Friday, March 30, 2018

SC: Stay on trial will be valid only for six months

Stay on trial will be valid only for six months: SC

Krishnadas Rajagopal 

NEW DELHI, MARCH 30, 2018 00:00 IST

Extension only in exceptional cases, reasons should be given, says court

An indefinite freeze on corruption and criminal trials granted by constitutional courts, especially High Courts in the cases of the rich and powerful, have often led to delay and denial of the fundamental right to speedy justice, the Supreme Court has observed.

In a significant judgment shutting the doors on the practice of criminals getting unlimited stay orders from the higher courts in their ongoing trial for one reason or the other, the Supreme Court held that any stay of a criminal or corruption trial, or even a civil case, will be valid only for six months.

Trials cannot be held up for indeterminate periods just because a High Court has granted stay.

‘Speaking order’

“Proceedings are adjourned sine die on account of stay. Even after the stay is vacated, intimation is not received and proceedings are not taken up,” a Bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Rohinton F. Nariman observed.

The order to stay trial will be extended after six months only in “exceptional cases” and that too in a judicial order which fully explains the reasons for the extension.

“We consider it appropriate to 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. Such extension is valid only for another six months.

The “speaking order” extending the period of stay should explain why “the stay was more important than having the trial finalised.”

Next date

Even if a stay is granted for six months, the trial court should react by fixing a date for the trial to commence immediately after the expiry of the stay. Trial proceedings will, by default, begin after the period of stay is over.

“It is well accepted that delay in a criminal trial, particularly in the Prevention of Corruption Act cases, has a deleterious effect on the administration of justice, in which the society has a vital interest. Delay in trials affects the faith in Rule of Law and efficacy of the legal system. It affects social welfare and development...The power to grant stay is coupled with accountability,” Justice Goel wrote in the judgment.


Also read the detailed Judgment 

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Before: Adarsh Kumar Goel, Navin Sinha and R.F. Nariman, JJ 

Criminal Appeal Nos. 1375-1376 of 2013. D/d. 28.3.2018

Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. - Appellants

Versus

Central Bureau of Investigation - Respondent

In all pending matters before the High Courts or other courts relating to all civil or criminal cases, where stay of proceedings in a pending trial is operating - Stay will automatically lapse after six months from today.

Stay - Wherever stay is granted, a speaking order must be passed showing that the case was of exceptional nature and delay on account of stay will not prejudice the interest of speedy trial in a corruption case - Once stay is granted, proceedings should not be adjourned and concluded within two-three months. (Para 30)

Stay - 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 - In future, the stay will end on expiry of six months from the date of such order of stay unless similar extension is granted by a speaking order - Speaking order must show that continuing the stay was more important than having the trial finalized - 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 period of stay, proceedings can commence unless order of extension of stay is produced. (Para 35)

Constitution of India, 1950 Articles 21, 215, Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 Sections 228, 397 and 482 Prevention of Corruption Act, Section 19(3)(b) and (c) - Order Framing of Charge challenged - There is no bar to jurisdiction of the High Court to consider a challenge against an order of framing charge in exceptional situation - Exercise of such jurisdiction has to be limited to rarest of rare cases - Decision of such a petition should not be delayed - Normally time should not exceed two-three months - If stay is granted, it should not normally be unconditional or of indefinite duration - Appropriate conditions may be imposed on the party in whose favour stay is granted - Where the matter remains pending for longer period, the order of stay will stand vacated on expiry of six months, unless extension is granted by a speaking order showing extraordinary situation. (Para 33)

Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 Sections 228, 397 and 482 Prevention of Corruption Act, Sections 19(3)(b) and (c) - Framing of Charge - Stay of Proceedings - Order framing charge may not be held to be purely a interlocutory order and can in a given situation be interfered with under Section 397(2) Cr.P.C. or 482 Cr.P.C. or Article 227 of the Constitution - But the power of the High Court to interfere with an order framing charge and to grant stay is to be exercised only in an exceptional situation - Madhu Limaye case still hold the field - Order framing charge is not purely an interlocutory order nor a final order - Jurisdiction of the High Court is not barred - Jurisdiction is to be exercised consistent with the legislative policy to ensure expeditious disposal of a trial without the same being in any manner hampered - Thus considered, 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 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 - In all pending matters before the High Courts or other courts relating to PC 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 - Same course may also be adopted by civil and criminal appellate/revisional courts under the jurisdiction of the High Courts - 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. (Paras 24, 25 and 36)

Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 Sections 19(3)(b) and (c) - Stay of Proceedings - Interdict against stay of proceedings under this Act on the ground of any error, omission or irregularity in the sanction granted by the authority is lifted if the Court is satisfied that the error, omission or irregularity has resulted in a failure of justice - No Court shall stay proceedings under PC Act on "any other ground" - Held that these are grounds referable to the proceedings under PC Act and there is no warrant to add words not found in sub-section (c), namely, that these grounds should be relatable to sanction only. (Para 45)

Constitution of India, 1950 Article 215 Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 Sections 19(3)(b) and (c) - Inherent Power of a High Court to stay a trial under the PC Act is Constitutional and not Statutory Law - High Courts are established by the Constitution - Inherent power of a Court set up by the Constitution is a power that inheres in such Court because it is a superior court of record, and not because it is conferred by the Code of Criminal Procedure - Section 19(3)(c) cannot be read as a ban on the maintainability of a petition before the High Court under Section 482, the non-obstante clause in Section 19(3) applying only to the Code of Criminal Procedure. (Paras 47 to 49)

(DOJ: 28-03-2018)  (Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Central Bureau of Investigation) (Adarsh Kumar Goel, Navin Sinha and R.F.Nariman, JJ) (Law Finder Doc Id # 993357)

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