Judicial System in India



Jurisdiction in a broad manner means the degree of the power of the court to entertain suits, appeals and applications. In its strict sense jurisdiction means the extent of the authority of a court to administer justice not only with reference to subject-matter of the suit but also to the local and pecuniary limits of jurisdiction.

The meaning of the ’jurisdiction’ has been expounded with detail in a full bench case in Hriday Nath v. Ram Chandra[1]. The following was written in judgement:-

“in order of reference to a full bench in the case of Sukhlal v. Tarachand[2], it was stated that jurisdiction can be defined as the power of court to hear and determine a cause, to adjudicate and exercise any judicial power in relation to it; in other words jurisdiction is meant to be the authority for which the court has to decide matters that are contested before it or to take cognizance of matters presented in a formal way for its decision.

In Kallu Khan v. Kamarulnish[3], it was held that a study of the cases discloses numerous attempts to define the term ‘jurisdiction’, which has been specified to be the power to hear and determine issues of law and fact, the authority with help of which the judicial officers take cognizance of and decide a legal controversy, the power to hear and determine the subject matter in controversy between parties to a suit and to adjudicate or exercise any judicial power over them, the power to hear, determine and pronounce judgement on the issues before the court, the power or authority which is given to the court by the legislature to hear and determine causes between parties and to carry judgments into effect, to apply law, to pronounce the judgement and carry into execution.

Jurisdiction as stated above can be classified into three categories:-

  1. Jurisdiction over subject-matter– Certain courts are excluded from entertaining suits of particular classes by status. Hence, a small cause court can try only such suits as a suit for money due on account of an oral loan or under a bond or promissory note, a suit for price of work done etc. but it has no jurisdiction to try suits for specific performance of contracts for a dissolution of partnership, for an injunction or suits relating to immovable property.
  2. Territorial jurisdiction– Every court has its own limits, fixed by the State Government, beyond which it cannot exercise its jurisdiction. Hence, the District Judge is in charge of the district and cannot exercise his power beyond that district. The Munsifs are in charge of the areas assigned to them. The High Court has jurisdiction over the whole of the territory of the State.
  3. Pecuniary jurisdiction– Throughout India there is a large number of civil courts of different grades having jurisdiction to try suits or hear appeals of different amounts or value. Some of these courts have unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction. Hence, the High Court, the District Judge and the Civil Judge have unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction. Other courts have only a limited pecuniary jurisdiction. A Small Cause Court Judge exercises a limited pecuniary jurisdiction as well.
  4. Original or Appellate jurisdiction– The jurisdiction of a court can either be Original or Appellate. In the exercise of its original jurisdiction a court entertains original suits, while in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction it entertains appeals. The Munsifs court and the court of small causes have the original jurisdiction only; the District Judge’s court and the various High Courts have both original and appellate jurisdiction.



  1. Civil courts: These courts deal with the cases or offences that are committed against a private individual and not against a state unlike criminal cases. Civil wrongs include tort, breach of contract etc. In India, the hierarchy of civil courts is built upon territorial and pecuniary jurisdiction. Civil courts can deal with the case which have been committed within its territory and also which is within its pecuniary jurisdiction.
  2. District court – The state government in india has established the district courts in every district by considering the number of cases and population in that district. District courts are presided by a district judge and these courts administer justice at a district level. These courts are under administrative and judicial control of high court.
  3. Munsif – Munsif is a lower court of appeal for civil cases in the district. It has the authority to try the matter under pecuniary limits. Munsif magistrate/judicial collector have control over these courts. The territorial jurisdiction of the munsif court was prescribed by the state government.
  4. Court of Small Causes – under the presidency small cause courts act, 1882 the court of small causes for metropolitan cities was established in india. This act allowed the state government to establish a court of small causes anywhere in its territory. These court have the authority to decide small value or petty civil cases only.


  1. Criminal courts: Criminal wrong is a wrong against the whole society not against the victim. Criminal courts deal with criminal matters which are considered as a crime against the state.
  2. Session Court – The lowest court of appeal in hierarchy of criminal courts is court of sessions where the session judge conducts the trial. S.9 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 empowers the state government to establish a session court for every session division. The high court appoints a session judge. Assistant session judge and additional session judge can also be appointed by the high court to exercise jurisdiction in session court.
  3. Judicial Magistrate Class 1/Metropolitan Magistrate Class 1 – State government appoints them in the district and the high court is consulted regarding the number to be appointed in every state. These are subordinate to chief judicial magistrate. Also JM 1/MM 1 can impose fine upto rs.10000 or pass a sentence of not more than 3 years or both.
  4. Judicial Magistrate 2/Metropolitan Magistrate 2 – State government appoints them and their number is fixed by high court of every state. These can impose a fine up to rs.5000 or pass a sentence of not more than 1 year or both.


Submitted by-

Akanksha Yadav

Intern at Law Portal

Mail: akankshayadav2808@gmail.com

College: Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIPU


[1] A.I.R. 1921 Cal. 34

[2] (1905) 33Cal.. 68

[3] 1962 A.L.J. 1039, 1056 (F.B.)

Author: Akanksha Yadav,
Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIPU, Law Student

Leave a Comment