Decoding the Hierarchy of Judges in India: Complete Analysis

Written By: Runjhun Sharma

Hierarchy of Courts and Judges in India

In Indian Judiciary System, the Judges have a hierarchy according to which they are seated in the respective courts.

The Judges at different levels have different powers and functions. The higher the judges are seated, the more is their power.

Indian Courts are in a Hierarchy for smooth functioning and to remove the pendency of cases. Had there been only one court for the country i.e. the Supreme Court then it would have been very burdensome. Therefore, not just every state has a High Court but every district or two has a District & Sessions Court to deal with cases on every level and to decrease the burden of courts.

Courts in India

The hierarchy of Courts in India is quite known but for the sake of it, are mentioned below-

  1. Supreme Court also known as the Apex Court of India, is the highest court of the country.
  2. High Court. Every state in India consists of a High Court which deals with the cases of that particular state.
  3. District Court or Sessions Court are the courts of the district which deals with the cases in the lowest level.

SUPREME COURT: The country consists of one Supreme Court which is supreme and higher than the High Courts. It is at the top in Decoding the Hierarchy of Courts in India. It is the responsibility of the Apex Court to administer justice all over India. The total no. of judges in Supreme Court can be 30-34, including the Chief Justice of India. The presiding officers of the Supreme Court is known as Justice and not judges or magistrate.

Judges Bench: As per Article 124 of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court shall consist of a Chief Justice and until Parliament by law appoints a larger number, not more than 7 other judges. The strength of Judges in Supreme Court is 34, including the Chief Justice of India.

There are three types of Benches in the Supreme Court:

  1. Division Bench: A bench of 2 judges is called a Division Bench.
  2. Full Bench: A bench of 3 or 5 judges is known as a Full Bench.
  3. Constitutional Bench: A bench of 7 or more judges is called a Constitutional Bench.

In its 70 year of history, the Supreme Court has only authorised 17 nine-judges bench judgements. The largest bench that has ever adjudicated on a case, is 13, in the matter of Kesavananda Bharti v State of Kerela in 1973.

Supreme Court deals with three jurisdictions

Original, Appellate and Advisory Jurisdictions.

Original Jurisdiction:

  1. Its original jurisdiction extends to any dispute arising between the government and states.
  2. Enforcement of Fundamental Rights as per Article 32 of the Indian Constitution.
  3. The Supreme Court can direct transfer of cases from one high court to another or from a subordinate court to a higher court.
  4. May withdraw any case pending in the High Court and can dispose it off itself.

Appellate Jurisdiction:

  1. When any one of the party of the case is not satisfied with the order passed by the High Court, then such order can be pointed out and presented in the Supreme Court.
  2. When the case involves a substantial question of law or of general importance.
  3. When the High Court is of the opinion that the case is a fit for an appeal in the Supreme Court.

Advisory Jurisdiction

  1. The Supreme Court has an advisory jurisdiction on any matter specifically referred to it by the President of India under Article 143 of the Constitution.
  2. The President can obtain the advice of the Supreme Court if any question of law or fact arises.
  3. The Supreme Court has been provided the power to refuse to give an opinion on the matter.

HIGH COURT: Each state consists of one High Court. High Courts administer justice in India at State level. Article 214 to 231 of the Indian Constitution deals with the provisions of the High Court. The record of judgements of High Courts can be used by Subordinate Courts for deciding cases. The presiding officers of the High Court are known as Justice and not judges or magistrate. Article 145(3) of the Indian Constitution allows the High Court to form benches. High Courts can form a Divisional Bench, a Full Bench and a Constitutional Bench (which can be rarely seen).

High Courts deal with two jurisdictions

Original and Appellate Jurisdiction

        Original Jurisdiction

  1. The High Court has the Original Jurisdiction to issue writs in order to enforce fundamental rights.
  2. Election Petitions can be heard by High Court.
  3. Civil matters with the higher case amounts (varies from state to state) can be heard by the High Court.

Appellate Jurisdiction

  1. An appeal can be made to the High Court against a District Court’s decision.
  2. The power to review a matter of the subordinate court lies with the High Court.
  3. If the High Court certifies that the case involves a substantial question of law or fact.

DISTRICT or SESSIONS COURT: The court of the district that deals with civil matters are known as District Court while the court of the district that deals with criminal matters are known as Sessions Court. District and Sessions Courts administer justice in India at district level. District Courts have two jurisdictions- Original and Appellate Jurisdiction. The presiding officers of the District & Sessions Courts are referred as Judges/Magistrate.

Presiding Officers in Civil matters are referred to as Judge while the Presiding Officers in Criminal matters are referred to as Magistrate. The power and functions of both Judge and Magistrate are the same, only the nature of matters they deal with are different.

The district court has appellate jurisdiction over all subordinate courts situated in the district, both civil or criminal matters.

All the matters of the subordinate courts are to be appealed in the District Court including matters of civil as well as criminal nature.

Hierarchy of Judges in India.

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