Difference between Judge and Magistrate

22 Nov 2022  Read 3654 Views

Judges and Magistrates are two terms which are often confusing for many people, and these terms are generally used interchangeably or synonymously. But are Judges and Magistrates synonymous with each other, or do they possess different roles in the Indian Judicial System? In order to clearly understand their positions, we must first understand India's judicial system in brief. This article will discuss who judges and Magistrates are, the difference between a Judge and a Magistrate, and the types of Magistrate in India.

Judicial System in India

In India, judiciary acts as one of the three organ of the State and is chiefly responsible for protecting the rights of people. It is obvious to say that a limited number of Courts cannot live up to this responsibility as India has a very dense population. So, in order to fulfill such responsibility, the judiciary in India follows a system of hierarchy of Courts. In this, the Courts are sub-ordinated at different levels and function according to their prescribed jurisdiction. This hierarchy brings establishment of Courts at different level such as in the Central level, State level and at District level.

  • At the central level, Supreme Court has been established which exercises its jurisdiction as provided under Constitution of India. The presiding officers of this Court are addressed as Justice(s).

  • At every state level, High Courts have been established which exercise its jurisdiction as prescribed under Constitution of India and other civil and criminal laws. The presiding officers of High Courts are also addressed as Justice(s).

  • Then comes the district level where subordinate courts are established and they exercise their jurisdiction as per civil and criminal laws. This sub-ordinate courts are chiefly called as District and Sessions Courts. And it is these Courts where the presiding officers are addressed as Judges and Magistrates.

Types of Magistrates in India

Before we decode the position of Judges and figure out the differences between Judges and Magistrates, let’s first understand Magistrate because there are differences not only between a Judge and a Magistrate but also between a Magistrate and a Magistrate. Confused? Let’s see how-

Why I mentioned that there is a difference between a Magistrate and Magistrate is because the Magistrates are basically of two types, Judicial Magistrates and Executive Magistrates. It is important to bring the difference between these two types of Magistrates also.

Who are Judges and Magistrates?

Now that the difference between a Judicial Magistrate and Executive Magistrate are clear let us now understand the basics of Judges and Magistrates.

Assume that you are a law graduate and wish to become a Judicial Officer (Judge or Judicial Magistrate). Now, to become one, you will need to appear and clear an examination called as ‘State Judicial Services Examination’ conducted by the High Court of every State. The exams conducted by High Court simply mean that appointments are made by the High Court. Here, it is also important to know that Courts adjudicate on two types of matters, i.e. civil matters and criminal matters.

  • Civil matters are those which involve civil disputes, such as disputes related to property, money, contracts etc.

  • Criminal matters are those which involve criminal disputes, such as disputes related to theft, murder, rape etc.

Now when High Court assigns you the power to adjudicate a civil matter, you would be addressed as Civil Judge Class II. And, if the High Court assigns you the power to adjudicate a criminal matter, then you would be addressed as Judicial Magistrate Second Class. The assignment of power to adjudicate criminal matter has been provides under Section 11(3) of Code of Criminal Procedure. The detailed provision regarding Judicial Magistrates have been provided from Section 11 to 15 of the Code. Now, just as there is a hierarchy of Courts, there is also a hierarchy of Judicial Officers-

From the above table, one can clearly understand that there is no difference between a Civil JUDGE Class I and a Judicial MAGISTRATE Second Class as both the posts are held by the same person and the only difference they have is adjudication of cases.

However, you will definitely notice a difference when you compare a Session Judge with Judicial Magistrate Second/First Class as the former is in higher post and will definitely contain more powers than the latter.

Are judges and magistrates the same?


Judges and Magistrates do have substantial differences between them, but one must comprehensively understand both terms in detail to make out those differences. One can read more about this by following some preliminary chapters of the Code of Civil and Criminal Procedure.

About the Author: Gurpreet Kaur Dutta | 82 Post(s)

A legal content writer who pursued BBA-LL.B.(H) from Amity University Chhattisgarh. She has a keen interest in corporate and IPR sectors. 

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