Learn All About the Structure of Judiciary In India

Author : Shashwat Srivastava

Updated On : November 16, 2023


Reader's Digest - Hey there, curious minds! Ever wondered how the gears of justice turn in the world's largest democracy? Join us on a fascinating journey as we unravel the captivating structure of Judiciary in India, where law and order find their harmony.

You may have heard the terms "Supreme Court," "High Courts," or "District Courts," but do you know how they all fit together?

In India, the judicial structure is integrated. There is one unified judicial system- one hierarchy of courts – with the Supreme Court as the highest court and the judge in relations between the Union and the States.

You might be wondering why it is essential to understand the structure of judiciary in India. Well, let me tell you, it's crucial for every citizen to have a basic understanding of this system that plays a vital role in upholding justice and maintaining the rule of law in our country.

To grasp the importance, you must note that the judiciary is one of the three pillars of our democracy, along with the executive and legislative branches. It acts as a check and balance, ensuring that the laws enacted by the legislature are followed and that the rights of individuals are protected.

From the apex of legal authority to the grassroots level, we'll explore how this system is organized, what each level entails, and why it matters to every citizen.

Hierarchy of Courts in India

Under our Indian Constitution, a single integrated system of Courts for the Union and the States administers both Union and State laws. At the head of the judicial system stands the Supreme Court of India.

Below the Supreme Court are the High Courts of different States, and under each High Court, there are 'subordinate courts', i.e., courts subordinate to and under the control of the High Courts.

At the top of the system is the Supreme Court of India, followed by High Courts at the State level, and High Courts are 20 in number.

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Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court, the apex court at the national level, was established on January 28, 1950, under Article 124(1) of the Constitution. 

Go through the below-mentioned pointers to get acquainted with the functioning of the Hon'ble Supreme Court.

  • As per Article 124 (1), "there shall be a Supreme Court of India consisting of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and until Parliament, by law, prescribe a large number of not more than seven judges. "
  • Though by the 2009 Amendment, the number of judges in the Supreme Court was raised to 31, including the Chief Justice. 
  • Every proceeding in the Supreme Court is conducted in English.
  • The seat of the apex Court is in the NCT of Delhi, and the proceedings are open to the public.
  • The Supreme Court is the custodian and watchdog of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people. 
  • It protects the constitutional rights of the citizens. 
  • The Superior Judiciary has successfully preserved and protected the fundamental rights of the citizens and vulnerable groups against the innovations of "an excited democracy."
  • For this purpose, it has drawn power from the Directive Principles of State Policy.

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High Courts 

The High Court is the pinnacle court in the State. Article 214 states shall have a High Court in each State. 

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Refer to the structure of judiciary in India from the following.

  • The total count of High Courts in the country is 21.
  • Each High Court comprises a Chief Justice and other judges as the President of India occasionally appoints. 
  • Under Article 141, these judges and CJI's are bounded by the judgments and orders of the Supreme Court of India by precedence. 
  • The jurisdiction of these courts spreads over a state, a union territory, or a group of states and union territories. 
  • Under Part 4, Chapter V, Article 214 of the Constitution, High courts are instituted as constitutional courts.
  • The High Courts are the principal civil courts of original jurisdiction in the State, along with District Courts, which are subordinate to the High Courts. 
  • However, High courts exercise their original civil and criminal jurisdiction only if the courts subordinate to the high court in the State are not competent (not authorized by law) to try such matters for lack of pecuniary, territorial jurisdiction. 
  • High courts may also enjoy original jurisdiction in certain matters designated specifically in a state or Federal law. e.g., Company law cases are instituted only in a high court. 
  • As per Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the primary work of High Courts includes appeals from lower courts and writ petitions.
  • Also, Writ Jurisdiction is the original jurisdiction of the High Court. 
  • The particular territorial jurisdiction of each High Court varies.
  • The President appoints judges in a High court after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the governor of the State, and the High Court Chief Justice.
  • The number of judges in a court is decided by dividing the average institution of prominent cases during the last five years by the national average or the average disposal rate of main points per judge per year in that High Court, whichever is higher.
  • The Calcutta High Court is the oldest in the country, established on July 2, 1862.
  • The Allahabad High Court is the most significant High Court, with a sanctioned strength of 160 judges.

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Subordinate Courts

Under the High Courts, there is a hierarchy of subordinate courts, including the civil, family, criminal, and other district courts.

The judicial system comprises subordinate courts, representing the first tier of the entire judicial structure. 

Here are a few points to check about the subordinate courts

  • Civil cases are dealt with by one set hierarchy of courts, the Civil Court, and Criminal cases by another, known as the Criminal Court.
  • The Power of Civil courts is governed by Civil Procedure Code (CPC), and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) regulates the power of the Criminal Court respectively.

Following is the hierarchy chart of all civil and criminal courts in India.

Hierarchy of Courts in India

District Courts

The District Courts are established by the State governments for every district or one or more districts, depending on the number of cases and population distribution in the district. 

Check the functioning of the district courts. 

  • The main goal of district courts is to administer justice at a district level in India.
  • The High Court of the State of the concerned district has administrative control over the District Court.
  • The District Court's decisions are subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the concerned High Court.
  • District Judge appointed by the state Government presides over the District court.
  • Apart from the district judge, there may be several Assistant District Judges and Additional District Judges depending on the backlog or cases.
  • The Additional District Judge and the presiding court have equivalent jurisdiction as the District Judge and his district court.
  • The district judge is also called a "Metropolitan session judge" when he presides over a district court in a city designated a "Metropolitan area" by the state Government.
  • The appellate jurisdiction of the district court expands to all subordinate courts situated in the district on civil and criminal matters.
  • The subordinate courts that deal with civil matters are the Principal Junior Civil Judge Court, Junior Civil Judge Court, and Senior Civil Judge Court. 
  • Subordinate courts that deal with criminal cases are First Class Judicial Magistrate Court, second class Judicial Magistrate Court, and Chief Class Judicial Magistrate Court. 
  • The "Family Courts" deal with marital disputes alone, and the Principal Judge of the family court is equivalent to the District Judge. 
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Village Courts/Lok Adalat

Lok Adalat (people's court), called Village courts or Nyaya Panchayat (justice of the villages), compose an alternative dispute resolution system.

Refer to the following pointers to the functioning of village courts.

  • Village courts were recognized through the 1888 Madras Village Court Act, then developed (after 1935) in various provinces and (after 1947) in Indian states.
  • The Gujarat model of courts with a judge and two assessors was used from the 1970s onwards.
  • The 2008 Gram Nyayalayas Act has foreseen 5,000 mobile courts in the country for judging petty civil/property and criminal cases.
  • However, the Act has not been appropriately enforced, with only 151 functional Gram Nyayalayas in India against a target of 5000.
  • The primary reasons behind the non-enforcement include financial constraints and the reluctance of lawyers, police, and other government officials.

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In conclusion, understanding the structure of the Judiciary in India is vital for every citizen. It ensures transparency, accountability, and access to justice. Here are the key takeaways:

- The Indian judiciary consists of the Supreme Court and subordinate courts.
- The Supreme Court is the highest authority, responsible for interpreting and applying laws and upholding the Constitution.
- Subordinate courts include High Courts, District courts, and Tribunals, each with specific jurisdiction. 
- Knowledge of the judiciary's structure helps to navigate the legal system effectively.
- It enhances understanding of appeal processes and available judicial remedies.
- Awareness of the structure promotes transparency and enables citizens to hold the judiciary accountable. 

With this understanding, we can actively uphold justice and safeguard our rights within the Indian legal system.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the president of India a part of the judiciary too?

What are the three levels of judiciary?

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