One of the unique features of the Indian constitution is that notwithstanding the adoption of a federal system and existence of central Acts and state Acts in their respective spheres, it has generally provided for a single integrated system of courts to administer both union and state laws.
At the apex of the entire judicial system exists supreme court of India with a High Court of each state or group of states, and under High courts there is a hierarchy of subordinate courts.
There is generally separation of judicial form executive. Panchayat court also function in some state under various names like Nyaya Panchayat, Panchayat Adalat, Gram kachheri, etc. to decide civil and criminal disputes of petty and local nature. Different state laws provided for different kinds of jurisdiction of courts.
Each states is divided into judicial districts presided over y a district and sessions judge, who is the principal civil court of original jurisdiction and can try all offences including those punishable with death.
He is the highest judicial authority in a district. Below him there are courts of civil jurisdiction, known in different states as munsifs, sub-judges, civil judges and the like. Similarly criminal judiciary comprises chief judicial magistrate and judicial magistrates of first and second class.
The supreme Court of India consists of 25 judges (excluding the Chief Justice of India). The judges hold office until they attain the age of 65 years.
The Supreme Court of India has original jurisdiction in any dispute arising: (a) between the Government of India and one or more states or (b) between the Government of India and any state or state on the one side and one or more states on the other, or (c) between two or more states.
An appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court from any judgement, decree or final order of a High Court in the territory of India, whether in a civil, criminal or other proceeding.
As on 9 May 1998, members of the Court are: Chef Justice M.M. Punchhi; Judges: S.C. Agrawal, A.S. Anand, S.P. Haruchi, M.K. Mukherjee, S.B. Majumder, Sujata V. Manohar, G.T. Nanavati, S.Saghir Ahmad, K. Venkatswami, B.N. Kirpal, G.B. Pattanaik, S.P. Kurdukar, K.T. Thomas, M. Jagannadha Rao, V.N. Khare, D.P. Wadhwa, M. Srinivasan, S. Rajendra Babu, A.P. Misra and S.S.M. Quadri.
High Court stands at the head of the state’s judicial administration. There are 18 High Courts in the country, three having jurisdiction over more than one state. Among the Union Territories, Delhi alone has a High Court of its own.
Other six Union Territories come under jurisdiction of different state High Courts. Each High Court comprises a Chief justice of High Court is appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the Governor of the state.
The procedure for appointing puisne judges is the same except that the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned is also consulted. They hold office up to 62 years of age and are removable in the same manner as a judge of the Supreme Court.
To be eligible for appointment as a judge, one must be a citizen of India and have held a judicial office in India for 10 years or must have practised as an advocate of a High Court or two or more such courts in succession for a similar period.
Each High Court has power to issue to any person or authority and Government within its jurisdiction, direction, orders or writs including writs which are in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari for enforcement of Fundamental Rights and for any other purpose.
This power may also be exercised by any High Court exercising jurisdiction in relation to territories within which the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises for exercise of such power, even if the seat of such Government or authority or residence of such person is not within those territories.
The total sanctioned strength of judges and additional judges in different High Courts is 587 against which 462 were in position as on 1 August 1998.
Each High Court has powers of superintendence over all courts within its jurisdiction. It can call for returns from such courts, make and issue general rules and prescribe forms to regulate their practices and proceedings and determine the manner and form in which book entries and accounts shall be kept.
The structure and functions of subordinate courts are more or less uniform throughout the Country. Designations of courts connote their functions. These courts deal with all disputes of civil or criminal nature as per the powers conferred on them.
They have derived principally from two important codes prescribing procedures, the Code of Civil procedure, 1908 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and further strengthened by local statues.
As per direction of Supreme Court in WP (Civil) 1022/1989 in the All India Judges Association case, a uniform designation has been brought about in the subordinate judiciary’s judicial officers all over the country viz.
District or Additional District Judges, Civil Judge (Senior Division) and Civil Judge (Junior Division) on the Civil side and on Criminal side, Sessions Judge.
Additional Sessions Judge, Chief Judicial Magistrate and Judicial Magistrate etc, as laid down in the Cr. P.C. Appropriate adjustment, if any, has been made of existing posts by indicating their equivalent with any of these categories by all state government/ UT administrations.
Under Article 235 of the Constitution of India, the administration control over the members of subordinate judicial service vests with the concerned High Court.
Further n exercise of power conferred under proviso to Article 309 read with Article 233 and 234 of the Constitution, the state Government shall frame Rules and Regulations in consultation with the High Court exercising jurisdiction in relation to such State.
The members of the State Judicial Services are governed by these rules and regulations.
However, in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s directive in the referred case, for the first time, the Central Government have set up a National Judicial Pay Commission to examine the present structure of emoluments and conditions of service of judicial officers in the states and UTs. The Commission will make its recommendations to the state governments.
The next set of courts is described as courts of district and sessions judge which also include courts of additional judge, joint judge or assistant judge. The court of the district and sessions judge at district level is the principal court of original jurisdiction.
It is presided over by an officer called district and session judge. As a rule the same officer invested with power under both the statutes presides over the court and it is known as district and court.
Depending upon workload, a district court may have jurisdiction over more than one district. In some states, there is a court called court of Civil and Sessions judge.
These courts generally have unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction and depending upon the power conferred on the incumbent officer-in-charge of the couth, it can handle Criminal cases.
In some States, these courts with unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction are called courts of civil judge (senior division) while in other states they are described as courts of subordinate judge.
In addition there are courts known as small cause’s courts. These are set up either under the Provisional Small Causes Act at the district level or under the Presidency Town Small Causes Court Act in presidency/metropolitan towns.
The Family Courts Acts, 1984 aims at promoting conciliation in and securing speedy settlement of disputes relating to marriage and family affairs and related matters.
It envisages that Courts shall be set up n a city or town with a population of more than 10 lakh and at such other places as the state government may deem necessary.
Family courts have been set up in Andhra Pradesh-seven, Assam-one, Bihar-two, Karnataka-five, Kerala-five, Maharashtra-sixteen, Manipur-one Orissa-two, Pondicherry-one, Punjab-two, Rajasthan-five, Sikkim-one, Tamil Nadu-six, Utter Pradesh-sixteen and West Bengal-one.
Besides, necessary notifications extending the jurisdiction of the Family Courts Act have also been issued by the Government of India in respect of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.