March 30, 2018

Courts can't stay graft, criminal case trials for more than 6 months: SC

Supreme Court Of India

On March 28, the Supreme Court ruled that the proceedings in any pending trial relating to graft or criminal cases should not be stayed from now on by an appellate court for more than six months, without a speaking order.

“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 in their judgment. In the midst of whether a high court has the jurisdiction to entertain an appeal against an order framing charge by the trial court, the ruling came. Answering the question in the affirmative, the special bench of the Apex Court said, “We have thus no hesitation in concluding that the High Court has jurisdiction in appropriate case to consider the challenge against an order framing charge and also to grant stay.”

It, however, said the power to entertain a challenge to an order of charge “should be exercised in a rarest of rare case only to correct a patent error of jurisdiction and not to re-appreciate the matter”.

"In cases where stay is granted in future, the same will end on expiry of six months from the date of such order unless similar extension is granted by a speaking order. The speaking order must show that the case was of such exceptional nature that continuing the stay was more important than having the trial finalised," said the bench comprising Justice RF Nariman and Justice Navin Sinha.

"The 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," it added.

Also, the Apex Court gave the authority to the High Courts to issue commands to this effect and monitor the same "so that civil or criminal proceedings do not remain pending for unduly at the trial stage". The question of law was framed by the Delhi High Court when dealing with a 2001 corruption case relating to alleged wrongful loss caused to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi by some of its officials and a road surfacing firm.

In this matter, as per the CBI, the loss was caused by the use of bogus invoices of oil companies in relation to transportation of bitumen for dense carpeting of Delhi roads in the years 1997 and 1998.

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