What is vacation bench of Indian courts & what is the procedure to file a suit in vacation bench

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A vacation bench is a special court bench that operates during the court's vacation periods, such as summer or winter holidays. These benches are set up to hear urgent matters that cannot wait until the court resumes its regular sessions. They ensure that critical legal issues are addressed promptly even when the regular court is on a break.

During the colonial era, vacation benches were established in Indian courts to provide relief to British judges who were unable to withstand the heat of the Indian summer and returned to England. However, they returned during the monsoon months. This practice led to the establishment of vacation benches, which now operate during the annual summer recess for nearly two months in the Supreme Court and other courts. These benches are responsible for handling urgent matters that cannot wait until the regular court session resumes.

Here are some key points about vacation benches in India:

  1. Purpose: Vacation benches are set up to hear urgent miscellaneous cases and regular matters during the court’s summer break. They aim to clear the backlog of pending cases.
  2. Composition: The Chief Justice of India (CJI) decides the composition of vacation benches. Each bench usually consists of no more than two judges.
  3. Interim Relief: It provides interim relief and orders to prevent injustice during the vacation period.
  4. Limited Scope: The bench does not handle regular or routine cases; its focus is on matters that necessitate swift action
  5. Working Days: The Supreme Court usually has six vacation benches during the summer. They sit for six days a week. Mondays are reserved for hearing urgent miscellaneous pending cases, while Tuesday to Friday is dedicated to regular matters.
  6. Affidavit of Urgency: To get a matter listed before a vacation bench, the counsel or party-in-person must file an affidavit of urgency. This affidavit includes details such as the nature of the matter, reasons for not filing it before the vacation, the latest date by which the matter should be heard due to urgency, and the type of interim order sought.
  7. Types of Cases: The vacation bench hears cases related to rent, land acquisition, compensation, academics, elections, and habeas corpus petitions.
  8. Historical Decisions: Vacation benches have also made historical decisions. For instance, in June 1975, a vacation bench judge refused Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s plea to stay an Allahabad High Court decision that set aside her election, a decision that triggered the Emergency.

  • Early Years of Independence: After India gained independence in 1947, the judiciary retained the practice of court vacations. Recognizing the importance of uninterrupted access to justice, the newly established Indian judicial system continued the tradition of vacation benches.
  • Formation of High Courts and Supreme Court: As High Courts in various states and the Supreme Court of India were established, the need for vacation benches became more pronounced. These benches were set up to handle urgent matters during the court vacations, ensuring that justice was not delayed due to holidays.

Evolution and Modern Era

  • Supreme Court Vacation Bench: The Supreme Court of India, being the apex judicial body, formalized the vacation bench system to handle cases of extreme urgency during its summer break, which usually spans from May to June. The vacation bench of the Supreme Court has been instrumental in addressing critical legal issues, including habeas corpus petitions, bail applications, and stay orders.
  • High Courts and Lower Courts: Similar to the Supreme Court, High Courts and certain lower courts also establish vacation benches during their designated vacation periods. The specific procedures and schedules for these benches may vary from one court to another.

Landmark Cases and Importance

  • High-Profile Cases: Over the years, vacation benches have handled several high-profile and urgent cases. For instance, during the Emergency period in the 1970s, vacation benches played a crucial role in addressing habeas corpus petitions filed by individuals detained without trial.
  • Balancing Justice and Efficiency: The vacation bench system has been praised for ensuring that the judiciary remains accessible and functional throughout the year. It balances the need for judges to take breaks with the public's need for continuous access to justice.

Current Practice

  • Procedural Formalities: The process of approaching a vacation bench involves demonstrating the urgency of the matter through an affidavit of urgency. The courts are selective about the cases they hear during vacations, focusing on those that genuinely require immediate attention.
  • Continuity of Justice: The vacation bench continues to be an essential feature of the Indian judicial system. It underscores the judiciary's commitment to providing timely justice and addressing urgent legal matters without undue delay.
If your matter is not considered urgent by the vacation bench, here are some steps you can take:

  • Reassess the Urgency: Reflect on whether your case genuinely requires immediate attention. If it’s not urgent, consider waiting for the regular court sessions.
  • Regular Court Proceedings: If the vacation bench does not find your matter urgent, it will likely be scheduled for regular court proceedings after the vacation period. You can follow up with your attorney to determine the next steps.
  • Prepare Thoroughly: Use the additional time to prepare your case thoroughly. Gather all relevant documents, evidence, and legal arguments. Ensure that your case is well-presented when it comes up during the regular court sessions.
  • Seek Legal Advice: Consult with your attorney to discuss alternative strategies. They can guide you on strengthening your case or exploring other legal avenues.

Remember that while vacation benches prioritize urgent matters, the regular court system handles a wide range of cases. Patience and proper preparation are essential for a successful outcome.

For the current year, the Supreme Court was closed for the annual Summer Vacation from May 23, 2024, to July 10, 2024. 


The vacation bench serves as a crucial mechanism in the Indian judiciary, ensuring that urgent legal matters receive timely attention even during court vacations. By following the outlined procedures and working closely with legal counsel, litigants can effectively navigate the process and secure the necessary judicial relief during these periods.

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