There are various levels of judiciary in India – different types of courts, each with varying powers depending on the tier and jurisdiction bestowed upon them. They form a strict hierarchy of importance, in line with the order of the courts in which they sit, with the Supreme Court of India at the top, followed by High Courts of respective states with district judges sitting in District Courts and Magistrates of Second Class and Civil Judge (Junior Division) at the bottom. Courts hear criminal and civil cases, including disputes between individuals and the government. The Indian judiciary is independent of the executive and legislative branches of government according to the Constitution.
Supreme Court of India
On 26 January 1950, the day India’s constitution came into force, the Supreme Court of India was formed in Delhi. The original Constitution of 1950 envisaged a Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and 7 puisne Judges – leaving it to Parliament to increase this number. In the early years, all the Judges of the Supreme Court sit together to hear the cases presented before them. As the work of the Court increased and arrears of cases began to accumulate, Parliament increased the number of Judges from 8 in 1950 to 11 in 1956, 14 in 1960, 18 in 1978 and 26 in 1986. As the number of the Judges has increased, they sit in smaller Benches of two and three – coming together in larger Benches of 5 and more only when required to do so or to settle a difference of opinion or controversy. The Supreme Court of India comprises the Chief Justice and 30 other Judges appointed by the President of India, as the sanctioned full strength. Supreme Court Judges retire upon attaining the age of 65 years. In order to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court, a person must be a citizen of India and must have been, for at least five years, a Judge of a high court or of two or more such Courts in succession, or an advocate of a high court or of two or more such Courts in succession for at least 10 years or he must be, in the opinion of the president, a distinguished jurist. Provisions exist for the appointment of a Judge of a high court as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court and for retired judges of the Supreme Court or High Courts to sit and act as Judges of that Court. The Constitution seeks to ensure the independence of Supreme Court Judges in various ways. A judge of the Supreme Court cannot be removed from office except by an order of the president passed after an address in each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of members present and voting, and presented to the president in the same Session for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. A person who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court is debarred from practising in any court of law or before any other authority in India. The proceedings of the Supreme Court are conducted in English only. Supreme Court Rules, 1966 are framed under Article 145 of the Constitution to regulate the practice and procedure of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of India is the highest court of the land as established by Part V, Chapter IV of the Constitution of India. According to the Constitution of India, the role of the Supreme Court is that of a federal court, guardian of the Constitution and the highest court of appeal. Articles 124 to 147 of the Constitution of India lay down the composition and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India. Primarily, it is an appellate court which takes up appeals against judgments of the High Courts of the states and territories. However, it also takes writ petitions in cases of serious human rights violations or any petition filed under Article 32 which is the right to constitutional remedies or if a case involves a serious issue that needs immediate resolution. The Supreme Court of India had its inaugural sitting on 28 January 1950, and since then has delivered more than 24,000 reported judgments.
There are 29 High Courts at the State level. Article 141 of the Constitution of India mandates that they are bound by the judgments and orders of the Supreme Court of India by precedence. These courts have jurisdiction over a state, a union territory or a group of states and union territories. Below the High Courts are a hierarchy of subordinate courts such as the civil courts, family courts, criminal courts and various other district courts. High courts are instituted as constitutional courts under Part VI, Chapter V, Article 214 of the Indian Constitution. The High Courts are the principal civil courts of original jurisdiction in the state along with District Courts which are subordinate to the High courts. However, High courts exercise their original civil and criminal jurisdiction only if the courts subordinate to the high court in the state are not competent (not authorised by law) to try such matters for lack of pecuniary, territorial jurisdiction. High courts may also enjoy original jurisdiction in certain matters if so designated specifically in a state or Federal law. e.g.: Company law cases are instituted only in a high court. However, primarily the work of most High Courts consists of Appeals from lower courts and writ petitions in terms of Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Writ Jurisdiction is also original jurisdiction of High Court. The precise territorial jurisdiction of each High Court varies. Judges in a high court are appointed by the President after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, Chief Justice of High Court and the governor of the state. The number of judges in a court is decided by dividing the average institution of main cases during the last five years by the national average, or the average rate of disposal of main cases per judge per year in that High Court, whichever is higher.[ nedio itact ] The Calcutta High Court is the oldest High Court in the country, established on 2 July 1862, whereas the Allahabad High Court is the largest, having a sanctioned strength of judges at 160. High courts which handle a large number of cases of a particular region, have permanent sehcnbe (or a branch of the court) established there. For litigants of remote regions, ‘circuit benches’ are set up, which work for those days in a month when judges visit.
The District Courts of India are established by the State governments in India for every district or for one or more districts together taking into account the number of cases, population distribution in the district. They administer justice in India at a district level. These courts are under administrative control of the High Court of the Stateto which the district concerned belongs. The decisions of District court are subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the concerned High court. The district court is presided over by one District Judge appointed by the state Government. In addition to the district judge there may be number of Additional District Judges and Assistant District Judges depending on the workload. The Additional District Judge and the court presided have equivalent jurisdiction as the District Judge and his district court.The district judge is also called “Metropolitan session judge” when he is presiding over a district court in a city which is designated “Metropolitan area” by the state Government.The district court has appellate jurisdiction over all subordinate courts situated in the district on both civil and criminal matters. Subordinate courts, on the civil side (in ascending order) are, Junior Civil Judge Court, Principal Junior Civil Judge Court, Senior Civil Judge Court (also called sub-court). Subordinate courts, on the criminal side (in ascending order) are, Second Class Judicial Magistrate Court, First Class Judicial Magistrate Court, Chief Judicial Magistrate Court.In addition ‘Family Courts” are established to deal with matrimonial disputes alone. The Principal judge of family court is equivalent to District Judge. Village Courts Village courts, called Lok Adalat (people’s court) or Nyaya Panchayat (justice of the villages), compose a system of alternative dispute resolution. They were recognized through the 1888 Madras Village Court Act, then developed (after 1935) in various provinces and (after 1947) Indian states. The model from the Gujarat State (with a judge and two assessors) was used from the 1970s onwards. In 1984 the Law Commission recommended to create Nyaya Panchayats in rural areas with laymen (“having educational attainments”). The 2008 Gram Nyayalayas Act have foreseen 5,000 mobile courts in the country for judging petty civil (property cases) and criminal (up to 2 years of prison) cases. However, the Act has not been enforced properly, with only 151 functional Gram Nyayalayas in the country (as of May 2012) against a target of 5000 such courts. The major reasons behind the nonenforcement includes financial constraints, reluctance of lawyers, police and other government officials.[ Right to Information (RTI) is an Act of the Parliament of India to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens and replaces the erstwhile Freedom of information Act, 2002. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen of India may request information from a "public authority" (a body of Government or "instrumentality of State") which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and to proactively certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.