Judiciary of India

Judicial System in India

The Government of India has three different independent branches namely the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. The Indian judicial system was formed by the British during their colonial rule in the country. This system is known as the Common Law System in which the judges develop the laws with their judgments, orders and decisions. The different types of courts form the different levels of judiciary in the country. The apex court of India is the Supreme Court, located in New Delhi, followed by the high courts in different states. The high courts are followed by the district courts and subordinate courts which are also known as the lower courts.

Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court of India came into being on 28 January 1950 and substituted the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and the Federal Court of India which were the apex legal system under the colonial rule in India. There is one Chief Justice and 30 other judges in the Supreme Court who are appointed by the Indian President. These judges retire after the attainment of the age of 65 years. The apex court works extensively for the protection of the fundamental rights of the Indian citizens. It is also a supreme authority as it settles the disputes within several governments of the country. It also has an authority to review any judgement or order earlier passed by it and can also transfer cases from one high court to another and from one district court to another.

High Courts

The supreme judicial powers at the state level lie with the high courts of India. There are 24 high courts in the country which hold jurisdiction over a state, union territory or a group of union territories or states. Being established in 1862, Calcutta High Court is the oldest high court in India. Being the appellate authority of state or group of states, the high courts have similar authorities and powers like that of the apex court, except for the difference of territorial jurisdiction of high courts which is varied. The high courts may also have original jurisdiction in certain cases if permitted under the federal law system. There are lower courts - civil or criminal, and tribunals which function under the high courts. All the high courts come under the jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India.

Following is the list of the 24 high courts of India:
  • High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana)
  • High Court of Judicature at Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh)
  • Bombay High Court (Maharashtra, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Goa and Daman and Diu)
  • Calcutta High Court (West Bengal and Andaman and Nicobar Islands)
  • Chhattisgarh High Court
  • Delhi High Court (National Capital Territory of Delhi)
  • Gujarat High Court
  • Gauhati High Court (Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh)
  • Himachal Pradesh High Court
  • Jammu and Kashmir High Court
  • Jharkhand High Court
  • Karnataka High Court
  • Kerala High Court (Kerala and Lakshadweep)
  • Madras High Court (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry)
  • Madhya Pradesh High Court
  • Meghalaya High Court
  • Manipur High Court
  • Orissa High Court (Odisha)
  • Patna High Court (Bihar)
  • Punjab and Haryana High Court (Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh)
  • Rajasthan High Court
  • Sikkim High Court
  • Uttarakhand High Court
  • Tripura High Court

District and Subordinate Courts

The district and the subordinate courts are the courts below the high courts. These courts administer jurisdiction at the district level in India. The district courts are at the top of all the subordinate courts but fall under the administrative control of the state high court to which that district belongs to. The jurisdiction in the districts of the states is presided over by District and Sessions Judge. The judge is referred to as a District Judge when he presides over the civil cases and as a Sessions Judge when he presides over criminal cases. He is addressed as a Metropolitan Sessions Judge when he presides over a district court in a city which is recognised as a metropolitan city or area by the state government. The District Judge is also the highest judicial authority after the High Court Judge.

The district courts also hold jurisdiction over the subordinate courts. For handling civil cases, the subordinate courts, in ascending order, are Junior Civil Judge Court, Principal Junior Civil Judge Court, Senior Civil Judge Courts. For handling criminal cases the ascending order of the subordinate courts is Second Class Judicial Magistrates Court, First Class Judicial magistrate Court and Chief Judicial Magistrate Court.


In general a tribunal is a person or an institution with an authority to act judicially even if it is not referred to as a tribunal in its title. For instance, a lawyer appearing before court even if there is only one sitting judge, he could also call the judge as their 'tribunal'.

According to the notification dated 8 October 2012, uploaded on Supreme Court of India website, there are 19 Tribunals:
  • Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (ATE)
  • Armed Force Tribunal
  • Authority for Advance Rulings
  • Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC)
  • Central Administrative Tribunal
  • Company Law Board
  • Competition Commission of India (CCI)
  • Competition Appellate Tribunal (CAT)
  • Copyright Board
  • Customs Excise And Service Tax Appellate Tribunal
  • Cyber Appellate Tribunal
  • Employees Provident Fund Appellate Tribunal
  • Income Tax Appellate Tribunal
  • Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA)
  • Intellectual Property Appellate Board
  • National Green Tribunal
  • Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)
  • Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT)
  • Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)

Appointments of Judges

The Constitution of India lays down the rules for the appointment of the judges of the Supreme Court, High Courts and District Courts. The judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President of India in consultation with the Chief Justice. Their appointment is held under a collegium system which is a group of the Chief Justice and four senior judges of the court. Similarly, for high courts, the President in consultation with the Chief Justice, Governor of the State and the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court appoints the judges. The eligibility for the judge demands a person to be a citizen of India. He must have served as an advocate for at least five years or as a judge of any high court for ten years to become a Supreme Court Judge. For a high court judge it is necessary that a person must have been an advocate in any high court for a minimum period of ten years.

A judge can be removed from his position only on the grounds of misconduct or by the order of the President. A Supreme Court Judge can only be removed after a notice is signed by at least 50 members of the Rajya Sabha or 100 members of the Lok Sabha.

Fast Track Courts

The fast track courts (FTC) in India were aimed at clearing the backlog of cases which were pending in the district and the session courts. These courts function on the similar procedures as session and trial courts. At the initial stage, the fast track courts were to look into the long-pending cases but later they were directed to look after specific cases especially for crimes against children and women. The scheme of fast track courts was recommended by the Eleventh Finance Commission. Under this scheme, the government sanctioned a sum of Rs. 502.90 crores to set up 1734 FTCs in the country. As per the Ministry of Law and Justice, by the end of March 2011, these courts had resolved 32.34 lakh cases*. However, since their inception, the number of functioning courts has marginally reduced every year.

Lok Adalats

The concept of Lok Adalat is based on the system of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). They are based on the Gandhian principles of Gram Panchayats or Panch Parmeshwar. "Lok" stands for "people" and the meaning of "Adalat" is court and therefore this institution in general means "People's Court". The Lok Adalats are held by the several committees or authorities such as District Authority, State Authority, High Court Legal Services Committee, Supreme Court Legal Services and Taluk Legal Services Committee. These Lok Adalats are efficient to handle different cases such as motor accident compensation cases, matrimonial and family disputes, land acquisition disputes and partition claims, etc.

The judiciary plays a pivotal role in the country by maintaining and administering the laws. It not only administers justice but also protects the rights of the citizens of the country. Judiciary interprets the laws and acts as a custodian of the Constitution. Courts, tribunals and regulators together work and form this integrated system for the benefit of the nation.


*Source: http://doj.gov.in/?q=node/108

Last Updated on : January 9, 2015