INDIAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM
India has a federal form of government but it has an independent and integrated structure of judiciary. The integrated judiciary means that the courts from the apex level to the lowest level are integrated in a hierarchy. Courts in the present system in India can be divided into the higher judiciary and the lower judiciary. The higher judiciary, which consists of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, is established under or regulated by, the Constitution. The High Courts of Bombay, Madras, Calcutta and Allahabad were originally created by “Letters Patent” (a document issued under the seal of the Sovereign) under the Indian High Courts Act, 1861. As regard the Supreme Court, it is entirely the creation of the Constitution.
Jurisdiction of the lower judiciary, consisting of the ordinary civil and criminal courts is derived from ordinary legislation. But the Constitution deals with the appointment of presiding officers to these courts, administrative control over them and the like. The civil courts forming part of the ordinary judiciary are constituted mostly under the Civil Courts Act in force in each state. For criminal courts, their nomenclature, structure and ordinary jurisdiction are derived from the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973- a Central Act.
For the trial of cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1947. Special Judges are appointed under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1952. Other special courts can be created, when necessary, by the competent legislature.
Family Courts have been recently provided for by a Central Act. Special tribunals exist for matters concerning agricultural land. Election petitions concerning elections to Parliament and State Legislatures are dealt with by High Courts. Claims for compensation for accidents caused by motor vehicles fall within the jurisdictions of the Claims Tribunals constituted under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939.
The latest to join the rank of the “Tribunals” are Administrative Tribunal which have been constituted under the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985. Administrative Tribunals deal only with service matters. They do not have jurisdiction to deal with all disputes between the administration and the citizen.
SOURCES OF JUDICIAL SYSTEM
The law regulating the structure of the Indian Judicial System is to be ascertained principally from the following sources :
- The Constitution, as regards the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
- The Civil Courts Act in force in each state, as regards ordinary civil courts.
- The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, as regards ordinary criminal courts.
- Special or local enactments, relevant to courts created thereunder.
The Indian Constitution does not state that the judicial power of the State can be exercised only by the ordinary courts. Special courts can be created by competent legislature, under the appropriate legislative authority.
SYSTEM OF TRIAL IN INDIAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM
The system of trial in force in India is the “adversary” system, in contrast with the so-called “inquisitorial” system. In the adversary system, the theory is that the truth will come out by a presentation of their cases by the various “adversaries”. The judge does not take an active part in the trial and most of the questioning is done by the counsel of the opposite parties, both in civil and criminal cases. In the inquisitorial system, on the other hand , the Judge plays a dominant role in the conduct of the trial and in the examination of witnesses. The theory is that the judge’s duty is to elicit the truth, as far as possible, by his own initiative.
- For the purpose of the civil judiciary, the Civil Courts Act is each State divides the State into “districts”. In each district, there is a District Court which has unlimited original civil jurisdiction over the district. Inferior to the district court are courts called by various names. Usually the courts immediately below the district court are known as Courts of Civil Judges, Senior Division of Courts of Subordinate Judge, First Class. Lower in the hierarchy are Courts of Civil Judge, Junior Divisional or Courts of Civil Judge or Courts of Subordinate Judge. Second Class of Munsif’s courts of Small Causes are constituted under separate law.
- In many cases, civil and criminal jurisdiction is combined. However, for convenience, they are known under a name which combines both the capacities, such as:
- Court of the District and Sessions Judge.
- Court of the Civil and Additional Judge.
- Court of Munsif magistrate
Family Courts are constituted under a separate Central Act – the Family Courts Act 1984. Their jurisdiction covers matrimonial causes, proceedings for maintenance, and other proceedings concerns the family. Appeals from their decisions have to be made to the High Court.
There are no separate courts for consumer grievances, as yet. But the Courts of Small Causes, already mentioned , can be easily utilized for dealing with small claims of consumers. However, under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, consumer forums are created on district, state and national level to adjudicate matters relating to consumer grievances.
The criminal courts constituted under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 are the following:
- The Court of Session
- The Courts of Metropolitan magistrates headed by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate.
- The Courts of Magistrates of the First Class
- The Courts of Magistrates of the Second Class
- Courts of Executive magistrates.
The most important types of jurisdiction exercised by the High Courts are as under:
- Power to issue writs for the enforcement of fundamental rights and for other purposes.
- Functioning as the highest court of appeal and revision for the State
- Power of superintendence over all courts and judicial authorities in the State
- Acting as a court of reference under enactments relating to direct taxes
- Acting as the court of reference on matters involving the validity of the Act etc.
- Acting as the court of confirmation in all cases where the Court of Session has passed a sentence of death
- Acting as the court competent to decide election petitions.
THE SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court of India has a variety of jurisdiction under the Constitution by virtue of certain laws. Its various capacities can be explained by stating that it functions:
- As a federal court, deciding legal disputes between the Union and the States, or States inter se;
- As a Constitutional court, having-
- Power to issue writs for the enforcement of fundamental rights, and
- Appellate jurisdiction whenever a question of interpretation of the Constitution is involved.
- As the highest civil and criminal appellate court in India
- As the highest court of appeal in taxation matters
- As a special appellate court.
- As an advisory court, having consultative jurisdiction on a question referred to the Supreme Court by the President
- Other miscellaneous jurisdiction
Appeal to the Supreme Court with special leave under Art. 136.
Under article 136 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court can grant an aggrieved part special permission to appeal from any judgment or order of any court or tribunal in any proceeding. A petition for such leave is called a “special leave petition” (S.L.P). The Constitution does not impose any fetter upon this jurisdiction.
Judicial review – an expression which is now being replaced by the expression “judicial control” is a label which conveniently indicates the powers that the courts exercise in examining the legality of legislative and executive action.
Judicial control in India is most frequently exercised by the High Courts or by the Supreme Court. Moreover, if a lower court has to consider an issue of the validity of a law, it is bound to refer it to the High Court.
“Natural Justice” is a doctrine evolved by the courts to ensure that administrative action which affects private rights is taken after a fair hearing.
The broad essentials of natural justice are:
- No person can be a judge in his own cause, and
- No one can be condemned unheard