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Section L Hearing of Suits, Adjournments, Examination of witnesses, etc.

87. Notice of day of trial and adjournment. Notice of day of trial, reasonably sufficient to enable the parties to attend with their witnesses, should be given beforehand. It is the business of the parties respectively to take all the reasonable steps to have all their witnesses present in Court on the day fixed. The Court should, on application and deposit of process-fees within proper time, issue the requisite summons as soon as possible so as to secure their attendance on the day fixed for hearing. The day fixed for the trial should not be changed except for sufficient cause, and in dealing with applications for adjournment the interests of both parties ought to be considered when the day of trial is changed otherwise than with the consent of all parties, reasonable notice of the change should be given as in the first instance. The Court should in every instance, at the time of granting adjournment, record its reasons for so doing, and make an order as to the cost thereof.

Revenue judicial cases especially in which parties have engaged counsel should not, as far as possible, be taken up on tour without giving notice sufficiently in advance to the parties of the place of hearing. The record should show that due notice of date and place has been given and served upon the parties.

88. Adjournments on payments of costs. It has been observed that a number of Courts grant an adjournment merely because the party at fault is prepared to pay the cost of adjournment. Subordinate Court should bear in mind that the offer of payment of the costs of adjournment is not in itself a sufficient ground for adjournment. The provision of Order XVII, Rule 3, also deserves notice in this connection. If a party to suit to whom time has been granted for a specific purpose as contemplated by Order XVII, Rule 3, Civil Procedure Code, fails to perform the act or acts for which time was granted without any good cause the rule gives the Court discretion to proceed to decide the suit ‘forthwith’ i.e., without granting any adjournment. In such cases a further adjournment should not ordinarily be granted, merely because offer is made for payment of costs. In some Courts, it is apparently assumed that if such an adjournment is not granted the case will be remanded by an Appellate Court. There are, however, no valid grounds for this assumption. If the record makes it clear that a further adjournment has been refused because of the negligence of the party concerned, such refusal would not in itself justify an Appellate Court in remanding the case. An adjournment granted otherwise than on full and sufficient grounds is favour and in suit favour can be shown to one party only at the expenses of the other.

No hard and fast rule can, however, be laid down. Each case must be judged on its own merits.

89. Witnesses should be examined on the day on which they attend. Revenue Courts should endeavour to hear the evidence on the date fixed; much expense and inconvenience being caused by postponements ordered on insufficient grounds, before the witnesses in attendance have been heard. Under Order XVII, Rule 1, of the Code, when the hearing of the evidence has once begun the hearing of the suit should be continued from day to day until all the witnesses in attendance have been examined, unless the Court finds the adjournment of the hearing to be necessary to be recorded by the Judge with his own hand.

90. Court to note when each party has used his case. It is frequently urged in appeals that a party has had a witness in attendance whom the lower Court has omitted to examine. It is often impossible to ascertain from the record whether this is the case, and it would be equally impossible to ascertain it by a remand. It is, therefore, directed that, as regards both plaintiff and defendant, when the examination of the last witness produced in Court by either party is closed, such party shall be distinctly asked if he has any more witnesses to produce; that the question, and reply shall be noted on the record, and that if more witnesses are named, the Court shall either examine them or record its reasons for not doing so. If either party states that he desires additional witnesses to be summoned, the Court should record the fact of the application and pass an order thereupon.

91. Examination of witnesses how to be conducted. In the examination of witnesses, question ought not to be put in a leading form, nor in such a form as to induce a witness, other than an expert, to state a conclusion of his reasoning, an impression of fact, or a matter of belief, in the place of describing what he actually observed. The questions should be simple, should be put one by one, and should be framed so as to elicit from the witness, as nearly as may be in chronological order, all the material facts to which he can speak of his own personal knowledge. A general request to a witness to tell what he knows or to state the facts of the case should as a rule not be allowed because it gives an opening for a prepared story. Where the party calling witnesses is not aided by a counsel, and is unable himself to examine properly his witnesses he may be asked to suggest questions and examination may be conducted by the Court.

92. Cross-examination. When the examination-in-chief is concluded, the opposite side should be allowed to cross-examine the witness, or, if unable to do so, to suggest questions to be put by the Court. In cross-examination leading questions are permissible.

93. Re-examination. -Then should follow, if necessary, re-examination for the purpose of enabling the witness to explain answers which he may have imperfectly given on cross-examination and to add such further facts as may be admissible for the purpose.

94. Questions by the Court. When the examination, cross-examination and re-examination are conducted by the parties or by their pleaders, the presiding officer ought not, as a general rule, to interfere except when necessary, e.g., for the purpose of causing questions to be put in a clear and proper shape, of checking improper questions, and of making a witness give precise answers. At the end, however, if these have been reasonably well conducted, he ought to know fairly well the exact position of the witness with regard to the material facts of the case, and he should then put any questions to the witness that he thinks necessary. The examination, cross-examination, re-examination and examination by Court (if any) should be indicated by marginal notes on the record.

Hon'ble Revenue Minister


Special Chief Secretary, Department of Revenue, Rehabilitation and Disaster Management

Sh.  K A P Sinha, IAS

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