High Courts And Tribunals In India



  • GS Prelims, GS Mains paper II
  • Indian Polity, High courts, jurisdiction of HC
  • Tribunals and its powers
  • Tribunalisation problem


High Courts

  • Just below the Supreme Court are High Courts which are the highest courts of law in States.
  • The High Courts are part of the Indian judiciary and function under the supervision, guidance and control of the Supreme Court.
  • As highest court in the State, a High Court supervises the subordinate courts in the State.
  • The High Courts are mainly courts of appeal.
  • These Courts hear appeals from numerous subordinate courts working at district level.
  • The system of appointment of judges, their qualifications and the working of subordinate courts is under the direct control and supervision of the High Court of the State concerned.


Powers of the HC as provided by the Constitution

  • Original jurisdiction of High Court:
    • The Constitution of India does not give a detailed description of the original jurisdiction of the High Court.
    • It is accepted that the original jurisdiction of a High Court is exercised by issue of Writs to any person or authority including Government.
    • Article 226 of the Constitution vests in the High Court the power to issue writs for the restoration of fundamental rights.
    • This power of the High Court does not derogate the similar power conferred on the Supreme Court in Article 32 of the Constitution.
    • 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 in relation to the administration of justice.
    • It can punish for its own contempt.
  • SC ruled that High Courts’ power of judicial review under Article 226 invoked only when there is breach of law or violation of the Constitution.
  • Appellate Jurisdiction of High Court:
    • The appellate jurisdiction of High Court extends to both civil and criminal cases.
    • In civil cases, its jurisdiction extends to cases tried by Courts of Munsifs and District judges.
    • In the criminal cases it extends to cases decided by Sessions and Additional Sessions Judges.
  • Thus, the jurisdiction of the High Court extends to all cases under the State or federal laws.
    • Its jurisdiction can be enlarged by the Parliament and the State Legislature.
    • The Parliament exercises exclusive power to make laws touching the jurisdiction and power of all Courts with respect to the subjects on which it is competent to legislate.
    • It can also legislate on subjects enumerated in the Concurrent List.
    • Likewise a State Legislature has power to make laws touching the jurisdictions and powers of all Courts within the Stare with respect to all subjects enumerated in the State List and the Concurrent List.
    • But as regards the subjects in the Concurrent List the Union law prevails in case of conflict.
  • High Court’s Power of Superintendence:
    • A High Court has also the power of superintendence over all Courts and Tribunals except those dealing with the armed forces functioning in the State.
    • This power has made the High Court responsible for the entire administration of Justice in the State.
    • It is both judicial as well as administrative in nature.
    • The Constitution does not place any restriction on its power of superintendence over the subordinate Courts.
    • It may be noted the Supreme Court has no similar power vis-a-vis the High Court.


Importance of High Courts in Indian judiciary

  • For the framers of our Constitution the high courts occupied a central position.
  • They were conceived as a forum for adjudicating disputes under the Constitution.
  • Their jurisdiction was more extensive than the Supreme Court’s.
  • In contrast to the American model of a bifurcated federal and state judiciary, our high courts resolve all disputes.



  • An administrative Tribunal is a multimember body to hear on cases filed by the staff members alleging non-observation of their terms of service or any other related matters and to pass judgments on those cases.
  • Tribunals were added in the Constitution by Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 as Part XIV-A, which has only two articles viz. 323-A and 323-B.
  • While article 323-A deals with Administrative Tribunals; article 323-B deals with tribunals for other matters.
  • In general sense, the ‘tribunals’ are not courts of normal jurisdiction,but they have very specific and predefined work area.
  • The administrative tribunals are not original inventionof the Indian Political System.
  • They are well established in all democratic countries of Europe as well as United States of America.



Power and Jurisdiction of tribunals

  • According to Article 323A, administrative tribunals can adjudicate the disputes and complaints with respect to the recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public services and posts at
    • Union Level
    • State Level
    • Any local or other authority within the territory of India



Problem of rampant tribunalisation

  • Parliament has inflicted damage on high courts with rampant tribunalisation.
  • Tribunals have replaced high courts for disputes under the Companies Act, Competition Act, SEBI Act, Electricity Act, and Consumer Protection Act among others.
  • Any person aggrieved by an order of an appellate tribunal can directly appeal to the Supreme Court, side-stepping the high court.
  • These tribunals do not enjoy the same constitutional protection as high courts.
  • The enormous institutional investment to protect the independence of high courts is dispensed with when it comes to tribunals.


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