Organisation of the Judiciary in General | Indian Constitution Download PDF
No Federal Distribution
IT has already been pointed out, that notwithstanding the adoption of a federal system, the Constitution of India has not provided for a double system of Courts as in the United States. Under our Constitution there is a single integrated system of Courts for the Union as well as the States which administer both Union and State laws, and at the head of the entire system stands the Supreme Court of India. Below the Supreme Court stand the High Courts of the different States and under each High Court there is a hierarchy of other Courts which are referred to in the Constitution as ‘subordinate courts’ i. e., courts subordinate to and under the control of the High Court [Arts. 233-237].
The organisation of the subordinate judiciary varies slightly from State to State, but the essential features may be explained with reference to Table XVI, post, which has been drawn with reference to the system obtaining in the majority of the States.
The Supreme Court has issued a direction to the Union and the States to constitute an All India Judicial Service and to bring about uniformity in ( designation of officers both in criminal and civil side. Concrete steps in this directions are yet to be taken by the Government.
The hierarchy of Courts
At the lowest stage, the two branches of justice,—civil and criminal,— , are bifurcated. The Union Courts and the Bench Court Courts, constituted under the Village Self-Government Acts, which constituted the lowest civil and criminal Courts respectively, have been substituted by Panchayat Courts set up under post-Constitution State legislation. The Panchayat Courts also function on two sides, civil and criminal, under various regional names, such as the Nyaya Panchayat, Panchayat Adalat, Gram Kutchery , and the like. In some States, the Panchayat Courts, are the Criminal Courts of the lowest in respect of petty cases.
The Munsiff s Courts are the next higher Civil Courts, having jurisdiction as l determined by High Courts. Above the Munsifls are Subordinate Judges who have got unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction over civil suits and hear first appeals from the judgments of Munsifls. The District Judge hears first appeals from the decisions of Subordinate Judges and also from the Munsiffs (unless they are transferred to a Subordinate Judge) and himself possesses unlimited original jurisdiction, both civil and criminal. Suits of a small value are tried by the Provincial Small Causes Courts.
The District Judge is the highest judicial authority (civil and criminal) in the district. He hears appeals from the decisions of die superior Magistrates and also tries the more serious criminal cases, known as the Sessions cases. A Subordinate Judge is sometimes vested also with the powers of an Assistant Sessions Judge, in which case he combines in his hands both civil and criminal powers like a District Judge.
Since the enactment of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, the trial of criminal cases is done exclusively by Judicial Magistrates’, except in Jammu & Kashmir and Nagaland, to which that Code does not apply. The Chief Judicial Magistrate is the head of the Criminal Courts within the district. In Calcutta and other ‘metropolitan areas’, there are Metropolitan Magistrates.3The Judicial and Metropolitan Magistrates, discharging judicial functions, under the administrative control of the State High Court, are to be distinguished from Executive Magistrates who discharge the executive function of maintaining law and order, under the control of the State Government.
There are special arrangements for civil judicial administration in the ‘Presidency towns’, which are now called ‘metropolitan areas’. The Original Side of the High Court at Calcutta tries the bigger civil suits arising within the area of the Presidency town. Suits of lower value within the City are tried by the City Civil Court and the Presidency Small Causes Court. But the Original Criminal jurisdiction of all High Courts, including Calcutta, has been taken away by the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
The High Court is the supreme judicial tribunal of the State—having both Original and Appellate jurisdiction. It exercises appellate jurisdiction over the District and Sessions Judge, the Presidency Magistrates and the Original Side of the High Court itself (where the Original Side still continues). There is a High Court for each of the states, except Nagaland, Mizoram, and Arunachal Pradesh, which have the three respective benches of the High Court of Gauhati as their common High Court;and Haryana, which has a common High Court (at Chandigarh) with Punjab. The High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad is the common High Court for the State of Telangana and the State of Andhra Pradesh, till a separate High Court for the State of Andhra Pradesh is constituted under Art. 214 of the Constitution read with s. 31 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. The Bombay High Court is common for the states of Maharashtra and Goa, (and also for the union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.)
As regards the Judiciary in Union Territories, see under ‘Union Territories’.