The Indian judicial system is an integrated form of the judicial system. There is a hierarchy of courts. At the apex is the Supreme Court of India, and the High Courts operate below the Supreme Court.
Almost every state has a High Court and is considered the topmost court at the state level. Many subordinate courts in a state work under it.
Article 214 to 231 of Part VI of the Constitution deals with the provisions of the High Court.
- Composition of High Court
- Qualification of Judges
- Tenure of High Court Judges
- Removal of High Court Judges
- Jurisdiction and Powers of High Court
Composition of High Court
Every High Court of a state or states consists of a Chief Justice appointed by the President with the consultation of the Chief Justice of India and the Governor of that state.
Along with the Chief Justice, other judges are appointed by the President as per the requirement of work. There is no specific limit prescribed for the appointment of judges in a High Court. It may vary from time to time.
Qualification of Judges
A person who is to be appointed as a judge of a High Court must possess the following qualifications:
1. He must be a citizen of India.
2. He should have ten years of experience as a judge. or
3. He should be a practising advocate for a period of ten years in the High Court.
4. No age limit is prescribed for the appointment of judges of the High Court.
5. But unlike the Supreme Court, any eminent jurist is not eligible for becoming a High Court judge.
Tenure of High Court Judges
1. A judge of the High Court holds the office until the age of 62 years.
2. A High Court judge gives his resignation to the President in writing.
3. If the President desires so and on the recommendation of parliament, he may remove any High Court judge.
4. A High Court judge is said to vacate his office when he is transferred to another High Court or is elevated to the Supreme Court.
Removal of High Court Judges
The removal of the judge of a High Court can be based on two grounds. That is misbehaviour or incapacity to hold office.
A High Court judge may be removed by order of the President only. But the President may remove a judge only when the parliament by 2/3 majority approves for the removal.
The procedure for impeaching a High Court judge is quite similar to that of a Supreme Court judge.
Jurisdiction and Powers of High Court
A High Court is the highest appellate authority in a state. It enjoys many powers like:
- Original Jurisdiction
- Writ Jurisdiction
- Appellate Jurisdiction
- Supervisory Jurisdiction
- A Court of Record
- Power of Judicial Review
It means the High Court has the power to hear a case in the first instance as an original court. Many matters are filed directly in the High Court because of pecuniary (monetary) limits, like matters related to marriage, will, contempt of court, enforcement of fundamental rights, and so on.
Article 226 of the Constitution gives the High Court the power to issue writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, certiorari, quo warranto, and prohibition.
The scope of issuing a writ under Article 226 to the High Court is wider than that of the Supreme Court. High Courts in India have the power to issue writs for the enforcement of fundamental rights as well as legal rights. Whereas the Supreme Court issues only on enforcement of fundamental rights.
The High Court is the topmost court in terms of hierarchy in a state. It is subordinate to the Supreme Court but controls all subordinate courts.
The High Court of a state has appellate jurisdiction in both matters – civil and criminal.
In civil matters, an appeal can be made directly from the subordinate or lower courts if the case involves a value higher than Rs. 5000. It may be filed for an appeal on both question of law and question of fact. The second appeal lies only when there is a question of law in the judgement or order passed by the subordinate courts.
In criminal matters, an appeal can be filed if the imprisonment is more than seven years. And in cases of capital punishment, it is necessary for the district judge or the additional district judge to confirm the death sentence from the High Court before passing it.
According to Article 227 of the Constitution, the High Court works as a supervisory body in a state. It has to supervise all the courts and tribunals in a state that come under its territorial jurisdiction. The power of the High Court is not unlimited to have unnecessary control over subordinate courts. But this power must be used by the High Court in rare cases and sparingly.
Court of Record
The High Court is a court of record under Article 215 of the Constitution. All the judgements and orders which the concerned High Court pass shall be kept as the court of record for future references. These judgments act as precedents for the lower and subordinate courts.
The High Court has the power to punish for the contempt of court:
- If any person disregards or disobeys the High Court’s judgment, or
- Attempts to scandalise the authority of the court, or
- In any manner, tries to obstruct the proceedings of the court.
Judicial review means examining the correctness of the legislative acts of the legislature and executive orders of both the central government and state government.
If the High Courts find it to be against the spirit of the Constitution or violative of fundamental rights or made by an authority incompetent to make it, then it is declared void.
The 42nd amendment of 1976 curtailed the power of judicial review of the High Court. But then 43rd amendment 1977 restored the position of High Court for judicial review.
1. Prosecution of Judges and Public Servants
2. About Supreme Court of India – Collegium, Powers, Judges
Arushi has written this post. She is WritingLaw’s editor.