This article has been written by Anshika Agrawal, a student of Lloyd Law College, Greater Noida, affiliated to Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut. She has discussed what is the hierarchy of criminal courts in India and power of these courts.


As compared to other nations of the universe, Indian Judiciary is considered to have the most efficient and effective Judicial system. Though our constitution has adopted all the important provisions from other countries but after compliling we reach to a conclusion that our Judicial system is the best out of all. Judiciary derives its powers from constitution of India.

Have you ever thought of a situation in today’s era without the presence of judiciary?

That’s something unimaginary because without courts the country will vanish for sure. As their will be a misuse of powers conferred by the Executive and the Legislature. The Indian Judiciary is considered as the guardian of the Constitution of India and a custodian of the Fundamental Rights of the citizens. Also the Constitution of India is called the  GRUND NORM. 

When we talk about the hierarchy of courts it is really very complex and lenghthy process but Indian Judiciary has made it simple so that no one is deprieved of getting justice. No matter where the person live or what is his financial status or whatever language he speaks he will definetly get access to justice.


The hierarchy of criminal courts in India is as follows:

  • The Supreme Court of India- The Supreme Court of India is at the top and is considered as the apex court of India, which is established under Article 124(Part IV) of the Indian Constitution.
  • The High Courts of India- The High Courts of India are at the second level of the heirarchy which is governed by Article 141 of the Constitution of India established in every state or 2 states sharing same High Courts and are bound by the judgment of Supreme Court.
  • Lower courts of India- The Lower Courts of India are classified into various courts which are as follows:
  • Metropolitian Courts-
  • Sessions Courts
  • Chief Metropolitian Magistrate
  • First Class Metropolitian Magistrate
  • District Courts-
  • Session Courts
  • First Class Judicial Magistrate
  • Second Class Judicial Magistrate
  • Executive Magistrate


Supreme Court- It is the highest constitutional court having extensive powers like Under Article 32 the Supreme Court has power to issue writs by providing constitutional remedies. Also it is  popularly known as Court of Record because it has power to punish for contempt of courts under Article 129. It has the advisory jurisdiction under Article 143 of the Indian Constitution. Further more the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction under Article 131. Also it is the highest court of Appeal in the entire country under purview of Articles 132, 133, 134 and 136. Even under Article 141 the law declared by the Supreme Court binds all other courts of the country.

High Courts- In our country High Courts are established for every state and Union Territory or 2 states share a common High Court. It is also called as the court of record under Article 215 of the Constitution which has power to punish for contempt of court. It has original, revisional and appellate jurisdiction in respect to civil and criminal cases decided by subordinate courts conferred under the Civil Procedure Code,1908 and Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. It also has writ jurisdiction under Article 226 and administrative jurisdiction of the Constitution of India.

Session Courts- In India, there are district courts under different State governments in India for each and every district or for one or more districts together taking into account the number of cases, population distribution in the district.

These district courts administer justice at a district level. In the district level, the District Judge or Additional District judge exercises jurisdiction both on original side and appellate side in civil and criminal matters arising in the District. The territorial and pecuniary jurisdiction in civil matters is usually set in concerned State enactments on the subject of civil courts. On the criminal side, jurisdiction is exclusively derived from the criminal procedure code, 1973. As per this code, the maximum sentence a Sessions Judge may award to a convict is capital punishment.

Judicial Magistrate of First Class in metropolitian area- Judicial Magistrates are appointed and controlled by the High Court and discharge judicial functions. Under Section11(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the High Court may confer the powers of judicial magistrate of the First Class or of the Second Class on any member of the Judicial Service of the State, functioning as a Judge in a Civil Court.

Judicial Magisterate of second Class- Judicial Magistrates are appointed and controlled by the High Court and discharge judicial functions.

Executive Magistrate- In India, the Executive Magistrates are appointed and controlled by the State Government and discharge executive functions, i.e., maintenance of law and order. Unless otherwise defined by the District Magistrate, the jurisdiction and powers of every Executive Magistrate extends throughout the district or the metropolitan area, as the case may be as given u/s 22 of Cr.P.C.

Sentencing power of the Courts-

Supreme Court : – Any sentence authorized by law.

High Court: Any Sentence authorized by law u/s 28(1) CrPC

Session Judge, Additional Session Judge:- Any sentence authorized by law, Sentence of death, however, is subject to confirmation by High Court u/s 28(2) CrPC

Assistant Session Judge:- Imprisonment upto 10 years and/or fine u/s. 28(3)

Chief Judicial Magistrate, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate:- Imprisonment upto 7 years and/or fine u/s 29(1)(4) of Cr.P.C.

Judicial Magistrate First Class, Metropolitan Magistrate:- Imprisonment upto 3 years and/or fine upto Rs. 10,000/ u/s 29(2) of Cr.P.C.

Judicial Magistrate Second Class:- Imprisonment upto 1 year and/or fine upto Rs. 5,000/- u/s 29(3) of Cr.P.C.


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