Hierarchy of courts in India

9 Nov 2022  Read 697 Views

The federal system of power-sharing is the foundation of Indian democracy. The legislative and executive branches have the power to enact and execute laws. The Judiciary, however, has sole jurisdiction over the interpretation of laws and the defence of citizens' rights. As a result, it is known as the "custodian of the constitution," which refers to the protector and interpreter. In cases involving constitutional validity and the law, the Judiciary has the last say. Law students often seem confused about this topic. Let's discuss the hierarchy of courts in detail. 

History of Indian Courts

The Indian Judiciary expanded upon the British Legal System. The Royal Charter of Charles II in 1661 established the first instance of a court case and granted the governor the authority to decide civil and criminal cases following English law. The Mayor's Courts were subsequently founded by King George I in Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta in 1726. However, the first Supreme Court of India was formed in Calcutta by the Regulating Act of 1773; Madras and Bombay followed.

The High Court's Act of 1861 subsequently established high courts. The Privy Council, however, served as the highest Court of appeal. The Federal Court of India was created by the Government of India Act of 1935 to serve as an appeals court for the Privy Council and High Courts. After independence, the Federal Court continued to serve in this capacity until January 26, 1950, when the Delhi-based Supreme Court took over as the highest Court of appeals.

Hierarchy of Courts in India

Supreme Court 

Supreme court, aka the Apex court, has original, advisory and appellate jurisdiction. It is developed under Part V, Chapter IV of the Constitution of India. Articles 124 to 147 lays down the provisions for the composition and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court's decisions are binding on all the subordinate courts. 

The following are some features of the Supreme Court that every law student should be aware of-

  1. The Supreme Court comprises 31 Judges.

  2. Mode of Appointment- The President appoints judges by consulting judicial members.

  3. Security of Tenure- Judges can be removed by the President only based on grounds mentioned in the Constitution.

  4. Fixed Service Conditions- allowances, salaries, leave, and the Parliament determines judges' pension.

  5. Expenses Charged on Consolidated Fund- allowances, salaries, and others are charged on the consolidated fund of India.

  6. Conduct of Judges Cannot be Discussed- Prevents discussions in Parliament or state legislature.

  7. Ban- There is a ban on Practice After Retirement.

  8. Power to Punish for its Contempt- to sustain authority, dignity and honour.

  9. Staff appointment A Supreme court judge has the freedom to appoint its Staff.

  10. Jurisdiction- Parliament cannot restrict any jurisdiction of the supreme CourtCourt.

  11. Separate from Executive- Executive authorities cannot possess judicial powers.

  12. Transfer of cases - Any civil or criminal case may be transferred at the Supreme Court's direction from one State High Court to another State High Court or from one CourtCourt to another Court. 

  13. Withdrawal of cases- The Supreme Court may withdraw a case or cases pending before the High Court or High Courts and resolve all such issues itself if it is satisfied that cases involving the same or substantially the same question of law are pending before it and one or more High Courts or before two or more High Courts and that these questions are important questions of general importance. 

  14. Arbitration - International Commercial Arbitration can also be started before the Supreme Court under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996.

  15. Appeals can be made to the Supreme Court in civil matters if the case involves a substantial question of law and the High Court thinks that Supreme Court should decide this matter. 

Appeals in criminal matters can be made if the decision of the High Court involves the acquittal of a person sentenced to death or life imprisonment or imprisonment of not less than ten years; or if the High Court thinks fit.

High Courts

At the top of a State's legal system is the High Court. The President may occasionally appoint additional judges to each High Court in addition to the Chief Justice. The President appoints the Chief Justice of a High Court after consulting with the Chief Justice of India and the State Governor.

a. Appointment of Judges: A judge is appointed via the same process, except the Chief Justice of the relevant High Court is also consulted. They can be removed in the same way a Supreme Court judge can until they reach the age of 62. One must be an Indian citizen, hold judicial office in India for ten years, or have practised as an advocate in one or more High Courts consecutively for a comparable amount of time to be eligible for appointment as a judge.

b. Powers of High Court: To uphold fundamental rights and for any other reason, each High Court has the authority to issue any person within its jurisdiction with directives, orders, or writs, including writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari.

All Courts within the jurisdiction of each High Court are subject to its supervision. It has the authority to request reports from these Courts, establish general guidelines and form prescriptions to govern their practises and procedures, and specify how and in what format book entries and accounts must be maintained.

c. Jurisdiction: Any High Court with jurisdiction over the territories where the cause of action, in whole or in part, arises for the exercise of such power may also exercise this power, even if that Court'sCourt's jurisdiction does not extend to those territories or where the person's domicile is.

District and Subordinate courts

In addition to the high CourtCourt of State, the district court with original civil jurisdiction in each district is that of the District and Sessions Judge. In civil and criminal proceedings that arise in the district, the district court or additional district court has jurisdiction on both the original and appellate sides.

The district judge oversees the administration of justice in each district.

The concerned state enactments on the issue of civil courts often specify the territorial and financial jurisdiction in civil proceedings.

The criminal Procedure Code is the exclusive source of jurisdiction in the criminal realm. When the district court uses its authority over criminal issues under the Criminal Procedure Code, it also functions as the Court of Sessions.

All district subordinate courts are subject to appellate jurisdiction by the district court in both civil and criminal cases.


The Constitution now has a new part XIV-A thanks to the 42nd amendment act of 1976. This section's title is

'TRIBUNALS,' which only has two articles, are as follows:

Dealing with administrative tribunals is covered in Article 323 A.

Dealing with tribunals for additional cases in Article 323 B

a Administrative Tribunals 

The establishment of administrative tribunals for adjudicating disputes relating to the recruitment and conditions of service of individuals to public services of the centre, state, local bodies, public corporations, and other public authorities may be provided for by the Parliament under Article 332 A. The Administrative Tribunals Act was adopted by Parliament in 1985.

b. Central Administrative Tribunals (CAT)

It was established in 1985, with the principal bench in Delhi and auxiliary benches in various states.

The CAT has initial authority regarding hiring and all other service-related issues involving public employees that fall under its purview. All are subject to its control, including civil service members working for the defence services and central and Indian services.

It is a multi-member organisation with members and a chairman. Currently, there are 65 members in total, including one chairman. CAT is required to follow the guidelines outlined in the Civil Procedure Code of 1908. Natural justice ideals serve as its compass.

c. State Administrative Tribunal

In response to a particular request from the involved state governments, the Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985 gives the federal government the authority to create State Administrative Tribunals (SATs). In 9 states, SAT testing will be available by 2016. After consulting with the governor of the relevant state, the President appoints the chairman and members of the SATs.

It has initial jurisdiction over all hiring-related issues and all employee service-related issues involving state government workers. The act specifies how a joint administrative tribunal (JAT) for two or more states may be established. All of the jurisdiction and authority that the administrative tribunals for these states may exert is exercised by JAT.

d. Tribunals for other matters

According to Article 323-B, the Parliament and state legislatures have the power to establish tribunals to settle disputes on the following issues:

  1. Taxation 

  2. Foreign exchange import export 

  3. Industrial & Labor

  4. Land Reforms

  5. Ceiling on urban property

  6. Election 

  7. Foodstuffs

  8. Rent and tenancy rights

Juvenile Court 

The Latin word "juvenis," which means "young," is where the term "juvenile" first appeared. A person who has not reached the age of 18 is referred to as a juvenile or child. Children are our country's greatest resource, but their involvement in unlawful activity steadily rises over time.

Juvenile crime, often referred to as juvenile delinquency, involves a minor in illegal conduct. Juvenile justice is a judicial system that seeks to safeguard all children by including "the children in need of protection" and those in a legal dispute.

Special Court 

A special court handles particular cases with a streamlined and abbreviated process. They were created according to the law and intended to address specific issues within them. Up to 2015, more than 25 special courts will be established.

Since before independence, there have been special courts in the subordinate Judiciary. Special courts are an essential tool for dealing with some statutes' peculiarities and the courts' backlog.

The phrase "established under the statute" in the case involving special courts refers to creating a new court.

The supreme CourtCourt ought to discuss the constitutionality of special courts and examine any related policy issues.

Alternative Dispute Resolution 

The ADR process has also shown to be one of the most effective ways to settle international commercial disputes. In India, legislation governing conflict resolution has occasionally been changed to support quick dispute settlement in line with the times. To reduce the mounting backlog of cases awaiting trial, the Judiciary has also promoted out-of-court settlements. Organisations like the International Centre for Alternate Dispute Resolution (ICADR) and the Indian Council of Arbitration (ICA) were founded to apply the ADR method successfully.


Every person in this nation can easily knock on the doors of the courts whenever a conflict occurs, thanks to how the court system's hierarchy has been formed. When citizens feel that lower courts have violated their rights, it gives them a platform to appeal to higher courts. India is a large country with a large population. Therefore, the current judicial system must thrive and streamline its procedures so that anybody can access it and ensure that all of the nation's residents receive justice.

About the Author: Gurpreet Kaur Dutta | 43 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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