India has a single unified and integrated judicial system and Supreme Court of India is at the apex court of the Indian judicial system. Judiciary plays an important role as an organ of the government. It settles disputes, interprets laws, protects fundamental rights and acts as guardian of the Constitution.

During ancient times, the concept of justice was inextricably linked with religion and was embedded in the ascriptive norms of socially stratified caste groups. Most of the Kings’ courts dispensed justice according to ‘dharma’, a set of eternal laws rested upon the individual duty to be performer in four stages of life (ashrama) and status of the individual according to his status (varna). In medieval times, the dictum ‘King can do no wrong’ was applied and the King arrogated to himself an important role in administering justice. He became the apostle of justice and so the highest judge in the kingdom. With the advent of the British colonial administration, India witnessed a judicial system introduced on the basis of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence.

History of the Higher Judiciary Appointment Process

The Sapru committee’s report, published in 1945, considered the question of the judiciary in some detail, reiterating what the Government of India Act 1935 had set out.: there would be a Federal Court of India which would be the forerunner to the Supreme Court. To separate the judiciary from the executive, the Sapru committee suggested that judges should have fixed salaries and tenures, and that they could only be removed for gross misbehaviour. Judges were to be appointed by the president, in consultation with the CJI. The committee appointed to deal with judicial questions as part of the Constituent Assembly in 1946 was influenced by the Sapru report, though there was concern over the degree of power given to presidential will. Nehru However supported the Sapru Committee's suggestions. In 1949, Nehru told the Constituent Assembly judges ought to be to be individuals of “the highest integrity,” who could “stand up against the executive government, and whoever may come in their way.” BR Ambedkar emphasized the need for judicial independence as well, saying that: “There can be no difference of opinion in the House that our judiciary must both be independent of the executive and must also be competent in itself.” Finally, the constitution stated that “Every Judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with such of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose,” given that “in the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of India shall always be consulted.


Supreme Court of India : The supreme court is the highest court of the country or nation, which is established by the Constitution. According to it, the Supreme Court is a federal court, guardian of the Constitution and the highest court of appeal. Articles 124 to 147 of the Constitution lay down the composition and jurisdiction of the Court. Primarily, it is an appellate court which takes up appeals against judgments of the High Courts of the states and territories. However, it also takes writ petitions in cases of serious human rights violations or any petition filed under Article 32 which is the right to constitutional remedies or if a case involves a serious issue that needs immediate resolution. It had its inaugural sitting on 26 January 1950, the day India's constitution came into force, and since then has delivered more than 24,000 reported judgements.

The Supreme Court comprises the Chief Justice and 30 other Judges. The proceedings of the Supreme Court are conducted in English only. The Supreme Court Rules of 1966 are framed under Article 145 of the Constitution to regulate the practice and procedure of the Supreme Court. The same is amended and presently governed by the Supreme Court Rules of 2013.

High courts : The high courts are the principal civil courts of original jurisdiction in each state and union territory. However, a high court exercises its original civil and criminal jurisdiction only if the subordinate courts are not authorized by law to try such matters for lack of pecuniary, territorial jurisdiction. High courts may also enjoy original jurisdiction in certain matters, if so designated specifically in a state or federal law.

However, the work of most high courts primarily consists of appeals from lower courts and writ petitions in terms of Article 226 of the constitution. Writ jurisdiction is also an original jurisdiction of a high court. The precise territorial jurisdiction of each high court is different. The appeal order is the following: tehsil-kotwali-criminal/civil courts → district court → high court → supreme court.

District courts : The District courts of India are established by the State governments of India for every district or for one or more districts together taking into account the number of cases, population distribution in the district. They administer justice in India at a district level. These courts are under administrative control of the High courts of the State to which the district concerned belongs. The decisions of District court are subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the concerned High court.

The district court is presided over by one District Judge appointed by the state Government. In addition to the district judge there may be number of Additional District Judges and Assistant District Judges depending on the workload. The Additional District Judge and the court presided have equivalent jurisdiction as the District Judge and his district court. The district judge is also called "Metropolitan session judge" when he is presiding over a district court in a city which is designated "Metropolitan area" by the state Government. The district court has appellate jurisdiction over all subordinate courts situated in the district on both civil and criminal matters. Subordinate courts, on the civil side (in ascending order) are, Junior Civil Judge Court, Principal Junior Civil Judge Court, Senior Civil Judge Court (also called sub-court). Subordinate courts, on the criminal side (in ascending order) are, Second Class Judicial Magistrate Court, First Class Judicial Magistrate Court, Chief Judicial Magistrate Court.In addition 'Family Courts" are established to deal with matrimonial disputes alone. The Principal judge of family court is equivalent to District Judge.

Subordinate courts : Subordinate courts are also known as village courts,Lok Adalat (people's court) or Nyaya panchayat (justice of the villages), compose a system of alternative dispute resolution. They were recognised through the 1888 Madras Village Court Act, then developed (after 1935) in various provinces and (after 1947) Indian states. The model from the Gujarat State (with a judge and two assessors) was used from the 1970s onwards. In 1984 the Law Commission recommended to create Panchayats in rural areas with laymen ("having educational attainments"). The 2008 Gram Nyayalayas Act had foreseen 5,000 mobile courts in the country for judging petty civil (property cases) and criminal (up to 2 years of prison) cases. However, the Act has not been enforced properly, with only 151 functional Gram Nyayalayas in the country (as of May 2012) against a target of 5000 such courts. The major reasons behind the non-enforcement includes financial constraints, reluctance of lawyers, police and other government officials.