hierarchy of indian courts

India, as one of the world’s largest countries with a large population, has a highly strong legal system, which is inherent in the organisation of the courts, their hierarchy, and the judicial system. This system provides a source of income for a large number of professionals involved in the judicial system in various ways, and as a result, they serve the nation.

The Indian judicial system is distinguished by its hierarchical court structure. In India, the judiciary system is divided into stages, each with its own set of courts. The courts have a strong judiciary and a hierarchical organisation that is appropriate for the powers vested upon them. The Supreme Court of India is at the top of the hierarchical ladder, followed by High Courts at the regional level and smaller courts at the micro level, all charged with the responsibility of exercising power for the Indian people.

India’s judicial system is divided into three levels:

  1. The Apex Court
  2. The High Courts for states and union territories
  3. Lower courts at district level

Supreme Court of India (Apex Court)

The Supreme Court of India (Apex Court) is established under Article 124(1) of the Indian constitution, which specifies that the Supreme Court of India would be composed of a Chief Justice of India. The Supreme Court of India is the highest court in the Indian legal system. It was founded under the requirements of the constitution’s Part V, Chapter IV. Articles 124 to 147 define the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction and composition. According to a Supreme Court report, the court has been in operation since January 28, 1950, and has already handled almost 24,000 judgements.

Powers of Supreme Court

  • Power to penalise for contempt of court (Article 129).
  •  The competence to scrutinise legislative enactments and orders (Articles 32 and 136).
  •  Article 134 – The authority to remove matters from the High Court.
  • Article 126 – If the Chief Justice of India is unable to carry out his duties of the office for any reason, or if the office is vacant, the President of India may nominate a Supreme Court Judge to fill the vacancy.
  • Article 127 – If the Supreme Court lacks a quorum of judges, the Chief Justice of India, with the approval of the President, can appoint a judge from the High Court as an ad hoc judge.
  •  Article 128 – The Chief Justice of India can appoint any person who has previously held the office of a Supreme Court judge at any time with the approval of the President and the person to be so appointed.
  •  Power of revisory jurisdiction (Article 137) (Supreme Court can review its judgments)
  • The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the election of the Union Public Service Commission’s President and Vice President.
  • Any dispute between the Centre and a State(s) or between States, as well as situations involving the enforcement of individuals’ fundamental rights, fall under the exclusive original jurisdiction.
  •  Under Article 141 of the Constitution, all Indian courts are required to obey the Supreme Court’s ruling as the rule of law.
  • The Supreme Court is a court of record since its decisions are admissible in any court and cannot be overturned.

High Court

In the Indian judicial system, the High Courts are the second highest court. They have authority over the states in which they are situated; however, certain high courts have jurisdiction over multiple states. High court decisions are binding on all lower courts in the state over which they have jurisdiction.

Powers of High Court

  • Article 226 – If a person’s fundamental rights are violated, he or she can file a petition directly with the High Court.
  • Election, marriage/divorce, and other civil cases can be brought before the High Court.
  •  Has the power to penalise for contempt of court.
  •  Has the authority to hear appeals from lower courts.
  • The High Court has jurisdiction in the areas of original, appellate, supervisory, and administrative law.
  •  The High Court is a court of record, and its decisions are admissible in Subordinate Courts.

Lower Court: District Court

In India, the structure of district courts is mostly determined by the discretion of state governments or union territories. The structure of such courts is based on numerous elements such as the number of cases, population dispersion, and so on. Depending on these considerations, the state government determines whether a single district should have multiple District Courts or whether many adjacent districts should be combined. Typically, these types of courts exercise their legal authority at the district level. The administrative power of the High Courts, which also administers the district courts, is used to run these courts. District court judgments are subject to review by the relevant high court’s appellate jurisdiction. The district courts are primarily governed by district judges who are selected by the state government. Additional district judges and associate district judges have been assigned to the District Courts to help with the increased workload. These additional district judges have the same authority as district judges in the jurisdiction of any city that has been designated as a metropolitan region by the state government. In this regard, the subordinate courts addressing civil cases are designated as Junior Civil Judge Court, Principal Junior and Senior Civil Judge Court, as well as Sub Courts and Subordinate Courts. These courts are all dealt with in ascending order. Second Class Judicial Magistrate Court, First Class Judicial Magistrate Court, and Chief Judicial Magistrate Court are the subordinate courts that deal with criminal matters, as well as family courts that are only concerned with marriage conflicts. The Principal Judge of Family Court has the same status as a District Judge.

Village Court: Panchayat

Village courts are also known as Lok Adalat or Nyaya Panchayat, which signifies that Indian villagers have access to justice. This is the system for settling small-scale conflicts. The Madras Village Court Act of 1888 justifies the need for these courts. This statute is followed by the formation of different provinces after 1935, which are renamed as separate states after 1947.

Panchayat is a non-judicial body that resolves disputes through mediation. The Panchayat, on the other hand, cannot compel anyone to obey its orders or impose a penalty. In India, wicked acts such as Panchayats forcing their decisions in personal concerns such as matrimonial matters have occurred and continue to occur. This is not a judicial proceeding; rather, those involved in such activities are punished.

Lok Adalat

Lok Adalat is an extra-judicial body where parties who wish to be released from an ongoing judicial proceeding and resolve the matter through mediation can go to the Lok Adalat, which is presided over by retired district judges, respected government officials, and other eminent personalities who are respected by the general public in the area.

The Lok Adalat’s decision is finalised based on the parties’ grounds of agreement, and the District Court must validate the Lok Adalat’s decision.


The hierarchy of courts and justice systems in India and has been thoroughly explored, with a focus on the country’s judicial system. The function of the courts is crucial in this regard, with the help of various regulations and legislation enacted from time to time to strengthen the nation’s judicial system. The three-layer judicial system is regularly questioned as to whether it is necessary or not to manage the country’s legal system. The strong foundation and proven utility of the courts demonstrate that a huge country like India requires the current system of judicial process to provide the best possible judiciary to its citizens.

Keeping in mind the number of human resources deployed in the system through direct or ancillary services associated with the judicial system, and their constant effort, the judiciary system proves to be efficient when considering the number of disputes raised each day and the level of response extended by the courts to the disputes, the judiciary system proves to be efficient.

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