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Stay Order No Longer Eternal

Stay order is nothing short of sounding a death knell, to a proceeding before the trial court. Any advocate practicing in trial court would readily nod in affirmation to such a seemingly radical premise. The passing of such orders have longed badgered the progress of the trials, be it civil or criminal in nature.

Stay orders are passed by the higher courts, with the intention of providing temporary relief and in several instances to provide for much required interference and respite without which the aggrieved party would surely suffer grave injustice. However, the down side of such orders is the inescapable halt of the proceedings before the trial court. Especially in India, where courts at all levels are burdened with excruciating number of pending case, the rate of disposal is further lowered when the proceedings before the trial court are stayed.

The Supreme Court in Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency v. Central Bureau of Investigation in Civil Appeal No. 1375-76/2013 has provided remedial directions to effectively deal with this mammoth problem haunting not only the judiciary and its officers but also the litigants.

The division bench of the Supreme Court in the said appeal has identified three major problems arising with the grant of stay orders, which are:
  1. Proceedings before the Trial court remain pending on account of an order of stay.
  2. Proceedings are adjourned sine die on account of grant of stay.
  3. Even in cases where stay is vacated, intimation is not received to the Trial Court and proceedings are not taken up.
Hon'ble Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, in the aforesaid appeal, while considering the issue at hand has rightly stated that the wisdom of legislature and the object of final and expeditious disposal of a criminal proceeding cannot be ignored. As such, the Supreme Court in the said appeal, on 28/03/2018 has passed the several directions, applicable to both civil and criminal matters, which are as follows:
  1. All pending cases where stay is granted and is operating, the stay will come to an end on expiry of 6 months from the 28/03/2018, unless in exceptional cases by a speaking order the stay is extended.
     
  2. In cases where stay is granted in future, i.e after 28/03/2018, the stay order will end on expiry of 6 months from the date of such order, unless an order of extension is granted by a speaking order.
     
  3. The speaking order granting extension must show that the case was of such exceptional nature that continuing the stay was more important than having the trial finalized.
     
  4. The Trial Court may fix a date not later than 6 months from the date of the Stay Order.
     
  5. On expiry of the period of 6 months, the Trial Court to resume the proceedings without waiting for any other intimation unless an express order extending the stay is produced.

These directions were the need of the hour. By limiting the currency of a stay order to only 6 months, being solely dependent for extension by the way of a speaking order, the trial court can now recommence the halted proceedings without any hesitation. The onus is now cast on the party availing an order of stay to ensure the proceeding is disposed off finally before the order of stay automatically expires.

The Supreme Court has further qualified the nature of speaking order to show that continuing the stay order is more important than having the trial continued or finalized. These directions will surely ensure the speedy disposal of cases and delivery of prompt justice to parties.

Written By: Nikit Bala, Advocate

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