In a significant development, the Supreme Court on Thursday overturned its 2018 Asian Resurfacing judgment, which mandated the automatic expiration of interim orders passed by High Courts staying trials in civil and criminal cases after six months, unless expressly extended by the High Courts.

The latest verdict, delivered by a five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices Abhay S Oka, JB Pardiwala, Pankaj Mithal, and Manoj Misra, set aside the earlier ruling and declared that such automatic expiration directives cannot be issued under Article 142 of the Constitution.

Justice Oka, who read out the judgment, emphasized that the bench disagreed with the directions in the Asian Resurfacing case. He stated, “A direction that all interim orders passed by High Courts will automatically expire on the lapse of time cannot be issued in exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.”

Additionally, the five-judge bench held that constitutional courts should refrain from establishing time-bound schedules for cases pending before other courts, acknowledging the unique circumstances of each case and the need for judicial discretion.

The court’s decision follows a reference against the March 2018 judgment in Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency v. Central Bureau of Investigation, stemming from an appeal against an Allahabad High Court decision. The reference raised doubts about the ‘automatic stay vacation rule’ and framed ten questions of law for the apex court to consider.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Chandrachud highlighted concerns regarding the adverse impact of automatic stay vacation on litigants and emphasized that vacating a stay order is a judicial act requiring thoughtful application of judicial discretion.

Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, representing the High Court Bar Association Allahabad, argued against automatic stay vacation, citing potential interference with the constitutional structure and suggesting the establishment of specialized benches to consider extensions.

Similarly, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta stressed the importance of preserving the judicial discretion of high courts and highlighted instances where automatic vacation directives had led to contempt cases against judges.

The Supreme Court’s decision to reverse the Asian Resurfacing ruling underscores the importance of maintaining judicial discretion and ensuring fair adjudication in civil and criminal cases. By setting aside the automatic expiration directive, the court aims to uphold the principles of justice and protect the rights of litigants.

The case, High Court Bar Association Allahabad v. State Of Uttar Pradesh & Ors., highlights the judiciary’s commitment to safeguarding the integrity of the legal process and ensuring the fair and expeditious resolution of disputes.

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