Jurisdiction and Powers of the High Court (India) – Explained!

The High Court of a State enjoys certain jurisdictions throughout the State. The Parliament may make a provision for a common High Court for two or more States or extend the jurisdiction of a High Court to one or more Union Territories.

The jurisdiction of Calcutta High Court extends to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Kerala High Court has jurisdiction over Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands.

Haryana and Punjab have a common High Court at Chandigarh. The Constitution does not attempt a detailed classification of different types of jurisdiction of the High Courts as it has done in case of the Supreme Court.

This is mainly because of the fact that during the time of the framing of the Constitution, most of the High Courts in British governed provinces were functioning well.

Thus the jurisdiction and powers of the High Courts remained mutatis mutandis the same as under the Government of India Act, 1935.

Jurisdictions

The following are the jurisdictions and powers which the High Courts enjoy all over the country.

1. Original jurisdiction:

The Constitution of India does not give a detailed description of the original jurisdiction of the High Court. It is accepted that the original jurisdiction of a High Court is exercised by issue of Writs to any person or authority including Government.

Article 226 of the Constitution vests in the High Court the power to issue writs for the restoration of fundamental rights. It reads, “Notwithstanding anything in Article 32, every High Court shall have power, throughout the territories in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction, to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases any Government, within those territories directions, orders or writs including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, or any of them for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by part III and for any other purpose”.

This power of the High Court does not derogate the similar power conferred on the Supreme Court in Article 32 of the Constitution.

The original jurisdiction of the High Courts also extends to the matters of admiralty, probate, matrimonial and contempt of Court cases. The High Courts have also full powers to make rules to regulate their business in relation to the administration of justice. It can punish for its own contempt.

2. Appellate Jurisdiction

The appellate jurisdiction of High Court extends to both civil and criminal cases. In civil cases, its jurisdiction extends to cases tried by Courts of Munsifs and District judges. In the criminal cases it extends to cases decided by Sessions and Additional Sessions Judges.

Thus, the jurisdiction of the High Court extends to all cases under the State or federal laws.

Its jurisdiction can be enlarged by the Parliament and the State Legislature. The Parliament exercises exclusive power to make laws touching the jurisdiction and power of all Courts with respect to the subjects on which it is competent to legislate. It can also legislate on subjects enumerated in the Concurrent List.

Likewise a State Legislature has power to make laws touching the jurisdictions and powers of all Courts within the Stare with respect to all subjects enumerated in the State List and the Concurrent List. But as regards the subjects in the Concurrent List the Union law prevails in case of conflict.

Powers

Power of Superintendence:

A High Court has also the power of superintendence over all Courts and Tribunals except those dealing with the armed forces functioning in the State. In exercise of this power it may:-

(i) Call for return from such Courts.

(ii) May issue general rules and prescribe forms for regulating the practice and proceedings of such Courts, and

(iii) Prescribe forms in which books and accounts are being kept by the Officers of any Court.

This power has made the High Court responsible for the entire administration of Justice in the State. It is both judicial as well as administrative in nature. The Constitution does not place any restriction on its power of superintendence over the subordinate Courts. It may be noted the Supreme Court has no similar power vis-a-vis the High Court.

Power of Transfer of Cases to High Court:

If the High Court is satisfied that a case pending in a Court subordinate to it involves a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution the determination of which is necessary for the disposal of the case, it shall withdraw the case and may :-

(a) Either dispose of it. Or

(b) Determine the said question of law and return the case to the

Court from whom it had been withdrawn together with a copy of its judgment on such question and the said Court shall on receipt thereof proceed to dispose of the case in conformity with such judgment.

By vesting these powers in the High Court the framers of our Constitution have safeguarded the possible multiplicity of constitutional interpretation at the level of subordinate Court.

The High Court has also got ample powers to call for the records of any case from any subordinate Court to satisfy itself about the correctness and legality of the orders passed by the subordinate Courts.

The High Court may either be moved by any interested party to exercise its power of revision. Even without being so moved, it can suo moto call for records and pass necessary order.

Control over its Officers and Employees:

The High Court has complete control over its officers and employees. Appointments of officers and servants are to be made by the Chief Justice or such other Judge or Officer of the High Court as the Chief Justice may direct.

However, the Governor of the State may by rule require that in such cases as may be specified in the rule no person not already attached to the Court shall be appointed to any office connected with the Court except after consultation with the State Public Service Commission.

Subject to any of the Act of the State Legislature, the conditions of service of those officers and servants of the High Court are to be such as may be prescribed by rules made by the Chief Justice of the High Court or by some other Judge or Officer of the High Court authorised by the Chief Justice to be make such rules.

The power of appointment also includes powers to suspend or dismiss. The administrative expenses of the High Court, including all salaries, allowances and pensions payable to its officers, are charged upon the Consolidated Fund of the State

Finally, a High Court is also a Court of Record. Its decision will be binding on its subordinate Courts. Its proceedings and decisions have evidential value and they cannot be questioned by the subordinate Courts. Further, it can punish for contempt of itself.

Some High Courts exercise jurisdiction over the Union territories. To make the exercise of this jurisdiction effective, the restrictions are imposed on the power of the State Legislatures to make law with respect to that jurisdiction. When a High Court exercises jurisdiction in relation to a Union territory, the Legislature of that State has no power to increase, restrict or abolish that jurisdiction of the High Court.