Vinay Vaish, Joint Managing Partner, Vaish Associates
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The Supreme Court has original, appellate and advisory jurisdiction. Its exclusive original jurisdiction includes any dispute between the Centre and State(s) or between States as well as matters concerning enforcement of fundamental rights of individuals. The appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can be invoked by a certificate granted by the High Court concerned in respect of any judgment, decree, or final order of a High Court, in both civil and criminal cases, involving substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution. Supreme Court decisions are binding on all Courts/ Tribunals in the country and act as precedence for lower courts. Under Art 141 of the Constitution, all courts in India are bound to follow the decision of the Supreme Court as the rule of law.
High Courts have jurisdiction over the States in which they are located. There are at present, 23 High Courts in India.1 However, the following three High Courts have jurisdiction over more than one State: Bombay (Mumbai) High Court, Guwahati High Court, and Punjab and Haryana High Courts. For instance, the Bombay High Court is located at Mumbai, the capital city of the State of Maharashtra. However, its jurisdiction covers the States of Maharashtra and Goa, and the Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Predominantly, High Courts can exercise only writ and appellate jurisdiction, but a few High Courts have original jurisdiction and can try suits. High Court decisions are binding on all the lower courts of the State over which it has jurisdiction.
District Courts in India take care of judicial matters at the District level. Headed by a judge, these courts are administratively and judicially controlled by the High Courts of the respective States to which the District belongs. The District Courts are subordinate to their respective High Courts. All appeals in civil matters from the District Courts lie to the High Court of the State. There are many secondary courts also at this level, which work under the District Courts. There is a court of the Civil Judge as well as a court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate. While the former takes care of the civil cases, the latter looks into criminal cases and offences.
In some States, there are some lower courts (below the District Courts) called Munsif's Courts and Small Causes Courts. These courts only have original jurisdiction and can try suits up to a small amount. Thus, Presidency Small Causes Courts cannot entertain a suit in which the amount claimed exceeds Rs 2,000.2 However, in some States, civil courts have unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction. Judicial officers in these courts are appointed on the basis of their performance in competitive examinations held by the various States' Public Service Commissions.
Special courts or Tribunals also exist for the sake of providing effective and speedy justice (especially in administrative matters) as well as for specialised expertise relating to specific kind of disputes. These Tribunals have been set up in India to look into various matters of grave concern. The Tribunals that need a special mention are as follows:
- Income Tax Appellate Tribunal
- Central Administrative Tribunal
- Intellectual Property Appellate Tribunal, Chennai
- Railways Claims Tribunal
- Appellate Tribunal for Electricity
- Debts Recovery Tribunal
- Central Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal
For instance, the Rent Controller decides rent cases, Family Courts try matrimonial and child custody cases, Consumer Tribunals try consumer issues, Industrial Tribunals and/or Courts decide labour disputes, Tax Tribunals try tax issues, etc.
It also needs special mention here that certain measures like setting up of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to streamline and effectuate the liquidation proceedings of companies, dispute resolution and compliance with certain provisions of the Companies Act, 20133 are also in the pipeline.
2. Section 18 of The Presidency Small Cause Courts Act, 1882 http://indiankanoon.org/doc/997218/ and http://www.manupatrafast.in/ba/fulldisp.aspx?iactid=1496
3. The Companies Act, 1956 has now been replaced with Companies Act, 2013 which has come into effect from April 1, 2014.
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