The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed that the stay in trials, in both civil and criminal cases, must not exceed beyond six months 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,
“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 bench added. The apex court also ruled that the lower courts could proceed after a six month period. This, the court observed, will prevent the accused from dragging the trial further.
The court further added that all the pending cases in connection with the Prevention of Corruption Act or all other civil or criminal cases, “stay will automatically lapse after six months from today unless extended by a speaking order on above parameters.” The court believed that a stay in the trials or prolonged trials often results in frustrated victims.
“It is well accepted that delay in a criminal trial, particularly in the PC Act cases, has a deleterious effect on the administration of justice in which the society has a vital interest. Delay in trial affects the faith in rule of law and efficacy of the legal system. It affects social welfare and development,” it said.
“Even in civil or tax cases it has been laid down that power to grant stay has to be exercised with restraint. Mere prima facie case is not enough. The party seeking the stay must be put to terms and the stay should not be incentive to delay. The order granting a stay must show application of mind. The power to grant a stay is coupled with accountability,” the bench added.
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.
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