Supreme Court of India

Federal Court System in India


The Judiciary of India is an independent body and is separate from the Executive and Legislative bodies of the Indian Government. The judicial system of India is stratified into various levels. At the apex is the Supreme Court, which is followed by High Courts at the state level, District Courts at the district level and Lok Adalats at the Village and Panchayat Level.

The judiciary of India takes care of maintenance of law and order in the country along with solving problems related to civil and criminal offences. The judiciary system that is followed in India is based on the British Legal System that was prevalent in the country during pre-independence era. Very few amendments have been made in the judicial system of the country.

India has a quasi-federal structure with 29 States further sub-divided into about 601 administrative Districts. The Judicial system however has a unified structure. The Supreme Court, the High Courts and the lower Courts constitute a single Judiciary. Broadly there is a three – tier division. Each District has a District Court and each State a High Court. The Supreme Court of India is the Apex Court. Each State has its own laws constituting Courts subordinate to the District Courts. Besides, a number of judicial Tribunals have been set up in specialized areas. The significant Tribunals are: Company Law Board; Monopolistic and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission; Securities Appellate Tribunal; Consumer Protection Forum; Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction; Customs and Excise Control Tribunal; Tax Tribunal; etc. These Tribunals function under the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court where they may be situated.


There are 3 types of court in India :

  1. Supreme Court
  2. High Court
  3. District Court


The Indian Judicial System has the Supreme Court of India at its helm, which at present is located only in the capital city of Delhi, without any benches in any part of the nation, and is presided by the Chief Justice of India.

The Supreme Court of India has many Benches for the litigation, and this apex court is not only the final court of permissible Appeal, but also deals with interstate matters, and matters comprising of more than one state, and the matters between the Union Government and any one or more states, as the matters on its original side. The President of India can always seek consultation and guidance including the opinion of the apex court and its judges. This court also has powers to punish anybody for its own contempt.

The largest bench of the Supreme Court of India is called the Constitution Bench and comprises of 5 or 7 judges, depending on the importance attached of the matters before it, as well as the work load of the court. 4


Every State has a High Court, which works under the direct guidance and supervision of the Supreme Court of India, and is the uppermost court in that state, and generally the last court of regular appeals. Though generally the High Courts are only the courts of Appeal, however in the three presidency towns (As the British had then termed) of Mumbai [Bombay], Chennai [Madras] and Kolkata [Calcutta], the High Courts also have powers of the original Side beyond a certain financial limit.

The High Courts are also termed as the courts of equity, and can be approached in writs not only for violation of fundamental rights under the provisions of Article 32 of the Indian constitution, but also for any other rights under Article 226 of the Constitution, and under its powers to supervise over all its subordinate courts falling within the physical jurisdiction of the same under Article 227 of the Constitution. In fact, when apparently there is no effective remedy available to a person in equity, it can always move the High Court in an appropriate writ.

High Courts frame their own rules, and arrange to implement them but under certain provisions of Law, the High Courts have the ordinary original civil jurisdiction.

Many times the High Courts have concurrent jurisdiction along with its subordinate courts, for effective remedy at the earliest. All the High Courts have different division benches in different parts of the respective states for speedier cheaper and effective dispensing of justice. 5


The highest court in each district is that of the District and Sessions Judge. This is the principal court of original civil jurisdiction besides High Court of the State and which derives its jurisdiction in civil matters primarily from the code of civil procedure. The district court is also a court of Sessions when it exercises its jurisdiction on criminal matters under Code of Criminal procedure. 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.

However, the district judge has supervisory control over Additional and Assistant District Judges, including decisions on allocation of work among them. The District and Sessions judge is often referred to as “district judge” when he presides over civil matters and “sessions judge” when he presides over criminal matters.

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. Other courts subordinated to district court in the Metropolitan area are also referred to with “metropolitan” prefixed to the usual designation. An area is designated a metropolitan area by the concerned state Government if population of the area exceeds one million.

Appointment of district judge and other Additional and Assistant district judges is done by the state Government in consultation with the High court of the state. A minimum of seven years of practise as a lawyer at bar is a necessary qualification. District judges are also appointed by way of elevation of judges from courts subordinate to district courts provided they fulfill the minimum years of service.