Supreme Court Affirms: Any Stay Granted By A Court Automatically Expires Within Six Months
In the recent case of Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt Ltd. & Another v. CBI, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India vide Order dated October 15, 2020 affirmed that a stay granted by any court shall automatically expire within six months, unless it is extended for good reason.
In its Order, the Court stated that when any court, including a High Court, grants a stay, the same shall expire within six months from the date of the order unless an extension is granted by a speaking order. The Court further stated that, “The speaking order must show that the case was of such exceptional nature that continuing the stay was more important than having the trial finalized.” Upon expiry of the six month period, unless there is good reason not to, the Trial Court is expected to set a date for trial and go ahead with the same. The Court ruled that “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, proceedings can commence unless order of extension of stay is produced.”
Some sections of the fraternity have expressed concerns over this verdict, who believe that this ruling may cause an increase in the number of applications for extensions. In contrast, it can be hoped that the ruling would ensure swift administration of justice and avoid unnecessary delays.
In the same judgment, the Supreme Court also reminded courts across the country that it is the Apex Court and while High Courts may not be subordinate on an administrative level, judicially, they still are. The matter came after the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Pune stated that the Complainant should move an application before the High Court to resume trial since the High Court had ordered the stay and the lower Court could not pass any order which had been stayed by the superior Court. The Supreme Court henceforth clarified that the mandate of speedy justice applies to all courts and any order of stay shall automatically expire within six months of the date of order of that stay, unless it has been extended for good reason.
To conclude, the directions given by the Supreme Court in the case of Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt Ltd v. CBI seem to stem from the objective of delivering swift and speedy justice. However, it is yet to be seen whether the application of these directions would practically achieve this goal or not. Practitioners may be unhappy about an increase in workload but could this actually be a boon in the long run? Perhaps. Keeping Article 21 of The Constitution of India in mind and considering that the right to a speedy trial is a fundamental right, the Apex Court’s attempt at ensuring swift administration of justice is a step forward.
Please feel free to direct your queries to the author Ms. Vrinda Sehgal, Associate, at firstname.lastname@example.org