuse of the system that could lead to injustice or unnecessary delays.
  5.  To plead for a successful adjournment, the requesting party must demonstrate a genuine need for the delay and ensure that the request does not unjustly prejudice the other party or the court’s schedule. It is also essential to follow the proper procedure, as highlighted in 2021 MLD 1158 Karachi-High-Court-Sindh, where the court stated that certain conditions must be met for closing a party’s right to produce evidence due to adjournments.
  6.  Pakistani courts recognize the necessity of adjournments but maintain a rigorous stance against their abuse. For a party to navigate this successfully, they must adhere strictly to procedural requirements, avoid any appearance of manipulating the system, and ensure they act in good faith to advance the timely and fair resolution of cases. This approach helps maintain the integrity of the legal process and upholds the principle that justice delayed is justice denied.
  7. The attitude of Pakistani courts towards adjournments can be discerned from a series of judgements that underscore a concerted effort to curb the abuse of adjournments and to enhance the efficiency of the legal process. The key takeaways for pleading successful adjournments hinge on the demonstration of legitimate cause, adherence to procedural requirements, and the avoidance of delay tactics.
  8.  The types of cases where courts are more likely to frown upon the frequent use of adjournments are those where adjournments are sought on frivolous grounds, thereby hindering the swift administration of justice. Courts have demonstrated a clear intent to discourage the misuse of adjournments in both civil and criminal cases, as they can lead to unnecessary delays, increased costs, and potential injustice. The overarching message from these rulings is that while courts are willing to grant adjournments for valid reasons, they have little patience for parties who seek to abuse the process to delay proceedings.
  9. In conclusion, to plead successful adjournments, parties should demonstrate genuine need, comply with procedural requirements, avoid dilatory tactics, and respect the court’s time and schedules. When faced with abuse of adjournments by the opposing party, one can seek justice by highlighting the delay tactics to the court and requesting stringent conditions or final opportunities for the opposing party to comply, thereby signaling to the court a commitment to progressing the case efficiently and justly.
  10. Adjournments are a crucial part of the judicial process, allowing both sides in a legal dispute the necessary time to prepare their cases and ensure that justice is served. However, the courts in Pakistan have displayed a consistent approach towards adjournments, as reflected in various judgments, balancing the need for thorough preparation with the imperative of expeditious justice.
  11. In cases where adjournments are seen as an abuse of the process, it is crucial to demonstrate to the court that such delays are prejudicing the rights of the other party and are being used as a tool for delay rather than legitimate preparation. Courts are likely to frown upon adjournments in criminal cases (e.g., S. 497 Penal Code cases like Fasih Ullah v. State, 2021 PCrLJN 39) where the liberty of an individual is at stake or in civil matters where a party is perceived to be prolonging the litigation unnecessarily.
  12. While adjournments are a legitimate part of legal proceedings, Pakistani courts have shown a clear intent to curb their misuse. Parties seeking adjournments must do so with legitimate reasons, adhering to procedural timelines, and without infringing upon the principles of justice. When adjournments are abused, the courts are equipped and willing to step in to ensure that justice is not delayed or denied.
  13. The judicious management of court time is a cornerstone of effective legal systems worldwide, and Pakistani courts have been no exception. Through various rulings, the courts in Pakistan have established a clear stance on the issue of adjournments, emphasizing the necessity for expeditious disposal of cases while also safeguarding the rights of the parties involved to a fair hearing.
  14. The types of cases where courts are more likely to frown upon the frequent use of adjournments include those where one party is perceived to be using procedural tactics to delay the dispensation of justice, such as in criminal trials where the rights to a speedy trial are fundamental, and in civil cases where delay could amount to a denial of justice.
  15. In dealing with a party abusing the use of adjournments, the opposing party should consistently highlight the misuse to the court and request that the court enforce its timelines and procedures strictly. By doing so, they can persuade the court to expedite proceedings and potentially obtain a decision in their favour.
  16. While Pakistani courts acknowledge the necessity of adjournments in certain circumstances, there is a marked impatience with their misuse. The emphasis is on the swift but fair resolution of disputes, with a clear message that justice delayed can amount to justice denied.
  17. The attitude of Pakistani courts towards adjournments is one of cautious acceptance, conditioned by the overarching imperative that justice must be administered without undue delay. While the courts recognize the legitimate need for adjournments in certain situations, there is a clear impatience with their misuse. The consistent theme across the cited cases is that while justice is patient, it is not tolerant of obstruction.
  18. The courts in Pakistan manifest a clear inclination to curb the misuse of adjournments, especially in serious criminal matters, cases of public interest, and where the delays impinge upon the delivery of justice. The judiciary’s overarching concern is to avert any potential abuse of the legal process, ensuring that adjournments are granted only when justified by compelling circumstances and not employed as a stratagem to hinder justice.
  19. The key takeaways for pleading successful adjournments are clear: there must be a legitimate reason, supported by evidence, that aligns with the interests of justice. A party seeking an adjournment must demonstrate that the delay is not self-imposed or a deliberate tactic to hinder the progression of the trial. Courts are inclined to frown upon adjournments in cases where there is clear evidence of abuse of process, particularly in criminal proceedings where delays can infringe upon the constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial.
  20. To get justice when one party has been abusing the use of adjournments, it is crucial to meticulously document all proceedings, demonstrate the opposing party’s pattern of delay, and argue the prejudice caused by such delays to one’s case. Additionally, showing readiness to proceed and being proactive in seeking alternative dates can help convince the Court of one’s commitment to expedite the matter.
  21. The types of cases where courts are more likely to frown upon the frequent use of adjournments are those that affect the rights of the individuals significantly, such as criminal cases where the liberty of the accused is at stake, or civil cases where prolonged litigation can result in substantial financial or personal hardship. Courts are particularly critical of adjournments in matters of public interest or where the delay would undermine the legal process itself.
  22. It can also be seen that while adjournments are a necessary part of the legal process, the Pakistani courts are advocating for a more judicious use of this procedural tool. The aim is to ensure that justice is not only done but is seen to be done without unnecessary delays, reflecting a commitment to upholding the rule of law and the rights of the parties involved.
  23. The judicial attitude towards adjournments in Pakistan, as reflected in recent case law, underscores the principle that justice delayed is justice denied. Pakistani courts have increasingly adopted a stringent stance against unnecessary adjournments that cause delays in the administration of justice. This shift is evident in a series of judgments that emphasize expeditious litigation while penalizing delays not warranted by compelling reasons.
  24. The Pakistani courts’ stance on adjournments can be gleaned from a series of decisions that elucidate the judiciary’s balancing act between ensuring swift justice and accommodating the legitimate needs for delay by the parties involved. The courts in Pakistan have repeatedly underscored that adjournments should not be granted frivolously and should not be used as a tool to delay proceedings unduly. This principle is rooted in the interest of justice, ensuring that cases are heard and decided promptly, and preventing any party from leveraging adjournments as a tactic for evading the course of justice.
  25. The courts’ stance is clear: adjournments are a procedural tool that must be employed judiciously and not as a means to delay justice. To plead for successful adjournments, parties should demonstrate legitimate reasons, such as the need to gather evidence or the unavailability of key witnesses, while ensuring they do not contribute to unnecessary delays.
  26. When one party abuses the use of adjournments, the opposing party may seek justice by highlighting the unnecessary delays and demonstrating their readiness to proceed. The courts, particularly in high-stakes cases like financial fraud or environmental protection, are likely to frown upon frequent adjournments that hinder the swift administration of justice.
  27. Key takeaways for legal practitioners include the importance of being prepared, avoiding frivolous requests for adjournments, and maintaining a proactive approach to ensure the timely progress of cases. Courts have a duty to dispense justice without undue delay, and adjournments must serve the purpose of fairness, not become a tool for obstruction.
  28.  Adjournments can be a pivotal factor in the judicial process, offering flexibility for the parties involved, yet they also have the potential to cause significant delays in the dispensation of justice. The attitude of Pakistani courts towards adjournments reflects a balance between ensuring procedural fairness and avoiding unnecessary delays.
  29. Adjournments are an integral part of judicial proceedings, providing flexibility for unforeseen circumstances that may prevent the progression of a case. However, the attitude of Pakistani courts towards adjournments has been progressively stringent, reflecting a commitment to ensure that justice is not only done but seen to be done expeditiously. The courts’ responses to adjournments, as reflected in recent case law, illustrate a clear stance that while adjournments are sometimes necessary, they must not be used as tools for delay or to the disadvantage of justice.
  30. While the Pakistani legal system recognises the necessity of adjournments in ensuring justice, the courts have a manifestly low tolerance for their misuse. The key to obtaining a favourable outcome in the face of adjournment abuse is to stay on the right side of procedural rules, maintain a proactive stance in the litigation process, and decisively bring any abuse to the court’s attention.
  31. Adjournments in the judicial process are a means to ensure that justice is served with due consideration for all parties involved. However, the Pakistani courts have been increasingly scrutinizing the reasons for adjournments, emphasizing the need for expedience in the judicial process and demonstrating a low tolerance for delays that are deemed to be tactics to stall proceedings.
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