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  • India’s rich legal history has helped it gain a large amount of experience and develop itself over the years in the field of law and justice.
  • The Supreme Court of India being the apex court of this country, is also the guardian of the Constitution and exercises considerable authority over its subordinate courts.
  • India has over the years developed its legal framework and has put in considerable amount of effort to computerise the judicial system, through the e-Courts Project.


The Indian Judicial System represents the soul of Justice and works with the sole intention of providing justice to its citizens who are in need. It resolves cases and disputes with utmost care and precision and strives to maintain equality while doing so. It follows the ideal of ‘Rule of Law’, which implies that no one is above the law, everyone including the citizens and the government including all the law makers and leaders are accountable to it. The judiciary functions with this sole intention that justice must be served irrespective of the person and through this, the nation must be served.

The law is what keeps this nation running. It gives us something to obey and follow, without which we are like sheep without a shepherd. It was developed when the need for order and justice was recognised by the great men of our past, and the law in force today enshrines these principles. Admittedly, we as humans always followed some law, but the law as it is today is vastly different from that ancient law, as it is codified and follows certain principles like the rule of law, natural law and equality. The law of the past was created to serve the one in power, without any care for those below them, the normal citizens, who made up most of the nation. As previous monarchies were destroyed and newer forms of governments came up, the need for a law that took care of its citizens and considered them equal was realised. Along with such a law, an authority that would administer law while complying to its basic principles was also necessary. Thus came into existence the current Judicial System in many countries.

The makers of our Constitution also understood this and through the Indian Constitution they delegated specific powers to each court. Article 124 of the Indian Constitution talks about the establishment and constitution of the Supreme Court. Till Article 147, the Constitution lays down rules and regulations to specify the composition, conduct, and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Similarly, the Constitution also specifies and delegates power to the High Courts.

Armed with these powers, the Judicial System helps maintain the law and order prevailing in society. It ensures that justice is served to those in need and that their rights are not curtailed. Without a system like this to check and balance the functioning of the Executive and Legislature, the nation would slowly spiral down to dictatorship and corruption. For the ideas of democracy to prevail in our society, the judicial system is of great importance. The framers of our Constitution recognised this need, which is why we are in a position to live freely without the fear of the Government intervening into our personal lives.

Even then, several years of hard work was necessary for our judicial system to reach its current stature, and with each change it has grown stronger. Our judicial system runs on the idea of change and embraces it fully, as it understands that with each step our nation takes, the judicial system must also take a step to catch up with it, as this is the only way to ensure that Justice is served.


Even from its ancient and medieval past, India always had religious documents that prescribed of some law to be followed by individuals of that faith. One example of this was the law of Dharma, as per the Hindu religion. Documents like the Vedas and Dharma Sutras were the basis of this Hindu Law. Another document significant in the Indian legal history would be the Arthashastra by Kautilya, which prescribed several laws and punishments for disobeying them. Similarly, other religions like Islam also featured some kind of a law in their religious documents, like for example, Sharia Law, with the aim of resolving disputes between individuals who followed Islam. These religious documents became the basis upon which the rulers and judicial heads acted. The Mughals, during their reign, established various courts to resolve disputes between individuals, and between individuals and the state.

When the British arrived in India, they attempted to change and restructure the Indian legal system, ignoring all the legal traditions prevalent in the Country in an attempt to bring a more uniform system for delivering justice. They claimed that India’s legal tradition was quite vague and the existence of multiple legal traditions hindered the functioning of the judiciary. They brought to India the Common Law System, although through a mixed approach in an attempt to avoid protests and resistance from the Indians. This action caused the development of the current legal system in India. They established multiple courts in India, and later on the mayor courts established by them were taken over and replaced with Supreme Courts in the three presidency towns of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. These Supreme Courts were later abolished, and High Courts were established in their place, with the High Court of Calcutta being the oldest and the first High Court in India.

Although Indians were initially barred from practise in the Supreme Court, this was later changed and any one irrespective of their religion and nationality was given the right to practise in the Court. Further, under the Charter of 1833, law commissions were established for the purpose of drafting legislations like the Indian Penal Code, 1860, The Indian Contracts Act, 1872, etc., which are still in force in India. Later on in the Government of India Act, 1935, a Federal Court was established, which was essentially like the present Supreme Court, and had wider jurisdiction than that of the High Courts to resolve disputes between various provinces and hear appeals from its subordinate courts.



The Supreme Court of India was established through Article 124 of the Indian Constitution, clause 2 of which establishes the procedure through which Judges of the Supreme Court can be appointed. Only the President of India shall appoint judges to the Supreme Court through a warrant under his hand and seal, after consulting with the judges of the Supreme Court, and also with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for a judge other than him, and with judges of the High Court, as the President deems necessary. Clause 3 of Article 124 lays down the qualifications necessary for a person to qualify as a judge in the Supreme Court, primarily being that the person must be a citizen of India, and;

  1. Has been a judge in the High Court for at least five years or of two or more such courts in succession; or,
  2. Has been an advocate of the High Court for at least ten years or of two or more such courts in succession; or,
  3. In the opinion of the President of India, he is a distinguished jurist.

The Constitution of India does not prescribe any age requirement for a person to be a judge of the Supreme Court, and instead such power is delegated to the Parliament of India, wherein it may determine the age requirement for serving as a judge through a legislation issued by it. This clause (2A) was added in The Constitution (Fifteenth Amendment) Act, 1963.


There are mainly three ways in which a judge of the Supreme Court can be detached from his office:

  1. The age limit for a judge of the Supreme Court is fixed at 65 years and therefore they must resign from their office at this age.
  2. A judge who chooses to resign from his office may do so by submitting a letter for the same written in his hand to the President of India.
  3. As per clause 4 of the same Act, only the President of India holds the power to remove a judge of the Supreme Court from his office and may do so after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a majority of not less than two-third of the members of the House present and voting, is presented to the President in the same session, the grounds for which shall be proved misbehaviour or incapacity.

The Parliament also holds the power to regulate the procedure for presenting an address and for the investigation and proof of the misbehaviour or incapacity of a judge.


Clause 4 of Article 124 of the Constitution of India frees the Judiciary from interference by the other two principal institutions of the state, namely the executive and legislative. If the Judiciary is not made independent from the rest of the principal institutions, they will interfere and disrupt the process of providing relief and justice to those in need, and the idea of Democracy will fail.

A judge of the Supreme Court must, before entering upon his office, plead an oath or affirmation before the President of India, according to a form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule, which states that they will perform their duties to the best of their abilities without any inherent bias, fear or favour to any individual. 

Clause 7 of Article 124 also bars any individual who has held office as a judge of the Supreme Court from practising in any court or before any authority within the territory of India. This is another measure taken by the framers of our Constitution to prevent former judges of the Supreme Court from influencing the process of delivering justice for their selfish intentions.


Framed under Article 145 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court Rules, 1966, describes the rules and procedures to be followed in the Supreme Court. It goes into the details on these procedures, from the dress code to be followed by lawyers to the timings of the Court. It prescribes that the proceedings of the Court shall be conducted in English and English only, unless the documents are accompanied a translation that is agreed to by both parties, or a translation that is certified to be true by a translator appointed by the Court, or the said document is translated by a translator appointed or approved by the Court.


The Supreme Court of India is the highest court of the land as per the Part V, Chapter IV of the Constitution of India. It is the role of the Supreme Court to be the guardian of the Constitution and to be the highest court of appeal in the nation. Chapter IV goes into much more detail on the Supreme Court, from Articles 124 to 147. The Supreme Court is primarily an appellate court and generally takes up appeals from the judgements of the High Courts of the different states and territories. However, if a serious issue arises, like that of a human rights violations or any petition filed under Article 32, under which the Supreme Court may issue any directions or orders or writs as deemed necessary by the Court for the enforcement of any fundamental rights given by the Constitution, or for a case that is deemed to be serious enough and requires immediate resolution.


Article 131 establishes the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over any matter or dispute involving any question of law or fact on which the existence or the extent of a legal right depends. The Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction over any dispute between the Government of India and one or more states, or between the Government of India and any state on one side and one or more other states on the other side, or between two or more states.

Articles 132 to 136 establishes the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. An appeal to the Supreme Court can be filed from the High Court in both civil and criminal matters when the High Court certifies that the case involves a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution which it thinks needs to be answered by the higher judiciary. For criminal cases, this may also be done in cases where the High Court has reversed the order of acquittal of a person and sentenced them to death or if it has withdrawn itself from a case where a subordinate court had sentenced the person to death. 

Another way a citizen may appeal to the Supreme Court is through a Special Leave Petition. This is mentioned in Article 136, wherein it grants the Supreme Court to permit appeals to any judgment, decree, sentence, order in any cause or matter passed by any court or tribunal within the territory of India. Clause 2 of the same provides the exception to this rule that this power to grant appeal does not apply to any judgement, determination, sentence, or order passed by any court or tribunal that is related to the Armed Forces.

Article 137 also grants the Supreme Court with the powers to review any judgement pronounced or order made by it, while Articles 138 to 142 grants the Supreme Court with such powers that may enable it to exercise justice while remaining independent from any of the principal institutions. The Supreme Court shall have extended jurisdiction over any matter in the Union List, as the Parliament may by law confer. 


The Supreme Court shall have the powers to transfer any case pending before any High Court in India to itself so as to facilitate its quick disposal, either by its own motion or by an application filed by the Attorney General of India or by a party to one such case claiming a substantial question of law exists in the case. The Parliament is also directed to make such provisions in law as deemed necessary or desirable which are consistent to the provisions of the Indian Constitution for the Supreme Court to more effectively exercise the jurisdiction conferred upon it. The law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India. The Supreme Court also holds the power to pass such order or decree as deemed necessary for doing justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and such order or decree passed by the Supreme Court shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as prescribed by the Parliament, and until the provision in that behalf is made, in such manner as the President of India may prescribe. The Supreme Court also has the power to pass any order for the purpose of summoning some person before it, or to discover or produce any document, or to start the investigation or punishment in cases of contempt of itself. 

The President of India shall also have the power to consult the Supreme Court in any matter regarding a question of law or fact that has arisen or is likely to arise and is of such a nature and of such public importance that the President considers it necessary to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court upon it, and the Supreme Court may report to the President on said matter after such hearing as it thinks fit. It is also mandatory for all civil and judicial authorities within the territory of India to act in the aid of the Supreme Court. As evident from the above mentioned, the Constitution of India has granted the Supreme Court with a wide range powers as necessary for its status as the apex court of the land.


Article 214 of the Constitution of India establishes a High Court for each State within the territory of India. High Courts, like the Supreme Court, are courts of record, meaning all court proceedings are recorded and preserved for the possibility of an appeal. Every High Court consists of a Chief Justice, and such other judges deemed necessary by the President to appoint.


Every High Court judge is appointed by the President of India by warrant under his hand and seal after consulting with the Governor of that state and the Chief Justice of India, and in case of appointment of a judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of that High Court. Only a citizen of India can be appointed as a judge in the High Court. 

The qualifications to be a judge of the High Court are also prescribed in clause 2 of the same article, as follows:

  1. They must have held judicial office in the territory of India for at least 10 years; or 
  2. They must have practised as an advocate in the High Court for at least 10 years or two or more such courts in succession.Every person who is being appointed as a judge in the High Court must make and subscribe to an oath mentioned in the Third Schedule, in front of the Governor of that state or on the person appointed on behalf of him, before entering upon their office. The aforementioned oath in the Third Schedule states that they may perform their duties to the best of their abilities without any inherent bias, fear, or favour towards anyone, and that they will uphold the integrity and sovereignty of India and its Constitution.Similar to how a judge of the Supreme Court is barred from practise in any Court in India, a judge of the High Court cannot practise in any court in India other than the Supreme Court. This, as previously mentioned, prevents the judges from influencing the process of delivering justice for their selfish goals.


The ways in which a High Court judge can be detached from his office is prescribed in the Constitution as follows:

A judge may resign his office by providing a writing under his hand to the President of India.

A judge may be removed from his office by the President of India in the manner provided in clause 4 of Article 124 for the removal of a judge of the Supreme Court, i.e. the President may remove a judge from his office after an address by both the houses of the Parliament, supported by a majority of at least two thirds of the house present and voting, is presented to the President in the same session, the grounds for which shall be proved misbehaviour or incapacity.

The office of a judge may be vacated by him being appointed by the President of India as a judge in the Supreme Court or by him being transferred by the President to any other High Court within the territory of India.


Articles 222 to 224 confers the President of India with the powers to:

  1. Transfer any judge of the High Court from one High Court to another. Such judges shall be granted additional compensatory allowances as determined by the Parliament by law.
  2. In the event where the office of the Chief Justice of a High Court is vacant, either due to absence or otherwise unable to perform the duties of his office, one of the judges of the High Court may be appointed as the Acting Chief Justice of that court for the time being for the performance of these duties, by the President of India, as he deems fit. This acting Chief Justice may hold office until the Permanent Judge has resumed his office.
  3. If the President of India thinks that the number of judges of a High Court should be temporarily increased, either due to a temporary increase in the business of the High Court or due to some unfinished work, he may appoint duly qualified persons as additional Judges of the Court, for a period not more than two years.


Article 226 of the Indian Constitution confers the High Courts of India with the power to issue to any person or authority, including to the Government in appropriate cases, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeus corpus, mandamus, certiorari, quo warranto, and prohibition, for the purpose of enforcement of any of the fundamental rights conferred to the citizen of India in Part III of the Constitution, within the territory in which it exercises jurisdiction. 

Article 227 of the Constitution of India confers the High Courts of India with the power of superintendence over all courts and tribunals throughout the territories in which these courts exercise jurisdiction. The High Court holds the power to make and issue rules to regulate the practise and procedure of these courts. It can also prescribe the form in which books, entries, and accounts shall be kept by officers of such courts. An exception to authority of the High Court is also given in clause 4 of this Article, being that this power of superintendence of the High Court over any court or tribunal does not apply to any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law that relates to the armed forces.

For such cases pending in subordinate courts that the High Court is satisfied to contain a substantive question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution, which must be determined to dispose of this case, the High Court may withdraw this case from the subordinate court and transfer it to itself, and may dispose off the case on its own or answer the question of law and return this case to the court from which it was withdrawn along with a copy of the judgement containing the answer to the question, and the subordinate court may proceed to dispose off the case in conformity to this judgement once it is received. This power is conferred to the High Court as per Article 228 of the Constitution.

Articles 230 and 231 also empower the Parliament to extend the jurisdiction of a High Court to include a Union Territory or exclude this Union Territory from a High Court’s jurisdiction. It also grants the Parliament the power to establish a common High Court for two or more states or for two or more states and a Union Territory.

High Courts, along with District Courts, are the principal civil courts of original jurisdiction in the state, meaning they have the power to hear a case for the first time instead of having to hear the case through an appeal. However, this original jurisdiction of the High Courts over civil and criminal matters is only exercised in situations where the subordinate court does not have competent jurisdiction, as they are bound by matters of pecuniary or territorial jurisdiction. They may also enjoy original jurisdiction over those matters which are designated specifically in a state or Federal law to these courts, like that of company law. As previously mentioned, High Courts also enjoy original jurisdiction in the issuance of writs, as directed in Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Although High Courts have original jurisdiction over so many matters, they generally work with appeals from lower courts.

For those High Courts which handle a large number of cases from a particular region, a permanent or a branch of the High Court is established there. Also, for remote regions, circuit benches are setup, and cases are tried on those days of the month on which the judges visit.


The District Courts of India are established by the particular State Governments to which these districts belong after taking into account factors like the number of cases and the population density of that district. Depending on these factors, either a district may get its own District Court, or one or more districts may get a common District Court. Article 235 grants the High Courts of each state with the power to administer subordinate courts like the district courts that come within the state to which the said High Court belongs. Citizens also have the right to appeal against any judgement or decree passed by the District Court to the concerned High Court.


The State Government appoints a District Judge to preside over the judicial matters of the District Court. The Constitution of India prescribes the requirements for a person to be eligible to be appointed as or to be promoted as a district judge as follows:

  1. The said person must not already be in service to the Union or to the State; and
  2. They must have practised as an advocate or a pleader for not less than seven years and must be recommended by the High Court for appointment.Depending on the workload of the court, Additional District Judges and Assistant District Judges may be appointed to ensure the smooth functioning of the judicial matters of the court. These Additional District Judges shall also have the same jurisdiction as the District Judge and his court. If the State government designates a city as a metropolitan area, the District Judge presiding over a District Court in that city shall be called as a Metropolitan Sessions Judge.


The District Court has appellate jurisdiction on both civil and criminal matters over all the subordinate courts that are situated within the concerned district. For Civil Courts, these subordinate courts are as follows (in ascending order):

  1. Junior Civil Judge Court
  2. Principal Junior Civil Judge Court
  3. Senior Civil Judge Court (also called as sub-court)

For Criminal Courts, these subordinate courts are as follows (in ascending order):

  1. Second Class Judicial Magistrate Court
  2. First Class Judicial Magistrate Court
  3. Chief Judicial Magistrate Court

In addition to these courts, there exists Family Courts for the sole purpose of disposal of matrimonial disputes. The principal Judge of a Family Court is equivalent to a District Judge.


Aside from these courts, village courts like Lok Adalat and Nyaya Panchayat exist as a method of alternative dispute resolution. These courts are established to judge petty civil and criminal cases, as a method to ensure quick justice to those in need without affecting the workload of the higher courts.

Courts like the Lok Adalat and Nyaya Panchayat were first recognised through the 1888 Madras Village Court Act, which, after developing in the various Indian provinces and states over the years, were recommended by the 1984 Law Commission to be established in rural areas and looked over by educated laymen. Further, the 2008 Gram Nyayalayas Act foresaw the creation of 5,000 mobile courts all over the country, but only very few of these courts were actually established due to financial constraints and reluctance from the part of lawyers, police, and government officials.


Established in the year 2005, the E-Courts Project was created with the vision to provide designated services to the litigants, lawyers, and the judiciary through the universal computerization of district and subordinate courts in the country and enhance the Information and Communication Technology within the Indian judicial system. This project was conceptualized on the basis of the National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology in the Indian Judiciary-2005, which was submitted by the e-committee of the Supreme Court of India as part of the efforts to make the system of delivering justice both affordable and cost-effective. 

In the Phase I of the e-Courts Integrated Mission Mode Project, the government approved the computerization of about 14,129 district and subordinate courts by March 2014. After this, in Phase II of the same project, about 8000 new courts along with legal service authority offices and state judicial academies were approved for computerization along with a host of other new amenities, with the broad aim of enablement of Information and Communication Technology within these courts. Some of these amenities are given below.

All courts in the country were to be connected to the National Judicial Data Grid through a Wide Area Network (WAN) and additional methods of connectivity to ensure redundancy was also allowed, to enable integration with the proposed interoperable criminal justice system. Along with these, facilities aimed at the welfare of the citizens, like centralized filing centres and kiosks enabled with touchscreen facility were to be based at each court complex. It was also the aim of this project to create a robust system to manage the courts enabled through digitization, document management, judicial knowledge management, and learning management, and also to enhance the ICT enablement through methods like e-filing, e-Payment, and through the use of their mobile application.

The case list and judgements of most district courts are all available in one single website, and these websites are updated daily by a technical team containing one systems officer and two system assistants. This project also allows for producing the witnesses through videoconferencing. All court campuses feature judicial service centres, which can be used by the public as well as the advocates for the purpose of knowing the case status, stage, and next hearing dates.


India, through its diverse past, has developed its judicial system with such perseverance as no other nation ever did. Even though it is still burdened by issues like corruption and the lack of efficiency, it has managed to identify and correct itself over the years, especially due to the meticulous eye exercised by the honourable Supreme Court of India. The Supreme Court has put in great effort to honour the values and principles followed by this nation in its Constitution, and has for the most part, succeeded in it.

Throughout its past, India had various religious documents that prescribed the laws upon which the kingdom ran. Mughal emperors, who were often called the ‘fountain of justice’, established courts in India to deliver justice to its subjects when disputes arose. This court was often presided by the King, although he was accompanied by priests who were initiated on the religion’s laws. They even had separate courts for Islam and Hindu religions, to ensure equity and justice.

With the advent of the British in India, the Indian legal landscape witnessed great change. They attempted to restructure the prevalent legal system, and brought the common law system to India. Although they were met with resistance from the Indians, which led to them to employing a mixed approach, the current Indian Judiciary is greatly based on this legal system established by the British.

The Constitution of India established the Supreme Court, High Court, and the Districts Courts along with the other subordinate courts, keeping in mind the values of equality and justice. By ensuring the independence of the Judiciary from the Executive and the Legislative, and by implementing a system of checks and balances to ensure the stability of this nation, and limiting the jurisdictional authority of each court as necessary, the constitution ensures that the aggrieved citizen is served justice.


Can a Judge of the High Court be removed by a member of the Legislative?

ANSWER: Only the President of India may remove a judge of the High Court after an address by both the houses of the Parliament with a majority of at least two thirds of the members of the Parliament present and voting. This address has to be presented to the President and must be for proved misbehaviour or incapacity.

Does the Supreme Court of India have advisory jurisdiction?

ANSWER: The President of India may consult the Supreme Court on a question of law or fact that he thinks is of great public importance that the opinion of the Supreme Court must be obtained, and the Supreme Court may, after conducting such hearing as necessary, report back to the President on the matter.

What are some of the powers given to the Indian Judiciary to free it from the Legislative and Executive?

ANSWER: The Judges of the Supreme Court and High Court can be appointed and removed from office only by the President of India. This was done to prevent the influence of Party Politics in the process of serving justice. The Indian Judiciary is also financially independent from the legislative and the salaries of the judges are not subject to approval from the legislative. The judiciary also has the power to punish those who are found to be in contempt of itself.

How has the Supreme Court changed the Indian Judiciary?

ANSWER: The Supreme Court changed the Indian Judicial landscape through various judgements and programs. It has actively detected issues in the Indian legal system and solved it. The Supreme Court has also worked on the e-Courts Project to digitize court proceedings and simplify the access to the judicial system for the common man.

Who appoints the judges in a District Court?

ANSWER: The Judges in a district court are appointed by the Governor of the particular state after consulting with the Chief Justice of the High Court of the concerned state. These Judges are usually selected by the State Government through the examinations conducted by the Public Service Commission of that state.

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