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In this week’s course with News18, we will understand the Indian legal system. The Indian administration is guided by three pillars: the legislative, the executive and the judiciary.
Under the Indian judiciary, there are several courts which interpret and apply the laws as mentioned in the Constitution. The Indian judicial system is divided into several levels in order to decentralize and deal with matters at the local level. It comprises the Supreme Court which is the supreme body of India, the High Court, Civil Courts, Village Courts, Criminal Courts and Tribunals.
What is the role of the judiciary?
According to the NCERT Class 10 book, the Indian judiciary is an independent body that resolves disputes that arise in a society between individuals, groups, between governments or between individuals and governments, etc.
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“All these disputes must be resolved by an independent body in accordance with the principle of the rule of law. This idea of the rule of law implies that all individuals – rich and poor, male or female, advanced or backward castes – are subject to the same law”
Types of Courts in India
The structure of the judicial system in India is pyramidal with the Supreme Court at the top, the high courts below and the district and subordinate courts at the lowest level. Lower courts operate under the direct supervision of higher courts.
Supreme Court: The country’s supreme court, the SC was incorporated on January 28, 1950. It is the highest court of appeal and hears both original cases and appeals from judgments of the high courts. It is made up of the Chief Justice of India and other judges. The position of CJI is currently held by NV Ramana. He was named the 48th CJI. Articles 124 to 147 of the Constitution of India define the authority of the Supreme Court. He can transfer the judges of the high courts. He can move any case from one HC to himself or from one HC to another.
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High Courts: The High Courts are the highest judicial body at the state level. Section 214, which defines the authority of the HCs, can hear appeals from lower courts, issue orders to restore basic rights, and can deal with matters within state jurisdiction. Currently, there are 25 HCs in India. High Court Judges are appointed by the President of India after consultation with the CJI of India, the HC and the Governor of the State.
District Courts: This type of court deals with cases at the district level. Established by state governments, these are bound by the judgments of the HC. Each district generally has two types of courts – civil and criminal.
Civil cases can range from property disputes to breach of contract to divorce cases. They are competent to hear all civil lawsuits.
The criminal courts deal with any crime committed by the citizens or the entity. Its powers are mentioned in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Once a criminal case is registered with the local police, it is forwarded to the court which decides the case.
Lok Adalat: These are subordinate courts at the village level that provide an alternative dispute resolution system in the villages under its jurisdiction.
The courts have the administration of specific matters such as tax cases, land cases, consumer cases, etc.
How are the judges appointed?
Over the years, a convention had developed whereby the most senior justice of the Supreme Court was appointed Chief Justice of India. This convention has, however, been broken twice. In 1973 AN Ray was appointed CJI replacing three senior judges. Again, Justice MH Beg was appointed to replace Justice HR Khanna (1975).
The Chief Justice then recommends the names of individuals to be appointed as judges. This is done in consultation with the Court’s four most senior judges. Thus, the Supreme Court established the principle of collegiality in appointment recommendations. These recommended names must be approved by the President.
Test your learning
“The appointment of judges has never been free from political controversy. It is part of the political process. It makes a difference who sits on the Supreme Court and the High Court – a difference in how the Constitution is interpreted. The political philosophy of the judges and their conceptions of an active and assertive justice or of a controlled and engaged justice have an impact on the fate of the laws enacted. Cabinet, Governors and Chief Ministers and Chief Justice of India – all influence the judicial appointment process,” the NCERT Social Science Handbook states.
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