Powers and Functions of High court in India

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Powers and Functions of High court in India

The Constitution of India has not made any clear and detailed description of the powers and functions of the High Court as it has done in the case of the Supreme Court. The Constitutions says that the Jurisdiction of the High Court shall be the same as immediately before the commencement of the Constitution, subject to the provisions of the constitution and the laws made by the appropriate legislature.

The powers and functions of the High Court can be divided as follows:

Original Jurisdiction:

Original jurisdiction in relation to high court refers to the authority of the high court to hear and decide cases for the first time.

  • All matters relating to revenues are included in the original jurisdiction of the High court.
  • Besides, civil and criminal cases are also supposed to belong to the original jurisdiction. But only the High Courts at Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai can have the first trial in civil and criminal cases. The original criminal jurisdiction of the High Court has, however, been abolished by the Criminal Procedure code, 1973. At present the criminal cases are tried in the city sessions Courts in Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai.

Appellate Jurisdiction:

Appellate jurisdiction in relation to High Court refers to the power of the High Court to review the decisions of Lower courts. The High Court is the highest court of appeal in the state. It has appellate jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases.

a. In civil cases, appeal can be made to the High Court against the decisions of the District Judges and the Subordinate Judges.

b. Again, when any court subordinate to the High Court decides an appeal from the decision of an inferior court, a second appeal can be made to the High Court only on question of law and procedure.

c. Besides, appeal from the decision of a single Judge of the High Court itself also lies to the High Court. In criminal cases appeals against the decisions of :

  • A Sessions Judge or an Additional Sessions Judge, where the sentence is of imprisonment exceeding 7 years; or
  • Assistant Sessions Judge, Metropolitan Magistrate or other Judicial Magistrates in certain specified cases other than ‘petty’ cases can be made to the High Court.

Powers of issuing Directions, Order or Writs:

The High Court has been empowered to issue writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, and prohibition certiorari and quo warranto for the enforcement of the fundamental rights and ‘for other purposes’. The Supreme Court can issue the writs only for the enforcement of fundamental rights and not for other purposes. The power of the High Court to issue writs in the nature of habeas corpus cannot be curtailed even during emergency.

Judging the validity of laws:

In the original Constitution the High Courts were given powers of judging the validity of the Central and the State laws. But the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution took away the powers of the High Courts to determine the validity of the central laws and put various conditions on their powers of judging the validity of the State laws. However, the 43rd Constitutional (Amendment) Act, 1978 has restored these powers to the High Courts.

Powers of superintendence:

Every High Court has a general power of superintendence over all the lower courts and tribunals within its jurisdiction except military courts and tribunals. By virtue of this power the High Court can call for returns from such courts; make and issue general rules and prescribe forms for regulating the practice and proceedings of such courts; and prescribe forms in which books, entries and accounts shall be kept by the officers of any such court.

Powers of taking up cases:

If a case is pending before a sub-ordinate court and the High Court is satisfied that it involves a substantial question of the constitutional law, it can take up the case and decide it itself.

Control over sub-ordinate courts:

The High Court can control the subordinate courts in the State. It is to be consulted by the Governor in the matter of appointing, posting and promoting district judges. The High Court plays an important role in the appointment, promotion, etc. of the staff of the subordinate courts including the District Court.

Other powers:

Besides the above powers, the High Court performs some other functions:

  1. Like the Supreme Court, the High Court also acts as a Court of Record.
  2. It has the power to punish for contempt of itself.
  3. The High Court can frame the required rules to carry out its judicial functions.

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