No stay of trial in civil or criminal cases to last beyond six months: SC

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New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that the stay of trial court proceedings, both in civil and criminal cases, would come to an end after the expiry of six months from the date of grant of stay, unless extended in exceptional circumstances.

“We … 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”, said the bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Navin Sinha in their judgment.

Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman gave a separate but concurring judgment.

The court said that in all pending matters before the high courts or other courts relating to Prevention of Corruption Act or all other civil or criminal cases, where stay of proceedings in a pending trial is operating, “stay will automatically lapse after six months from today unless extended by a speaking order on above parameters.”

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In cases, the court said, “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”.

Saying that the stay of trial in civil and criminal matters would not operate beyond six months unless extended, Justice Goel and Justice Sinha said that the “rhe 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, the judgment said where order of stay of civil or criminal case 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.

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The top court further 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 re-appreciate the matter.

Even where such challenge is entertained and stay is granted, the matter must be decided on day-to-day basis so that stay does not operate for an unduly long period.

Though no mandatory time limit may be fixed, the court said that the decision may not exceed two-three months normally.

“If it remains pending longer, duration of stay should not exceed six months, unless extension is granted by a specific speaking order, as already indicated.

“Mandate of speedy justice applies to the PC Act cases as well as other cases where at trial stage proceedings are stayed by the higher court i.e. the High Court or a court below the High Court, as the case may be,” the apex court said.

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“The trial courts may, on expiry of above period, resume the proceedings without waiting for any other intimation unless express order extending stay is produced.”

The court asked the high courts to issue instructions to this effect and monitor the same so that civil or criminal proceedings do not remain pending for unduly period at the trial stage.

–IANS

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