Judiciary of State – High Court ( Appointments, Jurisdiction and Powers, Supervisory role, Controlling Power, Court of Record

Judiciary of State

High Courts

The institution of high court originated in India in 1862 when the high courts were set up at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. In the course of time, each province in British India came to have its own high court. After 1950, a high court existing in a province became the high court for the corresponding state. The High Courts are the highest courts at State level, but being part of integrated Indian judiciary they work under the superintendence, direction and control of the Supreme Court.

The Constitution of India provides for a high court for each state, but the Seventh Amendment Act of 1956 authorised the Parliament to establish a common high court for two or more states or for two or more states and a union territory.

For example, the States of Punjab and Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh have a common High Court situated at Chandigarh.

Similarly, the High Court of Guwahati is common for seven northeastern States of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh. Delhi, though not a State, has its own separate High Court. Every High Court has a Chief Justice and a number of judges. The number of judges varies from State to State. The number of judges of each High Court is determined by the President.

At present there are 25 High Courts for 29 States (including new Andhra Pradesh High Court established in 1st January 2019 at principal seat in Amravati) and seven Union Territories.

Appointment of the Judges

Every High Court consists of a Chief Justice and such other Judges as appointed by the President from time to time (Article 216).

Jurisdiction and Powers of High Court

At present, a high court enjoys the following jurisdiction and powers:

Original Jurisdiction:

In their judicial capacity, the High Courts of the Presidency towns (Bombay, Calcutta and Madras) have both original and appellate jurisdictions, while other High Courts have mostly appellate jurisdiction. Only in matters of admiralty, probate, matrimonial and contempt of Court, they have
original jurisdiction. The Presidency High Courts have original jurisdiction in which the amount involved is more than 2000 and in criminal cases which are committed to them by the Presidency Magistrates.

Appellate Jurisdiction:

As Courts of appeal, all High Courts entertain appeals in civil and criminal cases from their subordinate Courts as well as on their own. They have, however, no jurisdiction over tribunals established under the laws relating to the Armed Forces of the Country.

Writ Jurisdiction:

Under Article 226 of the constitution, the High Courts are given powers of issuing writs not only for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights, but also for other purposes. In exercise of this power, a Court may issue the same type of writs, orders or directions which the Supreme Court is empowered to issue under Article 32.

The jurisdiction to issue writs under this Article is larger in the case of High Courts, for which the Supreme Court can issue them only where a Fundamental Right has been infringed, a High Court can issue them not only in such cases, but also where an ordinary legal right has been infringed.

1. Habeas Corpus

The writ of habeas corpus is issued to a detaining authority, ordering the detainer to produce the detained person in the issuing court, along with the cause of his or her detention, if the detention is found to be illegal, the court issues an order to set the person free.

2. Mandamus

The writ of mandamus is issued to a subordinate court, an officer of government, or a corporation or other institution commanding the performance of certain acts or duties.

3. Prohibition

The writ of prohibition is issued by a higher court to a lower court prohibiting it from taking up a case because it falls outside the jurisdiction of the lower court. Thus, the higher court transfers the case to it.

4. Quo Warranto

The writ of quo Warranto is issued against a person who claims or usurps a public office. Through this writ the court inquires ‘by what authority’ the person supports his or her claim.

5. Certiorari

The writ of certiorari is issued to a lower court directing that the record of a case be sent up for review, together with all supporting files, evidence and documents, usually with the intention of overruling the judgment of the lower court. It is one of the mechanisms by which the fundamental rights of the citizens are upheld.

Supervisory Jurisdiction:

High court has the power of superintendence over all courts and tribunals functioning in its territorial jurisdiction (except military courts or tribunals) Thus, it may

(a) Call for returns from them;

(b) Make an issue, general rules and prescribe forms for regulating the practice and proceedings of them.

(c) Prescribe forms in which books, entries and accounts are to be kept by them; and

(d) Settle the fees payable to the sheriff, clerks, officers and legal practitioners of them.

Control over Subordinate Courts:

A high court has an administrative control and other powers over them

(a) It is consulted by the governor in the matters of appointment, posting and promotion of district judges and in the appointments of persons to the judicial service of the state (other than district judges).

(b) It deals with the matters of posting, promotion, grant of leave, transfers and discipline of the members of the judicial service of the state (other than district judges).

(c) It can withdraw a case pending in a subordinate court if it involves a substantial question of law that requires the interpretation of the Constitution. It can then either dispose of the case itself or determines the question of law and return the case to the subordinate court with its judgment.

(d) Its law is binding on all subordinate courts functioning within its territorial jurisdiction in the same sense as the law declared by the Supreme Court is binding on all courts in India.

Court of Record:

All the decisions and decrees issued by the High Court are printed and are kept as a record for future references by the Court as well as by the lawyers, is such a need arises. Thus, it also acts
as a Court of Record.


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