Polity NIOS Chapter 15 High Courts and Subordinate Courts

Just below the Supreme Court, there are High Courts which are the highest courts of law in States. As highest court in the State, a High Court supervises the subordinate courts in the State. The High Courts are mainly courts of appeal. These Courts hear appeals from numerous subordinate courts working at district level. The system of appointment of judges, their qualifications and the working of
subordinate courts is under the direct control and supervision of the High Court of the State concerned.

The State High Courts

There is a High Court for each State and there can be a common High Court for more than two states. For example, the High Court of Guwahati is common for seven northeastern States of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh. The number of judges of each High Court is determined by the President and is appointed by him/her. The judges can be transferred from one High Court to another by the President.

While appointing Chief Justice of a High Court, the President has to consult the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Governor of the State concerned. While appointing other judges, the President
consults the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of the High Court and Governor of the State concerned.

All the appointments and transfers done by the President are done in consultation with the Chief Justice of Supreme Court.

While the constitutional status of the President remains intact, the actual selection of judges is made by a team of senior judges of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India in accordance with 1993 ruling as reinterpreted in 1999 by the Supreme Court. This is known as Collegium of the Supreme Court. Its recommendations are binding on the President.

Qualifications, Tenure and Removal of the Judges
In order to be appointed as a judge of a High Court, the person concerned should possess
following qualifications:
(i) He or she should be a citizen of India.
(ii) He or she should have held a judicial office, at the district level or below for at least
ten years.
He or she should have been an advocate in one or more High Courts for at least ten
years continuously without break.
Once appointed, the High Court judges hold office till they attain the age of 62 years.

After retirement, they may be appointed judges of the Supreme Court or they may practise as advocates either in the Supreme Court or in any High Court other than the High Court in which they served as judges.

He or she may be removed if both the Houses of Parliament adopt a resolution by a majority of their total membership and by two thirds majority of members present and voting, separately in each House in the same session. Such a resolution is submitted to the President, who then can remove the concerned judge. This procedure is same as for removal of judges of the Supreme Court.

Powers and Jurisdiction of the High Court

The High Courts have the power to hear and decide cases which are brought directly to it.
This power is called Original Jurisdiction. When a High Court hears an appeal against the
decision of a lower court, it is called Appellate Jurisdiction. A High Court is mostly a court
of appeal. Appeals in both civil and criminal cases are brought to it against the decisions of

the lower courts.

Original Jurisdiction
The original jurisdiction of the High Courts is very limited.

Cases of alleged violation of fundamental rights can be started in High Courts, or in the Supreme Court. The High Courts have the power to issue orders to restore the fundamental rights of the people in the form of writs.

A High Court can hear election petition in its original jurisdiction, challenging the election of a Member of Parliament or State Legislative Assembly. It can set aside the election of a member if it finds that he or she used corrupt means in his or her election.

In civil cases, appellate jurisdiction extends to all such cases which involve an amount exceeding
Rs. 5 lakh. Any party to a civil dispute, which is dissatisfied with the decision of the District Court may appeal against the decision of the District Court in the High Court. It  also hears cases relating to patents and designs, succession, land acquisition, insolvency and guardianship.
The High Courts hear and decide appeals against decisions of the sessions courts in criminal cases. An accused who is found guilty by a sessions court, and awarded a sentence may file an appeal against the verdict of the sessions court and so can the State. The High Court may accept the decision of the sessions court, or alter it and increase or reduce the sentence, or change the nature of sentence, or may acquit an accused. However, if an accused is awarded death sentence by the sessions court, the sentence must be confirmed by the High Court before the person is hanged to death.

Transfer of Cases to the High Court
If a High Court is satisfied that a case pending in a subordinate court involves a substantial
question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution, the High Court may withdraw
such a case from the lower court. After examining the case, the High Court may either
dispose it off itself, or may return it to the lower court with instructions for disposal of the
Superintendence of Subordinate Courts
A High Court has the right of superintendence and control over all the subordinate courts
in all the matter of judicial and administrative nature. It can also make rules and regulations relating to the appointment, demotion, promotion and leave of absence for the officers of the subordinate courts.

Subordinate or Lower Courts in Districts

In each district of India there are various types of subordinate or lower courts.

Civil cases pertain to disputes between two or more persons regarding property, breach of agreement or contract, divorce or landlord – tenant disputes. Civil Courts settle these disputes. They do not award any punishment as violation of law is not involved in civil cases.

Civil Courts àDistrict Judge or District and Sessions Judge àSub Judge-Family Courts àMunsif à Small Causes Court.
Criminal cases relate to violation of laws. These cases involve theft, dacoity, rape, pickpocketing, physical assault, murder, etc. These cases are filed in the lower court by the police, on behalf of the state, againt the accused. In such cases the accused, if found guilty, is awarded punishment like fine, imprisonment or even death sentence.

Criminal Courts à Sessions Judge or District and Sessions Judge à Metropolitan Magistrate Or I Class Magistrate/ II Class Magistrate/ III Class Magistrate.
Revenue cases relate to land revenue on agriculture land in the district.

Revenue Courts àBoard of Revenue à Commissioner, Collector àTehsildar àNaib Tehsildar

Qualifications and Appointment of Judges
The judges of subordinate courts are appointed by the Governor in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court of the concerned State. These days, in most of the States judicial service officers including the magistrates are selected through competitive examinations held by the State Public Service Commission. They are finally appointed by the Governor.

Any person who has been an advocate for at least seven years or one who is in service of the State or the Central Government is eligible to be a judge of the District Court provided he/she possess the required legal qualifications.


Civil Courts
The judge of this court is appointed by the Governor of the State.


Separate family courts, which are equal to courts of sub judge, have been established in districts to exclusively hear cases of family disputes, like divorce, custody of children, etc. Below them there are courts of munsifs and small causes courts which decide cases involving petty amounts. No appeal can be made against the decisions of the small causes courts. All these courts hear and settle civil disputes.


Criminal Courts
The Court of the Sessions Judge (known as Sessions Courts) is the highest court for criminal cases in a district. Below this court, there are courts of magistrates of First, Second and Third class. In metropolitan cities like Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai and Chennai, First Class Magistrates are called Metropolitan Magistrates. All these criminal courts are competent to try the accused and to award punishment, as sanctioned by law, to those who are found guilty of violation of law.


Normally every accused is presented by the police before a magistrate. The magistrate can finally dispose off cases of minor crime. But, when a magistrate finds prima-facie case of serious crime he/she may commit the accused to the sessions court. Thus, sessions courts try the accused who are sent upto them by the magistrate concerned. As mentioned above, an accused who is awarded death sentence by the sessions court, can be hanged to death only after his sentence is confirmed by the High Court.


Revenue Courts
Revenue courts deal with cases of land revenue in the State. The highest revenue court in
the district is the Board of Revenue. Under it are the Courts of Commissioners, Collectors,
Tehsildars and Assistant Tehsildars. The Board of Revenue hears the final appeals against
all the lower revenue courts under it.









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