No Automatic Vacation Of Stay Orders Of High Courts On Civil & Criminal Trials

Posted On - 26 March, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva


[1] In a significant ruling, a five (5) Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court overturned its 2018 Judgment in Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt. Ltd. v. Central Bureau of Investigation reported as (2018) 16 SCC 299 which mandated the interim orders passed by High Courts staying trials in civil and criminal cases will automatically expire after six months from the date of the order, unless expressly extended by the High Courts. The Bench also held that constitutional courts should refrain from laying down time-bound schedules for cases pending before any other courts. The pattern of pendency of cases in every court including the high court is different and giving out-of-turn priority for certain cases is best left to the concerned judge, who is aware of the grassroots situation of the court.


In Asian Resurfacing (supra), a Bench of three Hon’ble Judges the Hon’ble Supreme Court dealt with the scope of interference by the High Court with an order of framing charge passed by the Special Judge under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (“the PC Act”). The Bench in Asian Resurfacing (supra), while observing that situation of proceedings, both civil and criminal, remaining pending for long periods and even being adjourned sine die on account of stay need to be remedied, held 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. 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”.

By an order dated 1st December 2023, a Bench of three (3) Hon’ble Judges of the Hon’ble Supreme Court expressed a view that a decision of the Hon’ble Bench in the case of Asian Resurfacing (supra) requires reconsideration by a larger Bench.


The following issues were framed for consideration by the five (5) Judge Bench:

  • Whether this Court, in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, can order automatic vacation of all interim orders of the High Courts of staying proceedings of Civil and Criminal cases on the expiry of a certain period?
  • Whether this Court, in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, can direct the High Courts to decide pending cases in which interim orders of stay of proceedings has been granted on a day-to-day basis and within a fixed period?


The Supreme Court, in this recent ruling, categorically rejected the notion of automatic vacation of stay orders after six months. The bench held that such a directive cannot be issued under Article 142 and emphasized the importance of constitutional courts refraining from imposing time-bound schedules for cases pending before other courts. The rationale behind this decision lies in the diverse nature of case pendency in different courts, rendering any blanket rule impractical and potentially prejudicial to the interests of justice.

The bench underscored that any imposition of time-bound decisions should be reserved for exceptional circumstances, acknowledging the nuanced complexities inherent in legal proceedings. Furthermore, the Court emphasized the discretion of High Courts in determining the priority and scheduling of cases, as they possess a comprehensive understanding of the grassroots issues involved.


The recent judgment by the Hon’ble Supreme Court represents a significant departure from its previous stance on the duration of interim stay orders. By setting aside the directions laid down in the Asian Resurfacing case, the Court has reaffirmed the autonomy of Hon’ble High Courts and underscored the need for a nuanced, case-specific approach to judicial proceedings. This decision not only upholds the principles of fairness and justice but also reinforces the role of constitutional courts in safeguarding the integrity of the legal system.



Judgment dated 29th February, 2024