The Supreme Court has overruled its 2018 judgment in Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt. Ltd. and Anr v. CBI. The Court has held that Constitutional Courts cannot fix a time-bound schedule for disposal of cases. The Court observed that grassroot situations are better understood by judges of the Courts concerned.

The five-judge Constitution bench adjudicated upon two broad questions:

1. Whether this court in 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 expiry of certain period?

2. Whether this court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India can direct the High Courts to decide the pending cases in which interim orders of stay of proceedings has been granted on day to day to basis and within a fixed period?

Accordingly, the bench while answering the questions in negative, said that in the judgment it has framed guidelines which are not exhaustive in nature for the exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.

The bench was of the opinion that the principle enunciated in the judgment requiring automatic vacation of stay without the application of judicial mind was a ‘serious miscarriage of justice’.

The matter was referred to a larger bench (5-judge-bench), as the judgment was pronounced by a bench of three judges. The appeal was filed by the High Court Bar Association Allahabad on Certificate For Appeal granted by the Allahabad High Court.

The 5-judge bench comprised Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Abhay S Oka, Justice JB Pardiwala, Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Manoj Misra. Justice Oka pronounced the judgment.

As per the earlier judgment, in all pending matters before the High Courts or other courts relating to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PC Act) or civil or criminal cases, where stay of proceedings in a pending trial is operating, stay will automatically lapse within 6 months from that day, unless it is extended by a speaking order.

Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the High Court Bar Association of Allahabad had argued that the mechanism of automatic vacation of stay could interfere with the power of the High Courts under Article 226 of the Constitution and may be seen as judicial legislation. He said the autonomy of High Courts needed to be upheld.

A bench of Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra had observed, “We have reservations with regard to the correctness of the broad formulations or principles in the above terms. While there can be no gainsaying the fact that stays of an indefinite nature result in prolonging the civil or criminal proceedings as the case may be, unduly, the same time it needs to be factored in that the delay is not always on account of the conduct of one of the parties involved. The delay may also be occasioned by the inability of the court to take up the proceedings expeditiously. Hence, we are of the view that the dictum or the principle which has been laid down in the above decision with the effect that the stay shall automatically stand vacated (which would mean an automatic vacation of stay without the application of judicial mind to whether the stay should or should not extended further) is liable to result in a serious miscarriage of justice…”.

A bench of Chief Justice Pritinker Diwaker and Justices Ashwani Kumar Mishra and Ajay Bhanot of the Allahabad High Court had formulated 10 substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution arise for consideration.

“The framers of the Constitution by inserting Article 132 clearly envisioned free exchange and frank speech in the discourse between Constitutional Courts. It is a core value of the Constitution which ensures that evolution of law is responsive to the needs of justice and in conformity with Basic Structure of the 217 Constitution. If the Basic Structure of the Constitution is to remain inviolable, the Core Values of the Constitution have to be indestructible”, it had noted in the 221 page judgment.

Cause Title: High Court Bar Association Allahabad v. The State Of Uttar Pradesh And Ors.