Rule 1 of Order XVII of CPC, which deals with grant of time and adjournments. The said provision is extracted below :
“1. Court may grant time and adjourn hearing. – (1) The Court may, if sufficient cause is shown, at any stage of the suit, grant time to the parties or to any of them, and may from time to time adjourn the hearing of the suit for reasons to be recorded in writing :
Provided that no such adjournment shall be granted more than three times to a party during hearing of the suits.
(2) Costs of adjournment. – In every such case the Court shall fix a day for the further hearing of the suit, and shall make such orders as to costs occasioned by the adjournment of such higher costs as the Court deems fit :
Provided that, –
(a) when the hearing of the suit has commenced, it shall be continued from day today until all the witnesses in attendance have been examined, unless the Court finds that, for the exceptional reasons to be recorded by it, the adjournment of the hearing beyond the following day is necessary,
(b) no adjournment shall be granted at the request of a party, except where the circumstances are beyond the control of that party,
(c) the fact that the pleader of a party is engaged in another Court, shall not be a ground for adjournment,
(d) where the illness of a pleader or his inability to conduct the case for any reason, other than his being engaged in another Court, is put forward as a ground for a adjournment, the Court shall not grant the adjournment unless it is satisfied that the party applying for adjournment could not have engaged another pleader in time,
(e) where a witness is present in Court but a party or his pleader is not present or the party or his pleader, though present in Court, is not ready to examine or cross-examine the witness, the Court may, if it thinks fit, record the statement of the witness and pass such orders as it thinks fit dispensing with the examination-in-chief or cross-examination of the witness, as the case may be, by the party or his pleader not present or not ready as aforesaid. (Emphasis supplied)
It is evident from Rule 1(2) proviso (e) of Order 17 that where a witness is present in court but the other side is not ready to cross-examine the witness, the court can dispense with his cross-examination. But where a genuine and bona fide request is made for adjourment, instead of resorting to forfeiture of the right to cross-examine, the court may grant time by levying costs.
A conspectus of the above provisions clearly demonstrates that under the scheme of CPC, a suit cannot be dismissed for nonpayment of costs. Non-payment of costs results in forfeiture of the right to further prosecute the suit or defence as the case may be. Award of costs, is an alternative available to the court, instead of dispensing with the cross-examination and closing the evidence of the witness. If the costs levied for seeking an adjournment to cross-examine a witness are not paid, the appropriate course is to close the cross-examination of the witness and prohibit the further prosecution of the suit or the defence, as the case may be by the defaulting party.