A court is a place where legal trials take place. It is an institution where several disputes are settled via the legal process. There are three types of courts: Civil Court, Criminal Court and Revenue Court. In this law note, let us learn about the categories of Criminal Courts as per the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
What is a Criminal Court?
A Criminal Court is a court that has the jurisdiction and authority to try and punish the persons accused of committing a crime as per criminal law. Generally, the government files a case in Criminal Courts against a person who has committed any crime. The reason behind this is that whenever a crime is committed, it is considered an act against a state and not only the victim. It is the paramount duty of the state to protect its citizens. Therefore the state becomes operative when a crime is committed.
Classes of Criminal Courts in India
Criminal courts can be categorised or classified, in the hierarchy, as given below:
- Supreme Court.
- High Court.
- Sessions Court (also called Court of Session).
- Judicial Magistrates of First Class (called Metropolitan Magistrates in metropolitan areas).
- Judicial Magistrates of Second Class.
- Executive Magistrates.
Let us learn more about the six above-mentioned criminal courts.
1. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of India has the jurisdiction to deal with criminal cases. The Constitution of India has created this court for each state. Also, the jurisdiction and powers of this court are very well mentioned in the Indian Constitution.
In addition to this, section 379 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides provisions related to appeal in the Supreme Court under certain circumstances. And, section 406 of CrPC also grants the Supreme Court the power to transfer cases and appeals from one High Court to the other High Court.
2. High Court.
Along with the Supreme Court of India, High Courts are also established for each state by the Constitution of India. Article 227 of the Indian Constitution provides that except for the court formed for the armed forces, every High Court must have supervision over all courts and tribunals throughout the territories over which it exercises jurisdiction.
Further, CrPC imposes a duty on the High Court under section 483 to exercise continuous control over the courts of Judicial Magistrates subordinate to it. The code has also granted several powers and duties to the High Court, including those related to appeals and amendments. The High Court has the power to pass any sentence authorised by law. Learn more: High Court – Composition, Jurisdiction and Powers.
3. Sessions Court.
As per section 6 of the Criminal Procedure Code, apart from the Supreme Court, High Court, and the courts composed under any law, the following courts must be present in every state:
- Sessions Court.
- Judicial Magistrates of the First Class (Metropolitan Magistrates in the metropolitan area).
- Judicial Magistrates of Second Class.
- Executive Magistrates.
The provisions related to the Court of Session are contained under section 9 of CrPC. It provides that the state must establish a Court of Session for every Sessions Division, which is to be governed by a judge. The High Court appoints the judge. The High Court can also appoint Additional Sessions Judges and Assistant Sessions Judges to govern the Court of Session.
Further, section 10(1) provides that all Assistant Sessions Judge are subordinate to the Sessions Judge in whose court they exercise the control. This court does not have the power to grant bail in serious cases.
Section 29(1) of CrPC provides the sentence that a Court of Session can pass. Accordingly, the Sessions Judge can give any punishment authorised by law. But it can not provide punishment for a death sentence, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term beyond seven years.
4. Courts of Judicial Magistrates of First and Second Class.
The provisions regarding the Courts of Judicial Magistrates are described under sections 11 and 12 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Section 11(1) of CrPC provides that the Court of Judicial Magistrates of the First Class and the Second Class must be established in such number and at such places, as the High Court may by notification, specify. The state government must consult with the High Court. However, these courts are not to be established in a metropolitan area. The state government can also establish special courts of Judicial Magistrate of the First Class or the Second Class to attempt any particular case or a particular class of cases after consulting with the High Court.
As given in section 11(2) of CrPC, the presiding officers of these courts are appointed by the High Court. Section 11(3) of CrPC also grants the power to the High Court to direct the powers of a Judicial Magistrate of the First Class or the Second Class on any member of the Judicial Service of the state who is functioning as a judge in a Civil Court.
The powers can be granted only when it is necessary. Further, section 12(1) of CrPC provides that the Judicial Magistrate of the First Class must be appointed as a Chief Judicial Magistrate in every district by the High Court.
As per section 29(2) of CrPC, the Judicial Magistrate of the First Class can punish an accused with imprisonment up to 3 years or/and a fine up to Rs 5000. And, as per section 29(3) of CrPC, the Judicial Magistrate of the Second Class can pass the sentence of imprisonment of up to 1 year or/and fine up to Rs 1000.
5. Court of Metropolitan Magistrates.
The provisions related to the Court of the Metropolitan Magistrates are described under section 16 of the Criminal Procedure Code. As per section 16(1), the state government is entitled to establish Courts of Metropolitan Magistrates in every metropolitan area. The state government establishes such courts in such numbers and places, as the High Court may specify.
The officers presiding over the Courts of Metropolitan Magistrates are appointed by the High Court (section 16(2), CrPC). And, the jurisdiction and powers of these courts are given in section 16(3) of CrPC.
Consequently, these Courts have the jurisdiction and authority over the entire metropolitan area.
As per section 29(4) of CrPC, the Metropolitan Magistrates can pass sentences in the same manner as the Judicial Magistrate of the First Class passes.
6. Executive Magistrates.
Executive Magistrates are appointed by the state government and are known as Special Executive Magistrates. The term for the appointment is decided by the state government (section 21, CrPC). These are appointed either to fulfil special needs of particular areas or for serving particular functions in the specified areas.
According to section 21(1) of CrPC, the local jurisdiction of the Executive Magistrates is determined by the District Magistrate. However, it is subject to the control of the state government. Furthermore, section 21(2) provides that if the jurisdiction of the Executive Magistrates is not defined, the powers and jurisdiction of every such Magistrate extends to the whole of the district.
The Executive Magistrates are requested to send the records of the cases whenever the Court of Session asks for them.
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