Supreme Court Reverses 2018 Judgement on Automatic Vacation of Stay Orders

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Published on: March 01, 2024 at 10:45 IST

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of India has overturned its 2018 judgement, which mandated that stays granted by lower or high courts in civil and criminal cases would automatically expire after six months unless explicitly extended. The court declared that there can be no automatic vacation of stay orders granted by trial courts or high courts after the stipulated six-month period.

The ruling, delivered by a five-judge constitution bench led by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, emphasized that constitutional courts should exercise restraint in setting timelines for case disposals, reserving such measures for exceptional circumstances.

The bench, which included Justices A S Oka, JB Pardiwala, Pankaj Mithal, and Manoj Misra, deliberated extensively on the issue after hearing arguments from senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, representing the High Court Bar Association of Allahabad, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, and other legal experts.

Critically, the bench highlighted concerns regarding the automatic vacation of stay orders, asserting that such a mechanism prejudices litigants regardless of their conduct, as certain circumstances may be beyond their control. Additionally, they underscored that vacating a stay order is a judicial act, not merely administrative, and should not be done without careful consideration.

Senior advocate Dwivedi raised objections, arguing that the automatic vacation of stay orders could infringe upon the autonomy of high courts as provided under Article 226 of the Constitution, potentially amounting to “judicial legislation.”

Echoing Dwivedi’s sentiments, Solicitor General Mehta emphasized that the discretionary powers of high courts should not be constrained by judicial directives.

The Supreme Court’s decision to reconsider and ultimately overturn its 2018 judgement stemmed from concerns regarding the potential miscarriage of justice resulting from the automatic vacation of stay orders.

The 2018 judgement, rendered in the case of Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency P Ltd Director Vs CBI, had dictated that stay orders would automatically lapse after six months, a ruling now deemed liable to result in miscarriages of justice.

This reversal reaffirms the court’s commitment to upholding fairness and due process in legal proceedings, underscoring the importance of judicial discretion and autonomy in the administration of justice.

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