The High Court
- The Constitution of India provides a High Court for each state. At present there are 24 High Courts in our country. Parliament may however, establish a common High Court for two or more States/Union Territories, according to 7th Amendment Act of 1956. This depends on the area and the population to which a High Court as to serve and the amount of work, it has to handle.
- The only Union Territory having a High Court is Delhi and there are some High Courts, which have jurisdiction over more than one State i.e., Guwahati High Court, Punjab High Court and Haryana High Court, etc. Other Union Territories come under jurisdiction of different High Courts.
Composition of High Court
- Each High Court consists of a Chief Justice and other judges as appointed by the President from time to time. Besides this, the President can appoint additional judges in consultation with Chief Justice of India for a period, not more than 2 years at a time.
- The President can appoint any Judge of the High Court as the acting Chief Justice of the High Court, when the Chief Justice is unable to perform his duties.
Qualification of Judges
According to the provisions of Constitution, a person shall possess some qualifications to be appointed as a Judge of a High Court, which are as follows:
- He/She should be a citizen of India.
- He/She should not be above 62 years of age.
- He/She has held a judicial office within the Indian Territory for at least 10 years.
He/She has been a advocate of a High Court (or High Courts in succession) for at least 10 years.
Appointment of Judges
The Chief Justice of a High Court is appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of Supreme Court and the Governor of the concerned State. While appointing other Judges, the President consults the Chief Justice of India, Governor of the concerned State and Chief Justice of that High Court.
Conditions of Service
- Every High Court Judge is ensured with service conditions so that, they can carry out work independently without interference from other organs of the government.
- A Judge enjoys the security of the tenure and can remain in office till he has attained the age of 62 years and only can be removed from his office on ‘proved misbehavior or incapacity’. The procedure of removal of the Judge is same as that of Supreme Court Judge.
- He/She can be removed from his office by the President on the recommendation of the Parliament. The President can transfer a Judge of the High Court after the fulfillment of the following conditions:
- Orders can be issued only after consulting the Chief Justice of India.
- The Chief Justice of India must make recommendation only after consulting four seniormost Judges of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of the two High Courts (one from which the judge is being transferred and the other receiving him).
- When a Judge has been transferred, he/she shall be entitled to compensatory allowance in addition to his/her salary.
- The Chief Justice of a High Court and other Judges of the High Court are paid a monthly salary as decided by the Parliament. They are entitled to a free accommodation and other allowances. After retirement, they get a pension.
- The salaries and allowances of the Judges of a High Court are charged on the Consolidated Fund of the State and it cannot be changed to their disadvantage during the course of their service.
- The Judge of the High Court after retirement can only practice in the Superior Court or the other High Courts; where he has not served as a Judge. This ensures that they do not favour anyone in the hope of future favour.
Powers and Jurisdiction
The Jurisdiction of a High Court extends to the territorial limits of the state.
The Powers and Jurisdiction of High Court are as follows:
- It means the power of a High Court to hear disputes in the first instance, not by way of appeal.
- Will, divorce, marriage, company law, contempt of court.
- Matters of admirality.
- State revenue and its collection.
- Enforcement of fundamental rights of citizens.
- The High Court’s appellate jurisdiction is over the decision of the Subordinate Court and also over the decision of single judge bench of the High Court.
- The appellate jurisdiction of High Courts extends to both civil and criminal cases, its jurisdiction extends to cases tried by courts of Munsifs and district judges. In the criminal cases, it extends to cases decided by session and additional session judges. Thus, the jurisdiction of the High Courts extends to all cases under the state or federal laws.
- The cases, where the sentence of imprisonment exceeds 7 years or the case of death sentence.
A High Court has the power of superintendence over all courts and tribunals functioning in its territorial jurisdiction (except military courts).
The High Court can call for the record of any court to satisfy itself about the correctness of the legality of the orders passed.
- Call for returns from such courts.
- issue general rules and prescribe forms for regulating the practice and proceedings of such courts.
- prescribe forms, in which books and accounts are being kept by the officers of any lower court.
The High Court can advice any Government department, legislature or the Governor, if they seek such advice on constitutional as well as other matter of law.
The High Court has the power of judicial review. Power of High Court to examine the constitutionality of legislative enactments and executive orders. If any law contravenes the provision of the Constitution, the High Court can declare it null and void.
Court of Record
Like Supreme Court, the High Court is a court of record. The implications, functions and powers of High Court as a court of record are same as that of Supreme Court.
Note: The High Court can give Verdict against anyone who disobeys court order.
Enforcement of Fundamental Rights
- All the High Courts are empowered to issue writs in cases related to enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
- A writ is an order from a judicial authority asking a person to perform some act or refrain from performing an act. The writs, that are issued are Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Quo-Warranto and Certiorari.
- The writ jurisdiction of High Court is much wider than the Supreme Court. The High Court can issue writs only for enforcing Fundamental Rights.
Independence of the High Court
Besides ensuring the Judges of High Courts the security of tenure and allowances, there are other measures which ensure the independence of the High Courts. Independence of the High Court are as follows:
- Full control over its procedure of work and establishment.
- The High Court can punish a person for contempt of court, if its authority is lowered.
- No discussion can be taken in State Legislature on the conduct of the High Court Judges.
- Prohibition on practice after retirement of Judges.
- The President can transfer a judge from one High Court to another after consulting the Chief Justice of India.
In every State, besides the High Court there are number of judicial courts to administer justice. These courts function under the complete control and supervision of the High Court.
A State has got exclusive legislative competence to determine the constituent organisation and territorial jurisdiction of all courts subordinate to the High Court. The organisation of subordinate courts throughout the country is generally uniform.
Structure and Composition
The organisation and structure of the Subordinate Court is generally uniform throughout the country. For judicial administration purpose, every State is divided throughout the country. For judicial administration purpose, every State is divided into a number of districts each under the jurisdiction of a District Judge. Every district has Civil Courts, Criminal Courts and Courts of Revenue.
Civil Courts exercise jurisdiction in the cases related to land, property and money transactions, arbitration, marriage, divorce and cases involving a will, etc.
These courts are graded in the following manner:
- Court of District Judge decided both civil and criminal cases and is the highest court of the District. When a Judge decides civil cases, he is called as a District Judge and when he decides criminal cases, he is called Session Judge. In cases above Rs.5,000, there is a provision to appeal against the decision of the District Judge. In order to be a District Judge or an additional Judge a person should be an advocate for 7 years standing or an official in the judicial service.
- Court of Civil Judge hears cases involving Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 5,000.
- Munsif’s Court hears cases involving amount less than Rs.2,000.
Term of Office
The District Judges are appointed by the Governor in consultation with the Judges of the High Court of the concerned State. All other judges are appointed through competitive examinations held by State Public Service Commission.
The District Judges exercise administrative control over all Civil Servants in the district.
It exercises jurisdiction in cases related to murder, robbery, theft, assault, etc. Criminal courts are broadly classified as:
- Sessions Court : It is the highest Criminal Court of the district. It deals with cases concerning robbery, dacoity and murder. It can award sentence upto life imprisonment or death sentence. But it is mandatory, that a death sentence must be confirmed by the High Court before its execution irrespective of whether an appeal is made to the High Court or not.
- Court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate deals with less serious offences and can award fine of Rs.5,000 and sentence upto 7 years imprisonment.
- Court of First Class Magistrate can award sentence upto 3 years imprisonment or fine of Rs.5,000 or both.
- Court of Second Class Magistrate can award sentence not more than 2 years or impose a fine of Rs.1,000 or both.
- Court of Third Class Magistrate can award sentence upto 1 month of simple imprisonment or a fine upto Rs.5,000 of both. It deals with criminal cases involving simple individual quarrels or rioting.
Courts of Revenue
These courts deal with cases relating to the maintenance of land records and assessment and collection of Land Revenue. Some revenues are as follows:
- Board of Revenue
- Commissioner’s Court
- Collector’s Court
- Tehsildar’s Court
- Naib Tehsildar’s Court
Distinction between Court of the District Judge and Sessions Court
- The Court of District Judge is the highest Civil Court of the district, whereas Sessions Court is the highest Criminal Court of the district.
- The presiding officer is called as District Judge, while the Sessions Court is presided by a sessions judge.
- The District Judge acts as a Deputy Commissioner or District Judge and in this capacity he maintains law and order and supervises the collection of revenue and taxes in the district, whereas sessions judge does not perform any administrative functions.
Lok Adalat is the people’s court set-up on the recommendation of Justice PN Bhagwati under Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. It is a legal forum to provide aid and justice to those, who are not in a position to engage lawyers or bear expenses of legal proceedings.
Dispute in these courts are settled in a spirit of harmony and compromise. The cases are settled informally and cordially with the involvement of conflicting parties. Lok Adalat solve cases, which are yet to go to any court.
Working of Lok Adalat
- The Judges of these courts are actually counsellors. These adalats are assisted by Legal Aid Committee and Social Action Group, which advises the people about legal matters and help them solve the cases by mutual participation.
- The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 provides that every State and District authority shall organise Lok Adalats time to time. All such decisions given by the Lok Adalats shall be deemed to be decrees of a Civil Court and shall be binding on the parties.
Advantages of Lok Adalat
The advantages of Lok Adalat are as follows:
- These adalats work in spirit of compromise and understanding, which result into both party’s satisfaction.
- These courts deliver fast and inexpensive justice. Any person can move to Lok Adalat by an application on a plain paper in a prescribed format.
- Lok Adalats reduce workload of other courts enabling them to deal with more serious matters.
Scopes of Lok Adalat
The System of Lok Adalats has now become so popular that various Government departments began to hold Lok Adalats.
This court plays a significant role in the settlement of disputes between family and friends, the neighbors and minor cases of assault and injury. Weaker sections of society cannot afford the delay or the cost involved in the court procedures.
- The Family Courts Act, 1984 was enacted to secure speedy settlement of disputes relating to marriage and family affairs. The act provides for setting up of family courts in cities having population over 10 Lakh.
- On recommendation made by the Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women, all State Governments/Union Territory Administration have been asked to set-up one family court in each district of the country.