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Indian Judiciary System

Last updated date: 23rd May 2024
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What Judiciary in India?

The judiciary in India is a branch of the Indian administrative system that works to interpret the laws, provide justice, and settle disputes between citizens, states, and government. For democracy to be alive, having a well functioning, impartial and independent judiciary is a prerequisite. It is the constitution of India that provides several provisions to ensure the independence of the judiciary.

What is the Judiciary System in India?

The judiciary of India is a single integrated judicial system with the Supreme Court (SC) at the apex. Right below are the High Courts, followed by the District or Subordinate courts. The other types of lower courts function under the high courts. This enables the judiciary to work in a decentralised manner and address grassroot level issues. The powers of appellate jurisdiction is given to both High Courts and the Supreme Court where both uphold or overturn decisions of lower courts.

The Structure of Courts in India

The structure of the judiciary in India includes courts placed in the hierarchical order of supremacy. The hierarchy of powers of the courts that also help to establish the structure of the courts in India are as follows:

  • Supreme Court: The name of the highest judicial body in India is the Supreme Court (SC). It is the apex court of the country and the highest court of appeal. It gets both original suits and appeals against the judgement of High Courts. The Chief Justice of India along with 25 other judges make up the body for the Supreme Court. 

  • High Courts: The Highest Judicial Body in the State are the High Courts. There are 25 High Courts in India. High courts provide criminal and civil jurisdiction when subordinate courts have failed to do so. They even get appeals from lower courts. The judges of High Courts are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of India, the Chief Justice of the High Court and Governor of that State.

  • District Courts: The State Governments establish District Courts for all districts depending upon the population size and caseloads. These are under direct administration and judgements of the High Court. District courts are of two types - Civil Courts and Criminal Courts. Appeals from District Courts go to the High Court.

  • Lok Adalats: These are subordinate village courts that act as an alternative system to resolve disputes of the village.

  • Tribunals: Special Tribunals can be set up by the government for administration in matters of land, tax, consumer cases, etc.

Civil Courts

In the Indian justice system, the civil courts provide jurisdiction on all matters of civil wrongdoings by individuals like property disputes, divorce cases, contract breaches, etc. The Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) of 1908 administers the procedures that civil courts need to follow in India. Every suit must start at the lowest civil court or the Munsif court and then their competence over the case is decided. The Civil Court hierarchy is as follows:

  1. District Court: The district court acts as the highest civil court in a district. It has both judicial and administrative functions.

  2. Sub-judge Court: These courts try a suit if the value of the suit is worth more than One lakh.

  3. Additional Sub-judge Court: this is an optional court created on the basis of case load.

  4. Munsif Court: This court tries suits of value less than or upto one lakh.

Criminal Courts

In the Indian court system, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) mentions the different powers of the criminal courts. Section 26 of the CrPC talks about offences under IPC that can be tried by the High Courts, Session Courts, Schedule of the Code of Criminal Procedures.

Judicial Precedents and Binding Nature of Higher Court’s Decisions

Previous Judgements of High Courts and the Supreme Court's are binding upon all the lower courts. These act as Judicial Precedents for the entire judicial system of India and are given enough significance as a source of law in India.

The binding value of different courts in India are as follows:

  1. The Supreme Court is not bound by the decisions of any other court or judicial authorities but their decision is binding upon all courts of the country as it is the highest judicial body in India.

  2. The decisions of the High Court are binding upon all the lower courts in its jurisdiction. It has a persuasive effect on lower courts out of its jurisdiction. If the decision of a HC comes in conflict with the SC, then the decision of HC is overruled. If the dispute of decisions occurs between a similar bench, then the SC takes up the suit.

  3. All decisions of the High Court of that State are binding upon the subordinate courts. The decisions of High Courts of other states only have persuasive effect.


The judiciary of India is a justice system with several divisions and subdivisions - all integrated together in a pyramidal structure to ensure that even the cases of the least importance are looked into by a court of the Indian Court System. It is the independent nature of the judiciary that separates itself from the influence of the executive and legislative board, making it an autonomous body.

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FAQs on Indian Judiciary System

1. Which Parts of the Constitution uphold the Judicial Authority of the Supreme Court?

Articles 142 and 144 of the Constitution uphold the Judicial Authority of the Supreme Court to make decisions that uphold the law of the land. 

Article 141states that “the law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India.” This Article says that law should be fixed, definite and consistent. As SC is the apex court, the judgements of SC acts like judicial precedents or a source of law and the decisions of SC are binding on all courts.

Article 144 states that “all authorities, civil and judicial, in the territory of India shall act in aid of the Supreme Court.” This means SC can hold any authority in contempt if they disobey or disrespect the decisions and orders of SC.

2. What are the powers of the judiciary in India?

The powers of the judiciary in India are as follows:

  • Provides justice: It tries suits and applies law to different cases and administers justice depending on what law applies in this regard. When there is violation, the court imposes penalties.

  • Watchdog of Constitution: The SC acts like the guardian and watchdog of the constitution. If any law or executive order violates provisions of the constitution then SC declares it invalid.

  • Protector of Fundamental Rights: Judiciary ensures that the rights of citizens are not taken away by any state or agency by issuing writs to enforce the Fundamental Rights of citizens.

  • Supervisory Functions: Higher Courts supervise the lower courts in India.

  • Advisory Functions: SC can advise the executive on matters of constitution even in the absence of conflicts.

  • Administrative Functions: Courts can grant licenses, look into the administration of properties of deceased people, appoint receivers, register marriages, appoint guardians of orphans or minor children.

3. What are the salient features of the Indian judiciary?

The features are as follows:

  • Independent Judiciary - The judiciary is an autonomous body that is independent from the influence of the executive and legislature. It can hence resolve disputes between the centre and the states, executive and legislature independently.

  • Joint High Court or One High Court for Each State - Under the guidelines of the Constitution, every state should have its own High Court. If two states consent then two states can opt for a joint High Court.

  • Open Trials - Judiciary in India conducts open trials and the accused are given the opportunity to defend themselves. Free legal aid is also given to the needy and poor. 

  • Judicial Activism - The judiciary has become very active and have been taking up suo moto (on its own) cases or directives that look into the protection of the public rights and uphold human rights.

  • Public Interest Litigation System - If there is any suit of general or public interest that can be affected by the actions of a private or public agency - then the courts can start and take up action for it. An organisation or even a court can bring into notice any case like this.