From Justice Definitions Project

What is 'Adjournment'

Adjournment refers to the temporary suspension or postponement of a meeting, session, or court proceeding to a later date or time. The term adjournment is generally used in the context of parliamentary proceedings, and, secondly, adjournments in court proceedings. An adjournment in a court proceeding is a temporary postponement of a court proceeding. It essentially means putting the court case on hold for a specific period and then resuming it later.

The Civil Procedure Code (1909) prescribes a limit of three adjournments per case, but reality often diverges from this stated limit. In 2021, the e-committee of the Supreme Court has proposed an alert for judges to be informed about breaches in this 3-adjournment rule within its case management system. There is thus a recognition of the presence of this problem.

Official Definition of 'Adjournment'

Legal provision(s) relating to 'Adjournment'

Adjournment in Civil Cases

In the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), Order XVII deals with adjournment. The order contains three rules which, although do not provide a definition of “adjournment”, it helps us understand how adjournments work.

  • Rule 1 grants the court the discretion to grant time and adjourn hearings at any stage of a lawsuit if sufficient cause is shown. The court must record in writing the reasons for such adjournments. However, a limitation is imposed by the proviso, which restricts the grant of adjournments to a party to no more than three times during the hearing of the suit. In cases of adjournment, the court is required to fix a day for the further hearing of the suit and make orders regarding costs incurred due to the adjournment. The provision also outlines certain conditions and restrictions related to adjournments, including the continuous hearing of the suit once commenced, limited adjournments at the request of a party, disallowance of adjournments due to the engagement of a party's pleader in another court, and strict conditions for adjournments based on the illness or inability of a pleader to conduct the case. Additionally, the provision allows the court to take appropriate actions, including recording the statement of a witness, in cases where a party or their pleader is not present or not ready for examination or cross-examination.
  • Rule 2 states that if, on a day to which a court hearing is adjourned, the involved parties or any of them fail to appear, the court has the authority to continue with the suit in accordance with the procedures outlined in Order IX or make any other appropriate order. Furthermore, if a party's evidence has been substantially recorded and that party fails to appear on the adjourned day, the court may, at its discretion, proceed with the case as if the absent party were present.
  • Rule 3 states that if a party in a legal suit fails to present evidence, bring witnesses, or fulfill any other essential actions within the specified time granted by the court, the court has the authority to proceed with the case regardless of this default. The court can either make a prompt decision if all parties are present or, if any party is absent, proceed according to the relevant rules.

Adjournment during Case Management hearing

Another important provision in the CPC dealing with adjournments is Order XV, Rule 7. It provides that the Case Management Hearing cannot be adjourned solely because the advocate representing a party is absent. However, if an adjournment is requested in advance through a formal application with associated costs, the Court may consider it. Additionally, if the Court finds a justified reason for the advocate's absence, it has the discretion to adjourn the hearing to another date on terms and conditions it deems appropriate.

Adjournment in Criminal Cases

For criminal cases, the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) [similar provisions have been reproduced in BNSS] also prescribes for adjournment of proceedings. In Mohd. Khalid v. State of W.B., (2002) 7 SCC 334, the court highlighted the importance of avoiding unnecessary adjournments in trials. It notes that delaying the cross-examination of witnesses can lead to accusations that the accused are given time to influence or manipulate them. The court cites Section 309 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which suggests that trials should proceed without unnecessary delays. The court highlights previous cases where it criticized courts for adjourning cases without examining witnesses who were present, noting that such practices cause inconvenience and financial loss to witnesses. Same has been upheld in Doongar Singh v. State of Rajasthan, (2018) 13 SCC 741.

Other than the CPC, the Supreme Court Rules, 2013[1], and respective High Court rules, further, modify the operation of adjournments. Besides, the Commercial Courts Act and Consumer Protection Act provide for subject-matter-specific modifications to the general operation of adjournments.

Functional Variations

Adjournment Slips

Various high courts have prescribed different formats and templates for adjournment applications. For instance, the Calcutta High Court has circulated a template for the three adjournment rule. Delhi High Court has a standard format for application for adjournment. Here is an example of an adjournment slip of the Punjab & Haryana High Court. Gujarat High Court has prescribed a format for adjournment applications. However, recently, the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Supreme Court Advocate on Record Association raised issues with the discontinuation of the practice of circulation of adjournment slips by the Supreme Court of India.

The Supreme Court had issued two circulars in December 2023, stating that the practice of circulating adjournment slips/letters would be discontinued temporarily. Following the concerns raised by the bar bodies, the Supreme Court constituted a committee of judges to prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) for lawyers seeking adjournments. The committee invited suggestions from the bar and other stakeholders on this issue. Until the SOP is finalized, the practice of circulating adjournment slips remains discontinued.

Adjournment as appearing in Official Databases

Case Information System

The daily proceedings under CIS 3.0 provide for recording of reasons for adjournment as shown in the image below [source]


e-Committee, Supreme Court is also trying to enforce compliance with the ‘three adjournment rule’ by creating a facility which is provided in "daily proceedings screen" to alert judges about listing of case. If the case is listed on same stage on next date, indicator depicts as follows:

  • Green: Indicates that the case is listed on the same stage for less than 3 times
  • Orange: Indicates that the case is listed on the same stage between 3 to 6 times
  • Red: If the case is listed on the same stage for more than 6 times.

Along with the coloured indicator, number of times the case is listed on the same stage along with period/time since when the case is listed on the same stage is also shown. The alert may assist the Judges to decide adjourning the case further on the same stage or to list for next stage.


The information relating to adjournment is provided in the cause list of some courts/tribunals. The information may relate to the categorisation of cases in which adjournment may not be granted based on the age of the case, or where cases are adjourned because the matter is not taken up by the court.

Adjournments as mentioned in cause lists
Adjournments as mentioned in causelists

Research that engages with 'Adjournment'

Inefficiency and Judicial Delay - New Insights from the Delhi High Court

A report by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy suggests that excessive adjournments are one of the major causes of judicial delays. As per their findings, in 91% of delayed cases, counsel sought time at least once. In 70% of delayed cases, counsel sought time more than thrice; and in 30% of delayed cases, counsel sought time more than six times. The report suggests that there should be the imposition of costs on excessive adjournments to reduce judicial delay.

Time-and-Motion Study of four district and sessions courts in Bangalore, Karnataka

A study by DAKSH notes that about 54% of the sitting time of civil courts and 33% of that of criminal courts are spent on handling adjournments. The rest of the time is used for hearings, comprising recording evidence, oral arguments and such activities. This study was undertaken by procuring the daily cause lists published on the website ( of the four courts selected for this study, namely, XXIX Additional City Civil Court Judge, Bangalore; 2nd Additional Civil Judge, Bangalore District; Assistant Chief Metropolitan Magistrate III, Bangalore, and Assistant Chief Metropolitan Magistrate IV, Bangalore.

Addressing case delays caused by multiple adjournments

The GSDRC helpdesk research report on Addressing case delays caused by multiple adjournments provide examples of more and less successful attempts to address case delays in developing countries, with particular focus on delays caused by multiple adjournments.

Related to Adjournments

Passover, pendency, delay, hearing

  1. Order XXXIII, Supreme Court Rules, 2013
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