High Court of India

High Court of India

High Court of India

  • The High Court of India, being the Highest Court of Appeal in the State, has the power to interpret the Constitution. It is the protector of the Fundamental Rights of the citizens. Besides, it has supervisory and consultative roles. However, the Constitution does not contain detailed provisions regarding the jurisdiction and powers of a high court.
  • At present, the High Court enjoys the following jurisdictions:
    • Original jurisdiction
    • Writ jurisdiction
    • Appellate jurisdiction
    • Supervisory jurisdiction
    • Control over subordinate courts
    • A court of record
    • Power of judicial review

The Jurisdiction of the High Court are as mentioned below –

  • Original Jurisdiction – In such kind of cases the applicant can directly go to the High Court and is not required to raise an appeal. It is mostly applicable to cases related to the State Legislative Assembly, marriages, enforcement of fundamental rights, and transfer cases from other courts.
  • Power of Superintendence – It is a special power enjoyed only by the High Court and no other subordinate court has this power of superintendence. Under this, the High Court holds the right to order its subordinate offices and courts the way of maintain records, prescribe rules for holding proceedings in the court, and also settle the fees paid to sheriff clerks, officers, and legal practitioners.
  • Court of Record – It involves recording the judgments, proceedings, and acts of high courts for perpetual memory. These records cannot be further questioned in any court. It has the power to punish for contempt of itself.
  • Control over Subordinate Courts – This is an extension of the supervisory and appellate jurisdiction. It states that the High Court can withdraw a case pending before any subordinate court if it involves a substantial question of law. The case can be disposed of itself or solve the question of law and return back to the same court.
  • Appellate Jurisdiction – This is for cases where people have raised a complaint about a review of the judgment given by the district level or subordinate court of that territory. This power is further divided into two categories:
    • Civil Jurisdiction – this includes orders and judgments of the district court, civil district court, and subordinate court 
    • Criminal Jurisdiction – this includes judgments and orders of the sessions court and additional sessions court. 
  • Power of Judicial Review – This power of the High Court includes the power to examine the constitutionality of legislative and executive orders of both central and state governments. It is to be noted that the word judicial review is nowhere mentioned in our constitution but the Articles 13 and 226 explicitly provide the High Court with this power.
  • Writ Jurisdiction of High Court – Article 226 of the Constitution empowers a high court to issue writs including habeas corpus, mandamus, certiorari, prohibition, and quo warrant for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the citizens and for any other purpose. 
  • The phrase ‘for any other purpose’ refers to the enforcement of an ordinary legal right. The high court can issue writs to any person, authority, and government not only within its territorial jurisdiction but also outside its territorial jurisdiction if the cause of action arises within its territorial jurisdiction (15th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1963).
  • In the Chandra Kumar case (1997), the Supreme Court ruled that the writ jurisdiction of both the High Court and the Supreme Court constitute a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. Hence, it cannot be ousted or excluded even by way of an amendment to the Constitution.
  • In Shah Faesal’s Case, his case is justified because the cause of action happened in Delhi and then he was taken outside the territory of Delhi.

Eligibility Criteria for High Court Judge

Certain eligibility criteria need to be fulfilled to be appointed as a judge in any High court in India. Given below are the set of eligibility criteria mandatory for the appointment of High Court judges:

  • He should be a citizen of India
  • He should have held a judicial office in the territory of India for ten years or
  • He should have been an advocate of a high court for ten years

Tenure of judges

  • He holds office until he attains the age of 62 years. Any question regarding his age will be determined by the President of India in consultation with the CJI and the decision of the President is final
  • He can resign from office by writing to the President
  • He can be removed from his office by the President on the recommendation of the Parliament
  • He vacates his office when he is appointed as a judge of the SC or when he is transferred to another high court

Removal of judges

  • A judge of the High Court can be removed from his/her office by an order of the President.
  • They can be removed on the following two grounds:
    • proved misbehaviour
    • incapacity
  • The procedure relating to the removal of a judge of the High Court is regulated by the Judges Enquiry Act (1968) and is the same as that for a judge of the Supreme Court.
  • As per the Act, the process of removal goes as follows:
    • A removal motion signed by 100 members in the case of Lok Sabha or 50 members in the case of Rajya Sabha is to be given to the Speaker/Chairman.
    • The Speaker/Chairman may admit the motion or refuse to admit it.
    • If the motion is admitted, then the Speaker/Chairman constitutes a three-member committee to investigate the charges. The Committee consists of:
      • The Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court,
      • A Chief Justice of a High Court, and
      • A distinguished jurist.
    • If the committee finds the judge guilty of the charges, then both the Houses of Parliament can take up the motion for consideration.
    • The motion must be passed by both Houses of Parliament with a Special Majority (50% of the total membership of the House + two-thirds of the members present and voting).
    • Once passed by both Houses of Parliament, an address is presented to the President for the removal of the judge.
    • Finally, the President passes an order, removing the judge.

Salaries and allowances

They are determined by the parliament and cannot be varied to the detriment of the judges once they are appointed. However, this does not apply during times of financial emergency

Note: Though the salary of a judge is charged to the consolidated fund of the state, the pension is charged to the consolidated fund of India

Transfer of Judges

  • The president can transfer a high court judge after consultation with the CJI
  • In 1994, the SC held that judicial review is necessary to check arbitrariness in the transfer of judges
  • In third judge cases, it was opined that the CJI should consult an additional of collegium of four senior-most judges of the SC and, the chief justice of the two high courts involved in the process before taking any final decision

Additional and Acting Judges

The president can appoint duly qualified persons as additional judges of a high court for a temporary period not exceeding two years when

  • There is a temporary increase in the business of the High Court
  • There are arrears of work in the high court

The president can also appoint a duly qualified person as an acting judge of a high court when a judge of that high court is:

  • Unable to perform the duties of his office due to absence or any other reasons
  • Appointed to act temporarily as chief justice of that high court

In both cases, the additional or acting judge cannot hold office beyond 62 years of age.

HC’s Power of Superintendence:

  • A High Court has also the power of superintendence over all Courts and Tribunals except those dealing with the armed forces functioning in the State.
  • This power has made the High Court responsible for the entire administration of Justice in the State.
  • It is both judicial as well as administrative in nature.
  • The Constitution does not place any restriction on its power of superintendence over the subordinate Courts. It may be noted the Supreme Court has no similar power vis-a-vis the High Court.
  • The governor also consults the High Court in the appointment and transfer of district judges and other officers of the judicial service in the state.

Related Links:

Supreme Court of IndiaInternational Court of Justice (ICJ)
National Investigation Agency (NIA)Parts of Indian Constitution