High Courts and Subordinate Courts

According to the Constitution, there has to be a High Court for every State. A High Court may have more than one State under its jurisdiction. For example, Guwahati High Court that acts as a common High Court for the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura. Mostly, the Union Territories come under the jurisdiction of the High Court of their neighbouring States.

Constitution of High Court

Each High Court has a Chief Justice and Judges. The number of Judges in each High Court is determined by the President from time to time. There is no uniformly fixed number of Judges in all the High Courts. The Chief Justice and Judges of High Courts are appointed by the President. For appointment of the Chief Justice of the High Court, the President consults the Chief Justice of Supreme Court, whereas for the Judges, he or she also consults the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court.

The Governor of the concerned State is also consulted for appointment of the Judges of the High Court. Judges can be transferred from one High Court to the other by the President on the advice of the Chief Justice of India.

In order to be appointed as a Judge of a High Court, the person concerned should possess the following qualifications.

  • should be a citizen of India
  • should have held a judicial office in the territory of India for at least 10 years or should have been an advocate in one or more High Courts for at least ten years continuously without break.

The Judges of High Court hold office till they attain the age of 65 years. However, a Chief Justice or a Judge can resign. A Judge can be removed from office through an impeachment process by parliament on grounds of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. The Chief Justice and Judges are paid salaries and are also entitled to such privileges and allowances as determined by Parliament.

After retirement, they may practice as advocates either in Supreme Court or in any High Court except the High Courts in which they have served as Judges.

Jurisdiction of High Court

The jurisdiction of the High Court extends up to the territorial limits of the concerned State or States or Union Territories. The High Court has original and appellate jurisdictions. Under the original jurisdiction certain types of cases may be brought directly before a High Court.

The High Court exercises original jurisdiction for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights and other legal rights. In this respect High Court has the power to issue writs. These writs go a long way in protecting the rights of the individual against encroachment by the legislature, the executive or any other authority.

The High Court may also hear election petitions under its original jurisdiction challenging election of a member of State Legislature.

Writs are the directions or orders which are issued by the Supreme Court or the High Courts for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights. The courts are the guarantors of these rights.

Under appellate jurisdiction, High Courts hear appeals against the judgments of the subordinate courts at the district level. In civil cases, an appeal may be filed before the High Court against the judgment of a District Judge. In criminal matters, appeal may be made before a High Court against the judgment of a Sessions Court, where the sentence of imprisonment exceeds seven years.

Death sentence awarded by a lower court has to be confirmed by the High Court. The High Court exercises powers of control and superintendence over all subordinate courts falling within its jurisdiction. The High Court is a Court of Record. Hence, all the subordinate courts follow the judgments of the High Court. High Courts may also punish for contempt or disrespect of the Court.

Subordinate or Lower Courts

There are subordinate courts at district and sub-divisional levels. There is a District and Sessions Judge in each district. Under him or her there is a hierarchy of judicial officers. The organisation and working of subordinate courts in India are more or less uniform throughout the country as:

The subordinate courts hear civil cases, criminal cases and revenue cases.

Civil Cases: These cases filed in civil courts pertain to disputes between two or more persons regarding property, breach of agreement or contract, divorce or disputes between landlords and tenants. All these cases are settled by civil courts. In such civil cases, the court does not award any punishment as violation of law is not involved.

Criminal Cases: Such cases relate to theft, robbery, rape, pick-pocketing, physical murder, etc. These cases are filed in the criminal courts by the police, on behalf of the State, against the accused. In such cases, if the court finds the accused guilty, he or she is awarded punishment.

Revenue Courts: Board of Revenue exists at the State level, Under it are the Courts of Commissioner, Collector, Tehsildars and Assistant Tehsildars. The Board of Revenue hears the final appeals against all the lower revenue courts under it. All States do not have a Board of Revenue. Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra have Revenue Tribunals, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have Financial Commissioners instead of the Board.