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Hierarchy of Courts in India

Updated: Dec 6, 2019

There are three pillars of the Indian Government - Legislature, Judiciary, and Executive. The Hierarchy of Courts in India basically includes the Supreme Court, High Courts, district court and the Lok Adalat. The Indian Judiciary administers a common law system in which customs, securities, and legislation, all codify the law of the land.

They form a strict hierarchy of precedence with the Supreme Court of India at the top, followed by High Courts of respective states with district judges sitting in District Courts and Magistrates of Second Class and Civil Judge (Junior Division) at the bottom.



Supreme Court of India

The Constitution lays down the foundation of an integrated judiciary having the Supreme Court as the highest and final court of appeal. Established on January 28, 1950; and Part V, Chapter IV of the Indian Constitution empowers the Supreme Court. Under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court has Writ jurisdiction; It is the court of Record and It has the power to punish for contempt under Article129.

Post the enactment of the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Bill of 2019 into law, the judicial strength of the apex court has been increased to 34. Currently, the Supreme Court has 1 Chief Justice of India along with 33 others judge. The official language of the Supreme Court is the English language. Moreover, Supreme Court rules, 1966 governs the Supreme Court.




High Courts

In the Hierarchy of courts in India, the Supreme Court is followed by the High Courts. They are subordinate to the Supreme court. However, they have entirely different jurisdictions and are of operation than the Supreme Court.  The work of High court primarily consists of appeal from lower court and writ petitions conferred by the virtue of Article 226. Writ Jurisdiction is also the Original Jurisdiction of the High Court. It is the court of Record. It has the power to punish for contempt under Article 215 of the Constitution; High Court has original jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters; It has appellate jurisdiction in respect of criminal and civil cases decided by Subordinate courts in the State; It has revisional jurisdiction conferred under the Civil Procedure Code,1908 and Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.


District Court and Additional District Court

The district Court operates at the district level in our country. It is the sole discretion of the state’s or union territory’s (UT) govt to decide the number of courts to be in state or UT. Such a decision is generally based upon the number of cases and the population distribution in a district. These courts exercise their power as administer of justice at the state level. However, the judgments of District courts are appealable in subsequent high courts.


Judicial Magistrate of First Class & Second Class

Judicial Magistrates are appointed and controlled by the High Court and discharge judicial functions. Under section 11 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the High Court may confer the powers of a judicial magistrate of the First Class or of the Second Class on any member of the Judicial Service of the State, functioning as a Judge in a Civil Court.


Court Of Small Causes For Metropolitan Cities

Under the Presidency Small Cause Courts Act, 1882, the court of small causes for metropolitan cities were established in India. This Act empowered the State Government that it can establish a Court of Small Causes anywhere within its territory. These courts have the authority to decide small value civil cases only.


Munsiff Court Or Court Of Sub Judge III Class

Munsiff Court is the lowest court of appeal for civil cases in the district. It has the authority to try the offense under certain pecuniary limits. Munsiff Magistrate/ Judicial Collector has control over these courts.


Meaning Of Civil & Criminal Court

Civil courts deal with the cases or offences that are committed against a private individual and not against the State unlike in criminal cases where the offence is committed against the State.

Whereas; Criminal wrong is wrong against the whole society not only against the victim. Criminal Courts deal with criminal matters which are considered as a crime against the State.

Website Referred - 1. https://blog.ipleaders.in/

2. https://www.livemint.com/

3. https://www.livemint.com/

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