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Can't be automatic vacation of stay in all cases after 6-months: Supreme Court

The top court overturned a direction issued by a three-judge bench in Asian Resurfacing case in 2018, saying all interim orders of stay passed by all High Courts cannot be set at naught by a stroke of pen only on the ground of lapse of time.
Last Updated 29 February 2024, 15:38 IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday said there cannot be an automatic vacation of stay granted by the High Court in all criminal and civil cases upon expiry of six months period.

"We hold that there cannot be automatic vacation of stay granted by the High Court. We do not approve the direction issued to decide all the cases in which an interim stay has been granted on a day-to-day basis within a time frame," a Constitution bench led by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said.

The top court overturned a direction issued by a three-judge bench in Asian Resurfacing case in 2018, saying all interim orders of stay passed by all High Courts cannot be set at naught by a stroke of pen only on the ground of lapse of time.

It also disagreed to the suggestion once stay was granted, the court should not adjourn the hearing, saying the issue of giving out-of-turn priority to certain cases should be best left to the concerned Courts. The orders fixing the outer limit for the disposal of cases should be passed only in exceptional circumstances to meet extraordinary situations, the bench said.

"We hold that such blanket directions cannot be issued in the exercise of the jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution," the bench, also comprising Justices Abhay S Oka, J B Pardiwala, Manoj Misra and Pankaj Mithal, said in its judgment on a petition by the High Court Bar Association of Allahabad.

The bench said a direction that all the interim orders of stay of proceedings passed by every High Court automatically expire only by reason of lapse of time cannot be issued in the exercise of the jurisdiction of this court under Article 142 of the Constitution.

"An interim order lawfully passed by a court after hearing all contesting parties is not rendered illegal only due to the long passage of time," the bench said.

The court said its extraordinary jurisdiction exercised to do complete justice between the parties cannot be extended to nullify the benefits derived by a large number of litigants based on judicial orders validly passed in their favour and who are not parties to the proceedings here.

The bench also pointed out Article 142 does not empower this court to ignore the substantive rights of the litigants and this power cannot be exercised to defeat the principles of natural justice, which are an integral part of jurisprudence.

"Constitutional Courts, in the ordinary course, should refrain from fixing a time-bound schedule for the disposal of cases pending before any other courts. Constitutional Courts may issue directions for the time-bound disposal of cases only in exceptional circumstances. The issue of prioritising the disposal of cases should be best left to the decision of the concerned Courts where the cases are pending," the bench said.

In his separate and concurring judgment, Justice Mithal said, "Sometimes, in quest of justice we end up doing injustice. Asian Resurfacing is a clear example of the same. Such a situation created ought to be avoided in the normal course or if at all it arises be remedied at the earliest."

He said the court has to adopt a practical and a more pragmatic approach rather than a technical one which may create more problems.

"Accordingly, it is expedient in the interest of justice to provide that a reasoned stay order once granted in any civil or criminal proceedings, if not specified to be time bound, would remain in operation till the decision of the main matter or until and unless an application is moved for its vacation and a speaking order is passed adhering to the principles of natural justice either extending, modifying, varying or vacating the same," the bench said.

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(Published 29 February 2024, 15:38 IST)

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