The Delhi High Court has notified the Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, 2018, which provides for cutting down time of litigation, weeding out frivolous cases, checking too many adjournments and imposing cost throughout, especially wherever delay caused is unjustified.
The rules supersede the 1967 Rules with respect to practice and procedure for exercise of its ordinary original civil jurisdiction.
The new Rules have been notified after the Supreme Court took it upon itself to reduce the litigation time in various high courts across the country and called upon the judiciary to work out ways and means to dispose of long pending contested civil suits.
It had asked the Delhi High Court to lead in this exercise by framing new procedural rules which can serve as a model to be emulated by other high courts.
Formed with the aim of reducing litigation time consumed in litigation, the new Rules have various provisions for checking the causes of delays – be it random adjournments, non-summoning of parties, non-examination of summoned witnesses, time slots for various cases including short cases etc and judges fixing time that would be consumed in recording of witnesses on any given day.
Chapter XVIII, Rule 4 (Time Slots) says, “The Court may, by order, fix the time allotted for hearing short cause and other matters in accordance with its cause list and as considered appropriate by the Court. The Court may in its discretion, considering the nature of the case, pass such orders as it deems fit and appropriate for speedy and expeditious disposal of the case; cutting short the litigation and taking such steps in this behalf.”
CHAPTER XI on ‘Evidence and Witnesses’ also has Rule 21 titled ‘Court to ascertain time’ which says, “Before fixing a date for evidence or allotting time, the Court/ Registrar will ascertain from all the Advocates of parties, the estimate of the likely time that may be required in examination/ cross-examination of witnesses by them”.
Chapter XIII provides that “All adjournments shall be to a day certain. No suit or matter shall be adjourned sine die except for reasons recorded in writing”.
It also says “Consent of parties by itself shall not be a good cause for seeking adjournment”.
Efforts have been made to check undated cases and categorise the cases with Rules making it mandatory for the court to fix “actual dates” in all supplementary matters and short cause matters, except that the Registrar can fix the cases before the Court in Short Matters.
Where the actual dates of hearing are yet to be fixed in the cases, the Registrar will fix the said matters as Short Matters before the court for fixing the actual dates of hearing. Cases in which evidence is to be recorded will be listed in the category of Long Cause and those coming up for hearing after evidence will be listed in the category of Finals.
The Rules also provide for costs throughout.
Chapter XXIII titled “Costs And Taxation Of Costs” says “If the Court considers any party abusing the process of Court or in any manner considered dilatory, vexatious, mala fide and abuse of process by them, the Court shall require the delinquent party to make deposit / payment upfront, in the manner directed by Court of such costs as the Court deems appropriate, before proceeding further in the matter. For the purpose of this Chapter, the expression ―Court shall mean and include the Court, the Registrar General and the Registrar, as the case may be”.
While there are now stricter Rules against adjournments, Chapter XI on ‘Evidence and Witnesses’ Rule 14 ‘Cost of adjournment’ says:
(i) In case, an adjournment is necessitated for examining or cross examining witness(es), reasons for such adjournment shall be recorded by Court/ Registrar/ Commissioner. In such event, actual reasonable costs of travel/ stay/ loss of income of such witness(es) shall be recorded in the order sheet. The party at whose instance such adjournment is necessitated will be required to deposit, within one week of the adjournment or in such time granted by the Court/ Registrar/ Commissioner, such costs so recorded, irrespective of reasons for adjournment.
(ii) In case, the party, at whose instance such adjournment has been granted fails to deposit the costs, such party shall not only forfeit the right to examine or cross examine the witness(es), as the case may be, but will also be liable for consequences as laid down in these Rules.