• The Indian Judicial System is one of the oldest legal systems in the world today. It is part of the inheritance India received from the British after more than 200 years of their Colonial rule.
  • The framework of the current legal system has been laid down by the Indian Constitution and the judicial system derives its powers from it. There are various levels of judiciary in India— different types of courts, each with varying powers depending on the tier and jurisdiction bestowed upon them.
  • They form a hierarchy of importance, in line with the order of courts in which they sit, with the Supreme Court of India at the top, followed by High Courts of respective states with District Judges sitting in District Courts and Magistrates of Second Class and Civil Judge (Junior Division) at the bottom.

  • The District Court of India are established by the State Government in India for every district or more than one district taking into account the number of cases, population distribution in the district. These courts are under administrative control of the High Court of the State to which the district concerned belongs.

The District Court is presided over by one District Judge appointed by the State Government. In addition to the district judge there are many Additional District Judge and Assistant District Judge depending upon the workload. In every state, besides the High Court there are number of judicial Courts to administer justice. These courts function under the complete control and supervision of the High Court.

  • A state has got exclusive Legislative competence to determine the constituent organization and territorial jurisdiction of all courts subordinate to the High Court. The organization of subordinate courts throughout the country is generally uniform. There are two type of law courts in every district;
    • Civil Courts
    • Criminal Courts
  • The court of the district judges is the highest civil court in a district. It exercises both judicial and administrative powers. It has the power of superintendence over the courts under its control. The court of the District judge is located at the district headquarters. It has power of trying both civil and criminal cases.
  • Thus he is designated as the District and Sessions Judge. Below the court of the District Judge are the courts of Sub-judge, Additional Sub-Judge and Munsiff Courts, which are located in the sub-divisional and district headquarters.
  • Most of the civil cases are filed in the court of the Munsiff. A case can be taken in appeal from the court of the Munsiff to the court of the sub-Judge or the Additional Sub-Judge. Appeals from the courts of the sub- Judges and Additional sub-Judges shall lie in the District-Court.
  • The Court of the District Judge has both original and appellate jurisdiction. Against the decision of the District judge an appeal-shall lie in the High Court.
  • Civil Court has been categorized on the basis of Jurisdiction:
    • Subject Matter Jurisdiction: It can be defined as the Authority vested in the court to try and hear cases of the particular type and pertaining to a particular subject matter.
    • Territorial Jurisdiction: The court can decide within the geographical limits of a court’s authority and it cannot exercise authority beyond that territorial and geographical limits.
    • Pecuniary Jurisdiction: Pecuniary Jurisdiction is related to money, whether a court can try cases and suits of monetary value/amount of the case or suit in question.
    • Appellate Jurisdiction: It refers to the authority of a court to rehear or review a case that has already been decided by a lower court. Appellate jurisdiction is generally vested in higher courts. In India, both the High Courts and the Supreme Court have appellate jurisdiction to hear matters which are brought in the form of appeal before them. They can either overrule the judgment of the lower court or uphold it.
  • In simple words jurisdiction can be defined as the limit of judicial authority or the extent to which a court of law can exercise its authority over suits, cases, appeals and other proceedings.
  • The rationale behind introducing the concept of jurisdiction in law is that a court should be able to try and adjudicate only in those matters with which it has some connection or which falls within the territorial or pecuniary limits of its authority.
  • Section 9 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 confers jurisdiction over the civil courts to adjudicate upon all suits of civil nature, except such suits the cognizance of which is either expressly or implied barred. In other words whenever the object of the proceedings is the enforcement of civil rights, a civil court would have jurisdiction to entertain the suit unless the cognizance of the same is barred through a legislative instrument.
  • In pre-trial hearing parties to the dispute and their lawyers hold a pre-schedule meeting before the trial begins in the presence of judge, or a magistrate or a judicial officer who possesses fewer judicial powers than a judge.
  • In India, the system of pre-trial hearing is not clearly celebrated as a distinctive feature of the judicial process, although both the Civil Procedure Code and Criminal Procedure Code contain certain provisions that can be utilized for this purpose. The Law Commission has rejected the proposal for pre-trial conferences in the Fourteenth Report.
  • It is observed that conditions in our country are not yet ripe for the introduction of such an innovation. Although, government is seeking to speed up disposal of cases by introducing the system of ‘pre-trial hearings’ on the lines of the UK and the US.
    Disclosure refers to that juncture of the litigation process when each party is:
  • Required to disclose the documents that are relevant to the issues in dispute to the other party. Under Civil Procedure Code, a party by the way of discovery is enabled to obtain material facts or information in the form of documents from the other party. An application for discovery of documents may be made to the court and.
  • The court may direct the other party to the suit to disclose the documents requested by the other side in case such document is in the possession of the opposite party. However, such a discovery shall not be ordered if the court is of the opinion that it is not necessary either for disposing of the suit or for saving costs. The process of the discovery of documents is made after the examination of parties. In three stages:
    • The disclosure in writing by one party to the other of all the documents which he has in his possession;
    • The inspection of the documents disclosed, other than those for which privilege from or other objection to production is properly claimed or raised
    • The production of the documents disclosed either for inspection by the opposite party or to the court
  • The court has the power to make an order, at any time during the pendency of any civil proceedings, where it deems appropriate, production of any document in the possession or power of any party to such proceedings.
  • While it must be noted that an arbitral tribunal constituted under Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996, is not bound by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, however, in practice, the rules of document disclosure followed in arbitration proceedings remain largely similar to those applied in civil proceedings.
  • However, it is significant that under the Arbitration Act, parties are free to decide the procedure to be followed by the arbitral tribunal and the tribunal may conduct the proceedings in a manner it deems fit on a case to case basis.
  • Whereas, when conciliation proceedings are conducted under the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996, the conciliator and the parties are required to keep and maintain secrecy concerning all matters relating to the conciliation proceedings or including any settlement agreement apart from where its disclosure is necessary for purpose of implementation and enforcement of any order.
    In practice, the Courts in India in their respective jurisdictions, in the form of notifications, circulars, handbooks, etc. issue rules governing litigation procedures applicable to advocates and courts all over India.