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Introduction to Indian Judiciary

  • The judiciary is that branch of the government that interprets the law, settles disputes and administers justice to all citizens.
  • The judiciary is considered the watchdog of democracy, and also the guardian of the Constitution.
  • For democracy to function effectively, it is imperative to have an impartial and independent judiciary.

Independent Indian Judiciary

  • It means that the other branches of the government, namely, the executive and the legislature, does not interfere with the judiciary’s functioning.
  • The judiciary’s decision is respected and not interfered with by the other organs.
  • It also means that judges can perform their duties without fear or favour.

Independence of the judiciary also does not mean that the judiciary functions arbitrarily and without any accountability. It is accountable to the Constitution of the country.

Constitutional Provisions

  • Part VI (State) spanning from 233 to 237 of the Indian Constitution.
  • State judiciary system consists of a HC and a hierarchy of subordinate courts below it, also known as lower courts. They function below and under the HC at district and lower levels.

Appointment of District Judge

  • The appointment, posting and promotion of district judges in a state are made by the Governor of the state in consultation with the HC.

Qualification Criteria

  • He should not already be in the service of the Central or the state
  • He should have been an advocate for seven years.
  • He should be recommended by the HC for appointment.

Appointment of Other Judges ( Other than District Judges)

  • Made by the Governor of the state after consultation with the  State Public Service Commision  and the HC of concerned state.

 Control over Subordinate Courts

  • The control over district courts and other subordinate courts including the posting, promotion and leave of persons belonging to the judicial service of a state and holding any post inferior to the post of district judge is vested in the High Court.

Application of the above Provisions to Certain Magistrates

  • The Governor may direct that the above mentioned provisions relating to persons in the state judicial service would apply to any class or classes of magistrates in the state.

Structure and Jurisdiction

  • The organisational structure, jurisdiction and nomenclature of the subordinate judiciary are laid down by the states.  Hence, they differ slightly from state to state.
  • Broadly, there are three tiers of civil and criminal courts below the HC of state.
  • Schematic- Hierarchical structure of Sub-ordinate court
  • The district judge is the highest judicial authority in the district.
  • He possesses original and appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal
  • Criminal matters – District judge is known as the Sessions judge.
  • Civil matters – District judge known as the District
  • The district judge exercises both judicial and administrative
  • He also has supervisory powers over all the subordinate courts in the district.
  • Appeals against his orders and judgements lie to the HC.
  • The sessions judge has the power to impose any sentence including life imprisonment and capital punishment (death sentence).

Issues faced by Subordinate Courts

  • Issues in recruitment – Sluggishness and procrastination in the process of calling for applications, holding recruitment examinations and declaring the results. Subordinate courts are working at 79% their sanctioned strength
  • Pendency of cases– District and Subordinate courts account for 54 percent of pending cases.
  • Lack of uniformity in frequency of hearings among the subordinate courts in the country.
  • Inordinate delays in evidence collection and examination of witnesses which impacts the overall process of the court.

Impacts of Judicial Pendency 

  • Delayed justice, denied justice- Speedy trial is a part of right to life and liberty ( 21).
  • Erosion social and ethical infrastructure- Negative effect on social development, higher crime rates and erodes credibility of institution.
  • Overcrowding of the prisons – Beyond 150% of the capacity, results in “violation of human rights”.
  • Affects the economy of the country- to estimate, judicial delays cost India around 1.5% of its GDP annually.
  • Pendency hampers dispute resolution, contract enforcement, discourage investments, stall projects, hamper tax collection and escalate legal costs which leads to Increasing cost of doing business.

Way Forward

  • A smooth and time-bound process of making appointments requires close coordination between the HC and the State Public Service Commissions.
  • The induction and capacity building of both manpower and resources.
  • Strengthening of court infrastructure and leveraging ICT- g LIMBS, e-Courts
  • Proportionate recruitment of legal and paralegal staff too has to be addressed.
  • Survey (2018) highlights the need for more judges specialised in criminal cases as these form major portion of pending cases along with lower CCR.
  • Create an All-India Judicial Service (AIJS) to attract the best talent in India’s legal profession.
  • Increase in number of working days- Average annual working days for subordinate courts is 244– could improve productivity and efficiency.


Indian Polity

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