Hierarchy of Criminal Courts in India

Hierarchy of Criminal Courts

Indian legal system is the largest and complex system in the world. It has various types of Courts, Tribunals, Forums, etc. due to its diverse nature, the efficiency of the justice delivery system is high. Every judicial body derives its power from the Constitution of India. The Indian Judiciary is the guardian of the Constitution of India, along with being a custodian of the Fundamental Rights of the citizens.

The criminal justice system is a system under which the body of Govt. is directed at upholding social control, deterring and mitigating crime, or sanctioning those who violate laws with criminal penalties and rehabilitation efforts.  The Indian criminal justice system believes in reforming the offenders by punishing them in various manners. The accused of crime always has some protections against abuse of prosecution powers. Criminal justice systems are very different around the world depending on the country.

The Indian criminal justice system works in Two-Tier: –

1.Trial Court–  At every District Level, there is a sessions court where the trial is conducted, and judgments are passed.

2. Appellate courts– The appeals from lower courts are being heard in the appellate courts, the High Courts and Supreme court are the appellate courts where the judgments of lower courts are being challenged.

There are more powers and functions of criminal courts in India and that will be discussed later.

Hierarchy of Criminal Courts in India are as follows: –

  • In the hierarchy, the Supreme Court of India is the highest and final court of appeal under the Constitution of India. It is the highest constitutional court. Being the Apex Court of India, it was established under Article 124 of Part V and Chapter IV of the Constitution of India.
  • High Courts of India are in the second number in a hierarchy. There are various High Courts at the State and Union territory level, which together with the Supreme Court of India at the national level, comprise the country’s judicial system. Each High Court has jurisdiction over a State, a Union territory or a Group of States and Union territories. In our Constitutional Scheme, the High Court is responsible for the entire administration of justice in the State.They are governed by the Constitution of India and are bound by the judgment of the Apex Court. It is the court of Record.
  • Lower Courts in India lower courts are being further classified as

At district Area

District Courts

  • Sessions Court  
  • Judicial Magistrate First Class
  • Judicial Magistrate Second Class
  • Executive Magistrate

At metropolitan Area

Metropolitan courts

  • Sessions Court
  • Chief Metropolitan Magistrate
  • Metropolitan Magistrate First Class

Powers and functions of criminal courts in India

Supreme Court

Supreme court is also known as Apex Court in India and it has the highest authority over all the courts in India. The Apex court has various powers which are derived from the Constitution of India and they are as follows: –

Highest Court of Appeal – The Apex Court is the highest court for appeal in India. It has the power to hear appeals from all the cases lying in the various High Courts and subordinate courts of our country. It is the highest Court of Appeal in the entire country under the purview of Articles 132,133,134 & 136.

Federal Court – As per Article 131 the Supreme Court has the power to resolve any disputes which arise between two or more states of India.

Custodian of the constitution- Only the Supreme has the power to hear and decide the issues related to the Constitution, and only the Supreme Court can interpret the Constitution if any question arises of Interpretation.

Power of Judicial review- Article 137 of Constitution gives the power to the Supreme Court that it can review any legislation passed by parliament, any judgments passed by lower courts in India.

High Court

Original Jurisdiction- It has Original Jurisdiction given under Article 226 of the constitution to issue any writs to any person. The original jurisdiction of the High Courts also extends to the matters of admiralty, probate, matrimonial and contempt of Court cases. The High Courts have also full powers to make rules to regulate their business concerning the administration of justice. It can punish for its contempt under Article 215 of the Constitution.

Appellate Jurisdiction- The jurisdiction of the High Court extends to all cases under the State laws.

Revisional jurisdiction- It has revisional jurisdiction conferred under the Civil Procedure Code,1908 and Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

Supervisory Jurisdiction-This refers to the power of general superintendence of the High Court over the matters of all the subordinate courts and Tribunals except those dealing with the armed forces functioning in the State. In exercise of this power it may: –

(i) Call for return from such Courts.

(ii) May issue general rules and prescribe forms for regulating the practice and proceedings of such courts, and

(iii) Prescribe forms in which books and accounts are being kept by the Officers of any Court.

This power has made the High Court responsible for the entire administration of Justice in the State.

Lower Courts

Court of the session– In India, there are district courts under different State governments for each district or one or more districts together considering the number of cases, population distribution in the district.These district courts administer justice at a district level. At the district level, the District Judge or Additional District judge exercises jurisdiction both on the 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 about 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.

Chief Judicial Magistrate; Judicial Magistrate First class and Metropolitan Magistrate-  Judicial Magistrates are appointed and controlled by the High Court and discharge judicial functions. Under section 11 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the High Court may confer the powers of the judicial magistrate of the First Class or the Second Class on any member of the Judicial Service of the State, functioning as a Judge in a Civil Court.

Judicial Magistrate 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 extend throughout the district or the metropolitan area, as given u/s 22 of Cr.P.C.

Edited by Pushpamrita Roy

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje 

Sejal Makkad
I am Sejal Makkad, a student of Amity Law School, Amity University Chhattisgarh, pursuing BA LLB(H), currently in Semester VI. Apart from the daily routine of assignments and tests in college, I indulge myself in writing research papers. I look forward for conferences in different colleges to be a part of them. The research which I do in various topics increases my knowledge in such subjects which are not in the syllabus. This is a bonus point of writing articles and papers. Apart from the academics, I love to sketch and paint in my free time. I am also a cynophilist. I am interested in criminals laws, human rights mostly. The most favourite task for is to eat whole day because food is what makes me the happiest.