Section 309 CrPC – Supreme Court Judgments On ‘Adjournments’

Section 309 CrPC deals with power to postpone or adjourn proceedings : In every inquiry or trial the proceedings shall be continued from day­to­day until all the witnesses in attendance have een examined, unless the Court finds the adjournment of the same beyond the following day to be necessary for reasons to be recorded.

Lt. Col. S.J. Chaudhary vs. State (Delhi Administration) [AIR  1984 SC 618], 

We think it is an entirely wholesome practice for the trial to go on from day-to-day. It is must expedient that the trial before the court of a Session should proceed and be dealt with continuously from its inception to its finish. Not only will it result in expedition, it will also result in the elimination of manoeuvre and mischief. It will be in the interest of both the prosecution and the defence that the trial proceeds from day-to-day. It is necessary to realise that Sessions cases must not be tried piecemeal. Before commencing a trial, a Sessions Judge must satisfy himself that all necessary evidence is available, If it is not, he may postpone the case, but only on the strongest possible ground and for the shortest possible period. Once the trial commences, he should, except for a very pressing reason which makes an adjournment inevitable, proceed de die in diem until the trial is concluded.

State of UP vs. Shambhu Nath Singh [JT 2001 (4) SC 319]

In this case, the Supreme Court deprecated the practice of Courts adjourning cases without examination of witnesses when such witnesses are in attendance. It was observed thus: “We make it abundantly clear that if a witness is present in court he must be examined on that day. The court must know that most of the witnesses could attend the court only at heavy cost to them, after keeping aside their own avocation. Certainly they incur suffering and loss of income. The meagre amount of Bhatta (allowance) which a witness may be paid by the court is generally a poor solace for the financial loss incurred by him. It is a sad plight in the trial courts that witnesses who are called through summons or other processes stand at the doorstep from morning till evening only to be told at the end of the day that the case is adjourned to another day. This primitive practice must be reformed by presiding officers of the trial courts and it can be reformed by every one provided the presiding officer concerned has a commitment to duty. No sadistic pleasure in seeing how other persons summoned by him as witnesses are stranded on account of the dimension of his judicial powers can be a persuading factor for granting such adjournments lavishly, that too in a casual manner.”

N.G. Dastane vs Shrikant S. Shivde [ (2001) 6 SCC 135 ]

We are much grieved, if not peeved, in noticing how two advocates succeeded in tormenting a witness by seeking numerous adjournments for cross-examining him in the Court of a judicial magistrate. On all those days the witness had to be present perforce and at considerable cost to him. It became a matter of deep concern to us when we noticed that the judicial magistrate had, on all such occasions, obliged the advocates by granting such adjournments on the mere asking to the incalculable inconvenience and sufferings of the witness.

Mohd.Khalid versus State of W.B (2002)7 SCC 33

Before parting with the case, we may point out that the Designated Court deferred the cross examination of the witnesses for a long time. That is a feature which is being noticed in many cases. Unnecessary adjournments give a scope for a grievance that accused persons get a time to get over the witnesses. Whatever be the truth in this allegation, the fact remains that such adjournments lack the spirit of Section 309 of the Code. When a witness is available and his examination-in-chief is over, unless compelling reasons are there, the Trial Court, should not adjourn the matter on mere asking.

Vinod Kumar vs State Of Punjab [  2015 (3) SCC 220 ]

Adjournments are sought on the drop of a hat by the counsel, even though the witness is present in court, contrary to all principles of holding a trial. That apart, after the examination-in-chief of a witness is over, adjournment is sought for cross-examination and the disquieting feature is that the trial courts grant time. The law requires special reasons to be recorded for grant of time but the same is not taken note of. As has been noticed earlier, in the instant case the cross-examination has taken place after a year and 8 months allowing ample time to pressurize the witness and to gain over him by adopting all kinds of tactics. There is no cavil over the proposition that there has to be a fair and proper trial but the duty of the court while conducting the trial to be guided by the mandate of the law, the conceptual fairness and above all bearing in mind its sacrosanct duty to arrive at the truth on the basis of the material brought on record. If an accused for his benefit takes the trial on the path of total mockery, it cannot be countenanced. The Court has a sacred duty to see that the trial is conducted as per law. If adjournments are granted in this manner it would tantamount to violation of rule of law and eventually turn such trials to a farce. It is legally impermissible and jurisprudentially abominable. The trial courts are expected in law to follow the command of the procedure relating to trial and not yield to the request of the counsel to grant adjournment for non-acceptable reasons. In fact, it is not all appreciable to call a witness for cross-examination after such a long span of time. It is imperative if the examination-in- chief is over, the cross-examination should be completed on the same day. If the examination of a witness continues till late hours the trial can be adjourned to the next day for cross-examination. It is inconceivable in law that the cross-examination should be deferred for such a long time. It is anathema to the concept of proper and fair trial. The duty of the court is to see that not only the interest of the accused as per law is protected but also the societal and collective interest is safe-guarded. It is distressing to note that despite series of judgments of this Court, the habit of granting adjournment, really an ailment, continues. How long shall we say, “Awake! Arise!”. There is a constant discomfort. Therefore, we think it appropriate that the copies of the judgment be sent to the learned Chief Justices of all the High Courts for circulating the same among the learned trial Judges with a command to follow the principles relating to trial in a requisite manner and not to defer the cross- examination of a witness at their pleasure or at the leisure of the defence counsel, for it eventually makes the trial an apology for trial and compels the whole society to suffer chicanery. Let it be remembered that law cannot allowed to be lonely; a destitute.

Doongar Singh v. State of Rajasthan 2017 (13) SCALE 752 : (2018) 13 SCC 741

(i) The trial courts must carry out the mandate of Section 309 of the Cr.P.C. as reiterated in judgments of this Court. (ii) The eye-witnesses must be examined by the prosecution as soon as possible. (iii) Statements of eye-witnesses should invariably be recorded under Section 164 of the Cr.P.C. as per procedure prescribed thereunder.

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