High Courts in India- History, Jurisdiction, Composition

21 Jun 2021  Read 34660 Views

The High Courts of India are the highest judicial court in a every State and Union Territory. Articles 214 to 237 of the Constitution of India lay down the provisions of the High Courts. Article 214 deals with the establishment of High Courts in every state. High Courts have the power to exercise their original civil and criminal jurisdiction in any case, if the subordinate courts are not approved by the law to take up the matter due to the absence of financial or regional jurisdiction. There is a total of 25 High Courts in India.

History of High Courts in India

The history of High Courts in India dates back to the period of British Raj.  The British came to the country as traders, but once they established their hold over the Indian mainland, they became involved in the administration of the country. In 1858, on the recommendation of the Law Commission, the Parliament passed the Indian High Couty Act, 1861 which resulted in the establishment of the High Courts in the three Presidencies:

  • Calcutta 

  • Bombay 

  • Madras

The first High Court of the country, “The High Court of Judicature at Fort William” also known as the “High Court of Calcutta” was established by the Letters Patent dated 14th May 1862, which was issued under the Indian High Courts Act, 1861. The Charter of Bombay and Madras High Court were ordered on June, 1862. Through the Act, the Queen of England had the power to issue charters/letters patent to erect and establish High Courts of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. Sir Barnes Peacock became the first Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court in 1862. Later, Shri Sambhunath Pandit became the first Indian to be appointed as a judge of the Calcutta High Court, serving the position from 1863- 1867.

The main reason for the implementation of the Indian High Courts Act was to have separate judiciary bodies for different states. Therefore, the British Government decided to abolish the then existing Sadar Adalat and the Supreme Court and replace it with High Courts.

High Court Jurisdiction

The High Court is the highest court of appeal in every state having the power to interpret the Constitution. The High Court is considered to be the protector of the Fundamental Rights of the citizens, along with the supervisory and consultative roles. At present, a High Court enjoys the following jurisdictions:

  • Original Jurisdiction: Under Article 225, every High Court has original jurisdiction in revenue matters as well as those related to admiralty, contempt of court, probate, marriages. In such cases the applicant can directly approach the High Court and does not require to raise any appeal. 

  • Appellate Jurisdiction: It is for the cases where the applicant has raised a complaint challenging the judgement given by a subordinate court of that territory. This power is divided into two categories-

  1. Civil Jurisdiction-This includes the orders and judgement from the district, civil and subordinate courts.

  2. Criminal Jurisdiction- This includes the orders and judgements from the session and the additional sessions court.

  • Writ Jurisdiction: Under Article 226 of the Constitution, the High Courts are vested with the rights to issue writs for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the citizens. The different types of writs that the High Courts can issue are- 

  1. Habeas Corpus

  2. Mandamus

  3. Certiorari

  4. Quo Warranto

  5. Prohibition

  • Power of Judicial Review: The High Courts are vested with the power of Judicial Review to examine the constitutionality of the legislative and executive orders of the central and state government. 

  • Control of the Subordinate Courts: Through this, the High Court can withdraw any pending case from the subordinate court if it involves the question of law. The case can be disposed of itself or the question of law can be solved and the case can return back to the same court.

  • A Court of Record: This involves the recording of judgements, proceedings and acts of the High Courts. These records cannot be questioned in any other court.

Composition of High Court and Appointment of Judges

Every High Court consists of a Chief Justice and other puisne judges. Additional judges can be appointed for clearance of cases that are pending in the court; however, their tenure cannot be extended for more than two years. 

Appointment: The Chief Justice of the High Court is appointed by the President of the Country in consultation of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Governor of the State. 

A High Court Judge is appointed by the President. While appointing, he may also consult the Governor of the State, the Chief Justice of India as well as the Chief Justice of the particular State’s High Court. The judge can also be transferred to other High Courts. This decision depends on the Chief Justice of India with the aim to ensure speedy and proper trials for every case fought in the court of law.

Eligibility Criteria

There are some eligibility criteria that has to be fulfilled in order to be appointed as the Judge of a High Court. The following are the eligibility criteria that has to be fulfilled:

  • The candidate should be a citizen of India

  • The candidate should have been a judge of a Subordinate Court for a minimum of 10 years

  • The candidate has been a pleader for over 10 years in any High Court in India.

  • The candidate is not more than 62 years old.

Apart from the salary, there are several other allowances and perks that a High Court Judge enjoys.


High Courts are considered to have a wide scope as, not only, can they issue writs for the violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens, but also for violation of other legal rights as well. It is a court of record like the Supreme Court. A citizen can approach the High Court directly when there is a violation of any right. The High Courts have control over the subordinate courts as well as the tribunals except the Armed Forces matter.

About the Author: Antalina Guha | 29 Post(s)

Antalina Guha, is in the  5th year of B.A. LL.B course in Ajeenkya DY Patil University, with a core interest in Intellectual Property Rights and Criminal law.

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