Structure Of The Judiciary

Single Integrated Judicial System

The Constitution of India provides for a single integrated judicial system. This means that unlike some other federal countries of the world, India does not have separate State courts.

The structure of the judiciary in India is pyramidal with the Supreme Court at the top, High Courts below them and district and subordinate courts at the lowest level. The lower courts function under the direct superintendence of the higher courts.

Supreme Court of India

  • Its decisions are binding on all courts.
  • Can transfer Judges of High Courts.
  • Can move cases from any court to itself.
  • Can transfer cases from one High Court to another.

High Court

  • Can hear appeals from lower courts.
  • Can issue writs for restoring Fundamental Rights.
  • Can deal with cases within the jurisdiction of the State.
  • Exercises superintendence and control over courts below it.

District Court

  • Deals with cases arising in the District.
  • Considers appeals on decisions given by lower courts.
  • Decides cases involving serious criminal offences.

Subordinate Courts

  • Consider cases of civil and criminal nature




Jurisdiction Of Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of India is one of the very powerful courts anywhere in the world. However, it functions within the limitations imposed by the Constitution. The functions and responsibilities of the Supreme Court are defined by the Constitution. The Supreme Court has specific jurisdiction or scope of powers.

Jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India

  • Original : Settles disputes between Union and States and amongst States.
  • Appellate : Tries appeals from lower courts in Civil, Criminal and Constitutional cases.
  • Advisory : Advises the President on matters of public importance and law.
  • Writ : Can issue writs of Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Certiorari and Quo
    warranto to protect the Fundamental Rights of the individual.
  • Special Powers : Can grant special leave to an appeal from any judgement or matter passed by any court in the territory of India.




Original Jurisdiction

Original jurisdiction means cases that can be directly considered by the Supreme Court without going to the lower courts before that. The cases involving federal relations go directly to the Supreme Court. The Original Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court establishes it as an umpire in all disputes regarding federal matters. In any federal country, legal disputes are bound to arise between the Union and the States; and among the States themselves. The power to resolve such cases is entrusted to the Supreme Court of India. It is called original jurisdiction because the Supreme Court alone has the power to deal with such cases. Neither the High Courts nor the lower courts can deal with such cases. In this capacity, the Supreme Court not just settles disputes but also interprets the powers of Union and State government as laid down in the Constitution.

Writ Jurisdiction

Any individual, whose fundamental right has been violated, can directly move the Supreme Court for remedy. The Supreme Court can give special orders in the form of writs. The High Courts can also issue writs, but the persons whose rights are violated have the choice of either approaching the High Court or approaching the Supreme Court directly. Through such writs, the Court can give orders to the executive to act or not to act in a particular way.

Appellate Jurisdiction

The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal. A person can appeal to the Supreme Court against the decisions of the High Court. However, High Court must certify that the case is fit for appeal, that is to say that it involves a serious matter of interpretation of law or Constitution. In addition, in criminal cases, if the lower court has sentenced a person to death then an appeal can be made to the High Court or Supreme Court. Of course, the Supreme Court holds the powers to decide whether to admit appeals even when appeal is not allowed by the High Court.

Appellate jurisdiction means that the Supreme Court will reconsider the case and the legal issues involved in it. If the Court thinks that the law or the Constitution has a different meaning from what the lower courts understood, then the Supreme Court will change the ruling and along with that also give new interpretation of the provision involved.

The High Courts too, have appellate jurisdiction over the decisions given by courts below them.

Advisory Jurisdiction

Advisory jurisdiction means that the President of India can refer any matter that is of public importance or that which involves interpretation of Constitution to Supreme Court for advice. However, the Supreme Court is not bound to give advice on such matters and the President is not bound to accept such an advice.

What then is the utility of the advisory powers of the Supreme Court? The utility is two-fold :

  • First, it allows the government to seek legal opinion on a matter of importance before taking action on it. This may prevent unnecessary litigations later.
  • Second, in the light of the advice of the Supreme Court, the government can make suitable changes in its action or legislations.


Article 137 
… the Supreme Court shall have power to review any judgement pronounced or order made by it.

Article 144
… All authorities, civil and judicial, in the territory of India shall act in aid of the Supreme Court.

These articles help us to understand the unified nature of our judiciary and the powers of the Supreme Court. Decisions made by the Supreme Court are binding on all other courts within the territory of India. Orders passed by it are enforceable throughout the length and breadth of the country. The Supreme Court itself is not bound by its decision and can at any time review it. Besides, if there is a case of contempt of the Supreme Court, then the Supreme Court itself decides such a case.


Bibliography : NCERT – Indian Constitution At Work


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