The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that stay orders on the proceedings in any pending trial — civil or criminal cases — would automatically lapse after six months, unless extended by a speaking order that explain the need for the stay order.
If there is no such speaking order, the trial courts may, on expiry of the six months resume the proceedings without further wait, the court said.
“Situation of proceedings remaining pending for long on account of stay needs to be remedied. Remedy is required not only for corruption cases, but for all civil and criminal cases where on account of stay, civil and criminal proceedings are held up. At times, proceedings are adjourned sine die on account of stay. Even after stay is vacated, intimation is not received and proceedings are not taken up,” a bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel, Rohington Nariman and Navin Sinha noted while disposing a batch of appeals.
Laying down the contours of the “speaking order,” the bench said: “The speaking order must show that the case was of such exceptional nature that continuing the stay was more important than having the trial finalised. 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 the period of the stay, proceedings can commence unless order of extension of stay is produced.”
To buttress the point about cases getting delayed on account of stay orders, the bench referred to an earlier order of the court where it had referred to statistics. “Average pendency per case (counted from the date of stay order till 26-7-2010) works out to be around 7.4 years. Charge sheet was found to be the most prominent stage where the cases were stayed with almost 32 per cent of the cases falling under this category. The next two prominent stages are found to be ‘appearance’ and ‘summons’, with each comprising 19% of the total number of cases,” the bench said.
The issue came up during the hearing of an appeal against a Delhi High Court order in a corruption case against some officials of the Delhi Municipal Corporation.
The top court said though high courts could entertain review petitions, it should do so “consistent with the legislative policy to ensure expeditious disposal of a trial without the same being in any manner hampered” and in “rarest of rare case only to correct a patent error of jurisdiction and not to re-appreciate the matter.”
Where the high court entertains challenge to an order framing charge, “decision of such a petition should not be delayed,” the apex court said. It said that though no mandatory time limit could be fixed, “normally it should not exceed two-three months.”