In a significant legal development, the Supreme Court of India has appointed a five-judge Constitution bench, led by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, to revisit its 2018 ruling. The earlier judgment dictated that stays granted by lower or high courts in civil and criminal cases would automatically lapse after six months unless explicitly extended.
The Constitution bench, including Justices Abhay S Oka, JB Pardiwala, Pankaj Mithal, and Manoj Misra, in addition to Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, is tasked with reviewing the contentious ruling. This move follows a notification posted on the Supreme Court website.
The Constitution bench is set to commence the hearing after concluding proceedings in another case concerning the constitutional validity of section 6A of the Citizenship Act, specifically related to illegal immigrants in Assam. The Supreme Court, on December 1, referred the matter of court-issued stays to the Constitution bench for a reassessment of its 2018 judgment stating that it takes away the power available to the high courts under Article 226 of the Constitution.
Article 226 of the Indian Constitution empowers high courts to issue writs, orders, or directions for the enforcement of fundamental rights and other purposes. The wide-ranging scope of Article 226 provides high courts with extensive powers to safeguard individual rights and uphold the rule of law.
The bench has sought the assistance of either the Attorney General or the Solicitor General to address the legal issues arising from the 2018 judgment. This signals the complexity and importance of the matter under review.
The 2018 ruling, stemming from the case of Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency P Ltd Director vs. CBI, stipulated that interim stay orders issued by courts, including high courts, would automatically expire unless explicitly extended. The implication was that no trial or proceedings could extend beyond six months without a specific extension. The Supreme Court clarified that this ruling did not apply if the stay order originated from the Supreme Court itself.
The Chief Justice of India (CJI)-led bench initially seemed to align with the arguments presented, expressing agreement and deciding to refer the matter to a five-judge bench. However, concerns were raised about the general formulation of principles in the 2018 judgment. The bench questioned the accuracy of the previous decision's principle, highlighting the potential for a miscarriage of justice if stays automatically stood vacated after six months.
The reevaluation of the 2018 ruling by the Constitution bench underscores the importance of ensuring justice while considering the automatic expiration of stays in civil and criminal cases, raising key legal questions that warrant careful examination and deliberation.
Case: HIGH COURT BAR ASSOCIATION ALLAHABAD v. THE STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH AND ORS,
Crl.A. No. 3589/2023.
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