Adjournment – The Dark Art Of Advocacy

Adjournment – The Dark Art Of Advocacy

“Request for adjournment, counsel for the defendant is busy before another court, let the matter be adjourned.”

That’s how it starts, the fever, the rage and the feeling of powerlessness, when, despite sheer reluctance from me (counsel for the plaintiff), another date of hearing gets fixed in a case which has been in limbo for ages. We, the officers of the court, the symbols of power, discipline and justice, are harbouring a pest that challenges our own sense of priority. Quite often we find the modern trends blaming the “judicial system” for its lack of efficiency or productivity. Such superficial assertions are the demonstrations of the juvenility and mere ignorance on the part of “us” the self-proclaimed protectors of the law and the yielders of speedy justice, for it is us who have made adjournment a tool to practice the dark arts of advocacy.

But then again, as the famous saying goes, “it takes two hands to clap”, it is admitted that the judicial system needs an overhaul and the judiciary needs to be more proactive in spotting a shyster when it sees one. Over time, the pettifoggers have developed quite a few tactics to prolong a legal proceeding; a hybrid of the American parliamentary concept of filibuster seems to be the most famous one, practised by even some of the most senior members of the legal fraternity. According to the manual, such an art is practised mostly when the legal counsel knows about the ultimate fate of his or her case i.e. “I can’t salvage anything,” hence, in such dire circumstances the counsel will inhabit the rostrum before the presiding officer and start making his or her submissions consisting of exorbitant detours, and such an exercise would normally continue till the counsel achieves the grail i.e. adjournment. This ploy, however unethical it may seem, does prove to be quite fruitful.

Another gambit to seek adjournment is the classic vindicating excuse used by everyone in their student life to justify their absence, that “counsel is bedridden (due to illness)”, even though the manual does provide a disclaimer to this ploy which may not produce results repeatedly. Similar schemes include being busy in another (higher) court and a general adjournment for personal reasons. And if one is out of excuses, the honourable judge might come to your rescue with a day off altogether!

This despairing scheme of reality only begs to ask one question from the entire fraternity of legal practitioners (barring exceptions), “Are we playing our part properly?” We have been so caught up with what the system should be like, that no one realises what we are obliged to do. Professional ethics aren’t just part of a forty-mark subject in our route to graduation, they actually need to be practically implemented. Without prejudice to the aforesaid, it is the need of the hour that the legislators revisit the code and provide a cure for this ailment. Until then, “Request for adjournment, counsel for the petitioner seeks more time for preparation, let the matter be adjourned.”


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of or any organisation with which he might be associated.

Abdul Muqtadir Khan

Author: Abdul Muqtadir Khan

The writer is a qualified lawyer and is a masters graduate of the University of Warwick. He is based in Lahore and is working with one of the top corporate law firms in the country.