India: Civil Courts System

Last Updated: 3 March 2016

Hierarchy of Courts in India

Civil Court System

The Indian Judicial System is one of the oldest legal systems in the world today. It is part of the inheritance India received from the British after more than 200 years of their Colonial rule. The framework of the current legal system has been laid down by the Indian Constitution and the judicial system derives its powers from it. 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 hierarchy of importance, in line with the order of 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.

Hierarchy of Courts in India

The District Court of India are established by the State Government in India for every district or more than one district taking into account the number of cases, population distribution in the district. These courts are under administrative control of the High Court of the State to which the district concerned belongs. The District Court is presided over by one District Judge appointed by the State Government. In addition to the district judge there are many Additional District Judge and Assistant District Judge depending upon the workload.

In every state, besides the High Court there are number of judicial Courts to administer justice. These courts function under the complete control and supervision of the High Court. A state has got exclusive Legislative competence to determine the constituent organization and territorial jurisdiction of all courts subordinate to the High Court. The organization of subordinate coyrts throughout the country is generally uniform. There are two type of law courts in every district; (i) Civil Courts (ii) Criminal Courts

The court of the district judges is the highest civil court in a district. It exercises both judicial and administrative powers. It has the power of superintendence over the courts under its control. The court of the District judge is located at the district headquarters. It has power of trying both civil and criminal cases. Thus he is designated as the District and Sessions Judge.

Below the court of the District Judge are the courts of Sub-judge, Additional Sub-Judge and Munsif Courts, which are located in the sub-divisional and district headquarters. Most of the civil cases are filed in the court of the Munsif. A case can be taken in appeal from the court of the Munsif to the court of the sub-Judge or the Additional Sub-Judge. Appeals from the courts of the sub- Judges and Additional sub-Judges shall lie in the District-Court. The Court of the District Judge has both original and appellate jurisdiction. Against the decision of the District judge an appeal-shall lie in the High Court.

.Civil Court has been categorized on the basis of Jurisdiction:

  • Subject Matter Jurisdiction: It can be defined as the Authority vested in the court to try and hear cases of the particular type and pertaining to a particular subject matter.
  • Territorial Jurisdiction: The court can decide within the geographical limits of a court’s authority and it cannot exercise authority beyond that territorial and geographical limits.
  • Pecuniary Jurisdiction: Pecuniary Jurisdiction is related to money, whether a court can try cases and suits of monetary value/amount of the case or suit in question.
  • Appellate Jurisdiction: It refers to the authority of a court to rehear or review a case that has already been decided by a lower court. Appellate jurisdiction is generally vested in higher courts. In India, both the High Courts and the Supreme Court have appellate jurisdiction to hear matters which are brought in the form of appeal before them. They can either overrule the judgment of the lower court or uphold it.
This document is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should not act or rely on any information in this document without first seeking legal advice. This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any specific questions on any legal matter, you should consult a professional legal services provider.

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