In an all-important judgment, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court of India has held that stay of proceedings in a pending trial, whether civil or criminal, will automatically lapse after six months unless extended by speaking order..This significant direction came as part of a judgment dealing with an issue relating to Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988..The judgment was delivered by a Bench of Justices AK Goel, Rohinton Nariman and Navin Sinha. Justice Rohinton Nariman authored a separate concurring judgment..Issues.The questions raised in this case were the following:.“(a) Whether an order framing charge under the 1988 Act would be treated as an interlocutory order thereby barring the exercise of revisional power of this Court? .(b) Whether the language employed in Section 19 of the 1988 Act which bars the revision would also bar the exercise of power under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. for all purposes? .(c) Whether the order framing charge can be assailed under Article 227 of the Constitution of India?”.The Delhi High Court had answered the above questions as follows:.“(a) An order framing charge under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 is an interlocutory order. .(b) As Section 19(3)(c) clearly bars revision against an interlocutory order and framing of charge being an interlocutory order a revision will not be maintainable. .(c) A petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and a writ petition preferred under Article 227 of the Constitution of India are maintainable. .(d) Even if a petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or a writ petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of India is entertained by the High Court under no circumstances an order of stay should be passed regard being had to the prohibition contained in Section 19(3)(c) of the 1988 Act. .(e) The exercise of power either under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or under Article 227 of the Constitution of India should be sparingly and in exceptional circumstances be exercised keeping in view the law laid down in Siya Ram Singh [(1979) 3 SCC 118], Vishesh Kumar [AIR 1980 SC 892], Khalil Ahmed Bashir Ahmed [AIR 1988 SC 184, Kamal Nath and Ors. [AIR 2000 SC 1997 Ranjeet Singh [AIR 2004 SC 3892] and similar line of decisions in the field. .(f) It is settled law that jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or under Article 227 of the Constitution of India cannot be exercised as a “cloak of an appeal in disguise” or to re-appreciate evidence. The aforesaid proceedings should be used sparingly with great care, caution, circumspection and only to prevent grave miscarriage of justice.”.Supreme Court answers the issues.The matter then came to Supreme Court in appeal. The appellants submitted that the High Court was in error in holding that the order framing charge was an interlocutory order. In any case, since petition under Section 482 CrPC and under Article 227 of the Constitution has been held to be maintainable, there could be no prohibition against interference by the High Court or the power of the High Court to grant stay in spite of prohibition under Section 19(3)(c) of the PC Act. Counsel for the CBI, however, supported the view of the High Court..The Supreme Court held that an order framing a charge may not be purely an interlocutory order. It can in a given situation be interfered with under Section 397(2) CrPC or 482 CrPC or Article 227 of the Constitution, which is a Constitutional provision. However, the power of the High Court to interfere with an order framing charge and to grant stay is to be exercised only in an exceptional situation..“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 but how such power is to be exercised and when stay ought to be granted needs to be considered further.”.On interference with order framing charge under PC Act.Subsequently, the Court proceeded to consider restrictions on interference with orders framing charge..It held that even though there is no bar on the jurisdiction of the High Court to consider a challenge against an order of framing charge in exceptional situation for correcting a patent error of lack of jurisdiction, exercise of such jurisdiction has to be limited to rarest of rare cases. Even if a challenge to order framing charge is entertained, decision on such a petition should not be delayed. Though no mandatory time limit can be fixed, normally it should not exceed two-three months..It also held that to give effect to the legislative policy and the mandate of Article 21 for speedy justice in criminal cases, if stay is granted, matter should be taken on day-to-day basis and concluded within two-three months. Where the matter remains pending for longer period, the order of stay will stand vacated on expiry of six months, unless extension is granted by a speaking order showing extraordinary situation where continuing stay was to be preferred to the final disposal of trial by the trial Court..On application of restrictions to all trials, civil and criminal.It is then that the Court proceeded to consider applying such restrictions not only to corruption cases but to all civil and criminal cases where on account of stay, civil and criminal proceedings are held up..Adverting to the observations made by the Supreme Court in a 2012 judgment in Imtiaz Ahmad v. State of U.P., the Court observed,.“In view of above, situation of proceedings remaining pending for long on account of stay needs to be remedied. Remedy is required not only for corruption cases but for all civil and criminal cases where on account of stay, civil and criminal proceedings are held up. At times, proceedings are adjourned sine die on account of stay. Even after stay is vacated, intimation is not received and proceedings are not taken up.”.The Court, therefore, directed 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. The same can only be extended by a speaking order..“In an attempt to remedy this, situation, we consider it appropriate to 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. 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 finalized. 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.”.Thus, it was held that the mandate of speedy justice applies to the PC Act cases as well as other cases where at trial stage proceedings are stayed by the higher court i.e. the High Court or a court below the High Court, as the case may be..In all pending matters before the High Courts or other courts relating to PC Act or all other civil or criminal cases, where stay of proceedings in a pending trial is operating, stay will automatically lapse after six months from today unless extended by a speaking order on above parameters. Same course may also be adopted by civil and criminal appellate/revisional courts under the jurisdiction of the High Courts. The trial courts may, on expiry of above period, resume the proceedings without waiting for any other intimation unless express order extending stay is produced..Read the judgment below.