7 Functions of High Court in India: Jurisdiction and Power

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Functions of High Court in India

The High Court in India holds substantial powers similar to the Supreme Court of India. It is the highest Appellate Court within a State, safeguards people’s Fundamental Rights and has the authority to interpret the Indian Constitution. Furthermore, the High Court has a supervisory and consultative role in the Judiciary. However, while the Constitution lacks detailed provisions regarding a High Court’s jurisdiction and powers, it specifies that these are to stay consistent with pre-independence benchmarks. Notably, the Constitution grants High Courts jurisdiction over revenue matters which is a new addition from the pre-Constitution era. Read on to learn in detail about the 7 Functions of the High Court in India! 

What are the Functions of High Court in India?

The 7 Functions of High Court in India are as follows: 

1. Original Jurisdiction

Original jurisdiction is the initial authority of a High Court to hear disputes directly, they include:

  • Disputes on the election of Parliament and State legislators.
  • Revenue matters or actions in revenue collection.
  • Enforcement of citizens’ Fundamental Rights.
  • Cases from lower courts involving Constitutional interpretation.
  • The Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, and Delhi High Courts have Original civil jurisdiction for high-value cases.

Before 1973, Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras High Courts also had Original Criminal Jurisdiction, which was fully abolished by the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973.

Also Read: How many Supreme Courts are there in India?

2. Writ Jurisdiction

Another Functions of High Court in India is in Article 226 of the Indian Constitution empowers High Courts to issue Writs like Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Certiorari, Prohibition, and Quo Qarranto

  • These Writs safeguard citizens’ Fundamental Rights and enforce legal rights, even beyond the High Court’s territorial limits. 
  • Additionally, this authority, shared with the Supreme Court’s Article 32 jurisdiction, allows citizens to choose between the two for redressal. 
  • Notably, the High Court’s jurisdiction is broader, covering Fundamental Rights as well as other legal rights. 

Also Read: Important Articles in Indian Constitution Explained

3. Appellate Jurisdiction

A High Court is an appellate court for judgments from subordinate courts within its jurisdiction, with broader appellate authority than the Original Jurisdiction.

Civil Matters:

  • Hears first appeals from District Courts for legal and factual questions exceeding a specified limit.
  • Considers second appeals from district courts for questions of law.
  • Allows intra-court appeals for cases decided by a single judge.
  • Reviews decisions from administrative tribunals, under its Writ Jurisdiction since 1997.

Criminal Matters:

  • Reviews appeals from Sessions Courts for sentences over 7 years or death sentences.
  • Considers appeals from specified magistrates as per the Criminal Procedure Code (1973).

Also Read: Sources of Indian Constitution

4. Supervisory Jurisdiction

Furthermore, the High Court oversees all courts and tribunals in its jurisdiction, except military courts under the Functions of High Court in India. 

  • It can request info, and set rules, forms, and fees. 
  • This power covers administrative and judicial management, applied to all Courts regardless of their relation to the High Court’s appeals. 

However, this authority is limited to sub-courts and tribunals. It is sparingly used for specific cases such as: 

  • Jurisdictional overreach
  • Serious violations of justice
  • Legal errors
  • Disrespect for superior laws
  • Unjustifiable findings
  • Blatant injustice

Also Read: National Investigation Agency: Mission, Offices, Jurisdiction

5. Control over Subordinate Courts

In addition, the High Courts in India have powers over Subordinate Courts, including:

a) Advising the Governor on appointing, posting, and promoting district Judges, and appointing people to the State’s judicial service (excluding district judges).

b) Moreover, managing posting, promotion, leave, transfers, and discipline of members of the State’s judicial service (excluding district judges).

c) Transferring a case from a Subordinate Court if it involves a significant legal question requiring Constitutional interpretation. Furthermore, the High Court can decide the case or resolve the legal question and return the case to the Subordinate Court with its decision.

d) High Court rulings are binding on all  Subordinate Courts within its territorial jurisdiction, similar to Supreme Court decisions’ binding nature on all courts in India.

Also Read: What is Constitutional Morality?

6. A Court of Record

Another Functions of High Court in India is that a High Court as a Court of Record, has 2 important powers:

  • It keeps permanent records of its judgments, proceedings, and actions, which hold legal weight as precedents.
    • These records are unquestionable when presented before lower courts.
  • The High Court can penalize people for Contempt of Court, as defined in the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971.
    • This contempt can be civil or criminal, and the High Court can penalize contempt of both itself and Subordinate Courts. 
    • However, it cannot address contempt related to a Subordinate Court if it falls under offences punishable by the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Furthermore, despite not being explicitly mentioned in the Indian Constitution, a High Court can review and correct its judgments, orders, or decisions. In contrast, the Supreme Court is specifically granted the power of Review by the Constitution.

Also Read: Appointment of Judges of Supreme Court: A Guide

7. Power of Judicial Review

Judicial Review is the power of High Courts to check if laws and executive orders from the Central and State governments violate the Constitution. 

  • If found unconstitutional, the High Court can declare them null and void, meaning the government cannot enforce them. 
  • High Courts have this power under Article 13 and Article 226, even though the term Judicial Review is not in the Constitution. 
  • Laws can be challenged on 3 grounds which are:
    • Violation of Fundamental Rights
    • Overstepping the Authority
    • Contradicting the Constitution

In 1976, the 42nd Amendment Act limited the High Court’s review of central laws, but the 43rd Amendment Act in 1977 restored their authority to review these laws and orders.

Also Read: What is Doctrine of Severability?

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Lastly, we hope you liked our blog and gained an understanding of the Functions of High Court. Moreover, you may even read more blogs and empower yourself with knowledge regarding Civics and Polity! 

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