Not all stay orders expire automatically after 6 months: HC

J&K High Court has held that only the interim orders staying proceedings in a suit or criminal challan (charge sheet) pending before a trial court expire automatically after six months unless extended by a speaking order.

The order, which was passed on a plea by one Khurshid Ahmad Zargar through his counsel S A Naik seeking extension of an interim order, has come barely a few days after the Law Department directed all the administrative secretaries to treat interim court orders pending for more than six months as expired and proceed accordingly.

Citing certain SC judgments, the Law Department in its circular dated 25 November 2020 had said: “Any stay granted by the court including the High Court has a validity of six months only and the same expires at the end of six months unless explicitly extended by fresh order.”

While hearing the plea, bench of Justice Sanjeev Kumar said: “It notices the circular of Law Department dated 25.11.2020 prima facie as contemptuous.”

“It prima facie transpires that it was only in the cases where the interim order(s) was with respect to stay of proceedings in a suit or criminal challan pending before the trial court that the Supreme Court provided that the stay of proceedings will automatically come to an end on the expiry of six months from the date of such order unless extension is granted by the court by a speaking order,” the court said.

The applicant before the court was seeking extension of interim order dated 07.08.2018 passed by the High Court. He submitted that despite the fact that the order was neither varied nor vacated by the court and was still in operation,  the authorities while relying upon the government order dated 25 November 2020 were taking interim directions passed by the HC as deemed to have been vacated on the expiry of six months of its issuance.

“The respondents have misinterpreted the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt. Ltd v. Central Bureau of Investigation,” the applicant said.

“I am of the prima-facie view that the judgments of the Supreme Court, relied by the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs for issuance of circular (supra) do not provide that all interim orders, passed by the High Court will come to an end after the expiry of six months of their issuance unless they are extended by the Court by a reasoned order,” Justice Sanjeev Kumar said after hearing the applicant and perusing the Circular by the Law department.

While noticing prima facie the Law Department circular as “contemptuous”, the court had put Advocate General DC Raina on notice to assist it in taking correct view in the matter.

While the AG appeared and sought a short adjournment to assist the Court, the court listed the matter for further consideration on 14 December.

Meanwhile, the Court extended the order dated 07.08.2018 in the case of the applicant till the next date of hearing, observing the interim order was   neither varied nor modified by it.