No stay of trial in criminal or civil proceedings beyond six months

  • By Azeez Nazar Sabri

In Civil and criminal cases where one party got stay on the proceedings try to prolong the case by seeking adjournments on one or other pretexts. In a recent landmark Judgment Supreme Court of India in Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt. Ltd & ANR. Vs. Central Bureau of Investigation ( Criminal Appeal Nos. 1375-1376 of 2013), decided in March,2018,has directed that in all pending cases where stay against proceedings of a Civil or Criminal trial is operating, the same will come to an end on expiry of six months from the date of Judgment of Apex Court, unless in an exceptional cases by a speaking order such stay is extended.

It is further directed by the Apex Court that where stay is granted in future, the same will end on expiry of six months from the date of such order unless similar extension is granted by as peaking order. It is made clear by the Apex Court that speaking order must show that case was of such exceptional nature that continuing the stay was more important than having the trail finalized. The trial Court where order of stay of Civil or Criminal proceedings is produced, may fix a date not beyond six months of the order of stay so that on expiry of period of stay, proceeding can commence unless order of extension of stay is produced.

The substantial questions before three judges bench were:
1. Whether an order framing charges under prevention of Corruption Act, 1998 would be treated as an interlocutory order thereby barring the exercise of revisional power of High Court?
2.  Whether the Language employed in Section 19 of the Prevention of corruption Act,1998 which bar the revision would also bar the exercise of power under Section 482 of the Cr. P.C for all Purpose?
3. Whether the order framing charge can be assailed under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.
Apex Court held that the order framing charge is neither purely an interlocutory order nor a final order. Jurisdiction of High Court is not barred irrespective of the label of a petition, be it under section 397 or 482 Cr.P.C or Article 227 of the Constitution of India.

However, Apex Court has advised the Courts that the said jurisdiction should be exercised consistent with the legislative policy to ensure expeditious disposal of a trail. Apex Court formulated a guideline and said that the challenge to an order of charge should be entertained in a rarest of rare case only to correct a patent error of jurisdiction and not to appreciate the matter. When such stay is granted, the matter must be decided on a day –to day basis so that stay does not operate for an unduly long period. Though no mandatory time has been fixed but the decision may not exceed two-three months normally. In any case the stay shall not exceed six months unless extension is granted by a specific speaking order.

In view of this judgment all pending matter before High Courts or others courts relating to criminal or civil cases, where stay of proceedings in a pending trail is operating, stay will automatically lapse after six months, unless extended by a speaking order. This Judgment will have far reaching consequences as the same would help in the speedy trail.

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