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Report No. 79

Chapter 2

Jurisdiction of High Courts and City Civil Courts

2.1. Variety of jurisdictions and history.-

The jurisdiction of High Courts in India presents an infinite variety. The jurisdiction is original as well as appellate; civil as well as criminal; ordinary as well as extraordinary; general as well as special; derived from the Constitution of the country and the statute law, as well as from the Letters Patent or other instrument constituting the High Court and other sources.

This jurisdiction has a long history. The oldest High Courts in India-the High Courts of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay-exercise ordinary original civil jurisdiction within the respective limits of the three presidency towns.1 The source of their original jurisdiction is to be found in the Indian High Courts Act2 and in the Letters Patent issued thereunder. But it may be noted that some of the provisions of the Letters Patent refer back to earlier Charters of the Supreme Courts for the three presidency towns.

1. Certain other High Courts are at present vested with ordinary original civil jurisdiction. See Chapter 16, infra.

2. The Indian High Courts Act, 1861.

2.2. In addition to their ordinary original civil jurisdiction, these High Courts also exercise original jurisdiction in admiralty1 and insolvency,2 testamentary,3 matrimonial and guardianship matters.4 The jurisdiction of High Courts in regard to admiralty is, incidentally, distinct from their ordinary original jurisdiction.5 While many of these matters are now regulated by Central Acts, some of them-e.g. admiralty jurisdiction-still have their source in the Letters Patent6 or in other instruments.7

1. Kamalakar v. Scindia Steam Navigation Co., AIR 1961 Born 186 (189).

2. Section 3, Presidency Towns Insolvency Act, 1909.

3. Indian Succession Act, 1925; see Appendix 2 for a list of relevant sections.

4. See Appendix 6.

5. See also Hamid Hasan v. Banwari Lal, AIR 1947 PC 90 (93).

6. Kamalakar v. Scindia Steam Navigation Co., AIR 1961 Born 186 (189).

7. E.g. certain British statutes; see para. 2.10, infra.

2.3. Extraordinary original jurisdiction.- All High Courts have extraordinary original jurisdiction.1

1. See Chapter 16, infra.

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