SC: Stay against Pending Civil and Criminal Cases To End in Six Months

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4413

March 29, 2018

Case name: Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. v. Central Bureau of Investigation

Date of Judgement: March 28, 2018

In a landmark case taken up by Three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court the seminal issues that were taken up by the Court were:

Whether the High Courts are bound to follow Section 19(3)(c) of Prevention of Corruption Act in petitions filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India?

Whether the inherent powers of High Courts are available to stay proceedings under the Act under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure?

Section 19(3)(c) of Prevention of Corruption Act states that no court shall stay the proceedings under this Act on any other ground and no court shall exercise the powers of revision in relation to any interlocutory order passed in inquiry, trial, appeal or other proceedings.

Bench’s Verdict

The Supreme Court Bench in the case made a significant verdict by directing 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 today unless in an exceptional case by a speaking order such stay is extended.

Other key observations made by the Bench are enumerated below:

  • That the High Court has jurisdiction in appropriate case to consider the challenge against an order framing charge and also to grant stay.
  • To give effect to the legislative policy and the mandate of Article 21 for speedy justice in criminal cases, if stay is granted, matter should be taken on day-to-day basis and concluded within two-three months. Where the matter remains pending for longer period, the order of stay will stand vacated on expiry of six months, unless extension is granted by a speaking order showing extraordinary situation where continuing stay was to be preferred to the final disposal of trial by the trial Court. This timeline is being fixed in view of the fact that such trials are expected to be concluded normally in one to two years.
  • In an attempt to remedy this, situation, we consider it appropriate to direct 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 today unless in an exceptional case by a speaking order such stay is extended.
  • That for cases 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 a speaking order. 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. 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.
  • First and foremost, it must be appreciated that the High Courts are established by the Constitution and are courts of record which will have all powers of such courts, including the power to punish contempt of themselves (See Article 215). The High Court, being a superior court of record, is entitled to consider questions regarding its own jurisdiction when raised before it.
  • Wherever stay is granted, a speaking order must be passed showing that the case was of exceptional nature and delay on account of stay will not prejudice the interest of speedy trial in corruption case. Once stay is granted, proceedings should not be adjourned and concluded within two-three months.
  • That the High Court has jurisdiction in appropriate case to consider the challenge against an order framing charge and also to grant stay but how such power is to be exercised and when stay ought to be granted needs to be considered further.

The entire case can be accessed here.