Powers and Jurisdiction of High Courts in the States



High courts are considered as the highest courts in the state. Currently there are about 25 high courts in India, with some states having a common high court. In India the 1st high court was established in 1862 as the ‘high court of judicature’ in Calcutta. The number of judges in the high court can vary from one state to another. In India, Allahabad high court is the biggest of all others. The main function of the high court are to interpret and apply the law of Australia, to decide cases of special federal significance including challenges to the constitutional validity of laws and to hear appeals by special leave, from federal, state and territory courts. The high courts of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta were established by the Indian High Courts Act,1861.

Article 214 – 231 of the Indian constitution deals with the provisions of the high courts in the state. Whereas, article 214 deals with the establishment of the high courts in each state. They talk about powers, functions, organizations and appointment of judges of the high courts in the state. The high court consists of a chief justice and some other judges who are appointed by the president and there is no fixed limit for the maximum number of judges for the high courts.


According to Article 231 of the Indian constitution ‘The parliament can also provide for the establishment of one high court for two or more states’.

For example: Haryana , Punjab and the union territory of chandigarh have a common high court. In addition to this Tamilnadu shares a high court with puducherry.

High Court as a Court Of Record:

High courts can also be performed as a court of record similar to the supreme court and these records of the judgements can be used by the sub-ordinate courts for references and to decide upon certain cases. All high courts inn India has the power to punish if there is any cases of contempt of court.

Administrative powers:

The high courts in state has the power to superintend and control all the subordinate courts and it can also seek information regarding the proceedings of the subordinate courts.

It has the power to transfer any case from one court to another and it can transfer the case to itself and decide on it.

It issues all rules and framework regarding the working of the subordinate courts and enquires into the documents of any subordinate courts

It can appoint its administration staff and determine their salaries, allowances and conditions of the work.

Power of judicial review:

All high courts has vested with the power of judicial review and they can review any cases within the state  and declare it has void if it seems to be unconstitutional

Power of certification:

The high courts alone has the power to certify the cases whether it is fit foe appeal to the supreme court. If seems to b unfit it can deny giving appeal to the supreme court.


Article 225 deals with the jurisdiction of existing high court. There are different kinds of jurisdiction of the high courts which are given as below:

Original Jurisdiction:

  • The high courts of madras, Bombay and Calcutta have their original jurisdiction in both criminal and civil cases arising within those cities.
  • These high court rights can hear civil cases which involve property value over Rs.20000 and it is considered as the most exclusive rights.
  • They are empowered to issue writs in order to protect or enforce fundamental rights and also all high courts have their original jurisdiction in cases that are related to will, divorce, contempt of court and admiralty.
  • They are also entitled to hear the election petitions.

Appellate Jurisdiction:

  • In Civil cases, an appeal can be made to the high court against any decisions of the district and the appeal can also be made from the subordinate court directly which involves the value higher than Rs.5000 or on a question of law or fact.
  • In Criminal cases, the appeals can be made against the decisions of the sessions and additional sessions judges. The appeals can be made if the sessions judge has awarded imprisonment for 7 or more years and has been given capital punishment. Here, the jurisdiction extends to all cases under state or federal laws.

Writ Jurisdiction:

  • Article 226 of the Indian constitution deals with the power of the High courts to issue certain writs. Accordingly, the High courts can exercise his writ power within its jurisdiction and it can issue writs to any person or authority within those territories.
  • The writs includes Habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari or any of them. The High court can issue writs to enforce certain rights mentioned under part 3 and for any other purpose.

Habeas corpus

    • The word habeas corpus is derived from latin term  ‘To have the body of’  which means to bring the body of the latter before the court.
    • This writ is used to prevent the fundamental rights of the individual conferred under part 3 of the Indian constitution.
    • The high court or supreme court can issue this writ against any public or private authority, who arrested another person if the detention of a person is found to be unlawful.


    • The literal meaning of mandamus is ‘To command’.
    • It is used against the public official to direct them to do their duty who has failed to perform.
    • This writ of mandamus cannot be issued against private person, president, governor or chief justice of the high court.


    • The word prohibition is ‘ To forbid’.
    • A court that is higher in position can issue this writ to the lower courts within its jurisdiction.
    • It is issued to prevent the latter from exceeding its jurisdiction or usurping a jurisdiction that is doesn’t possess.


    • The literal meaning of the word certiorari means ‘ to be informed’.
    • It is issued by the court higher in authority to the lower or tribunal courts ordering them either to transfer a pending case with them to itself or squash their order in a case.
    • It is issued on the grounds of an excess  of jurisdiction or lack of jurisdiction or error of law.
    • It not only prevents but also cures the mistakes made in the judiciary.


    • It means ‘ By what authority or warrant’.
    • Supreme court or high court can issues this writ to prevent illegal usurpation of a public office by a person.
    • Through this, the curt enquires into the legality of a claim of a person to a public office.

Author: sathiya v,
Dr.Ambedkar Law university, chennai

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