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Report No. 118

Method of Appointments to Subordinate Courts/Subordinate Judiciary

Chapter I


1.1. Court structure in India is pyramidic in nature. Unlike the American model of dual court system-federal and state-India has monolithic system. The judicial service has practically the same structure with variations in designations. Designations of courts connote their functions. They have been derived principally from important codes prescribing procedure, the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, further embellished by local statutes.

Workload determines whether the Presiding Officer should preside over both courts with power under the relevant statutes conferred on him. The courts at the base level cater to the needs of the society in respect of disputes not involving high pecuniary stakes though the designations of the courts and the personnel manning them differ from State to State. By and large, they fall into a pattern starting from the bottom.

At the base level, there are courts variously described as Munsif Magistrate or Civil Judge (J.D.): Judicial Magistrate First Class. In some States, Munsif is also described as District Munsif. In some States, there are posts of Judicial Magistrates, Second Class but they have ceased to exist. The situation as evident at present is that at the base level, there is the court of Munsif: District Munsif/ Magistrate or Civil Judge (J.D.)/JMFC.

This is what is called the court of primary or initial jurisdiction. Most of the disputes, subject to a ceiling on pecuniary limit, are brought to these courts for their resolution. In some States where workload does not justify existence of two separate cadres, the Munsif is also invested with the power of Judicial Magistrate, First Class.

Similar is the situation with regard to Civil Judge (J.D.) as in the case of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Members of this cadre, when posted in large urban areas, are assigned either exclusively civil or exclusively criminal work. When they are posted in Metropolitan areas as envisaged in sections 6 and 8 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, they are described as Metropolitan Magistrates, .and as Chief Judicial Magistrate, as envisaged in section 12 of the Cr. P.C.

1.2. Vertically moving upward, the next set of courts are described as courts of District and Sessions Judge which also include the courts of Additional Judge, Joint Judge or Assistant Judge. In some States, there is a court called Court of Civil and Sessions Judge. These courts generally have unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction and depending upon the power conferred on the incumbent officer in charge of the court, it can handle criminal cases where maximum punishment would not exceed seven years.

In some States, these courts with unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction are called courts of Civil Judge (Senior Division) and in some States, they are described as Courts of Subordinate Judge. Courts have also been set up under two statutes called the Provincial Small Causes Court Act applicable to places other than Presidency Town and the Presidency Town Small Causes Court Act applicable to Presidency Towns. The first mentioned is subordinate to District Court and the last to High Court.

The Judges in charge of these courts are designated as Small Causes Court Judge, the first among equals called the Chief Judge of the Court. The Court of the District and Sessions Judge at the district level is the principal court of original jurisdiction and is presided over by an officer called the District and Sessions Judge. The designation district court is derived from the Code of Civil Procedure and Sessions Court from the Code of Criminal Procedure. As a rule, same officer invested with power under both the statutes presides over the court known as District and Sessions Court.

1.3 The next hierarchical stage in the pyramidic structure of courts at State level is the High Court which is the highest court set up under Article 214 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court of India is the Apex Court at the national level. This can be illustrated by diagram as shown in Annexure I, which will be self-explanatory.

1.4. The courts herein delineated are called subordinate courts as the expression is understood in Article 236 of the Constitution which reads as under:-

"236. Interpretation.-In this Chapter.-

(a) the expression "district judge" includes judge of city civil court, additional district judge, joint district judge, assistant district judge, chief judge of a small cause court, chief presidency magistrate, additional chief presidency magistrate, sessions judge, additional sessions judge and assistant sessions judge;

(b) the expression "judicial service" means a service consisting exclusively of persons intended to fill the post of district judge and other civil judicial posts inferior to the post of district judge."

These courts deal with all the disputes of a civil nature or criminal nature as per the powers conferred on the incumbent presiding over the court. This is one common vertical and hierarchical subordinate courts/subordinate judiciary distinguishable from the American model of dual set up, Federal Judiciary and State Judiciary.

Method of Appointments to Subordinate Courts, Subordinate Judiciary Back

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