Comparison with Judiciary in USA and UK

Features of British Judicial System:

  • No Single form of organisation: There is no single form of judicial system that prevails throughout the entire United Kingdom. There is one arrangement of courts for England and Wales, another for Scotland and still another for Northern Ireland. The law of Scotland differs both in principle and procedure and accordingly the organisation of courts is also different.
  • No Separate Administrative Courts: Secondly, there is no separate set of administrative courts in England as there are in France and other continental countries. In these countries, two distinct types of courts, ordinary and administrative exist.
    • In administrative courts, administrative law is applied, whereas in the ordinary courts, ordinary law is applied. In England there is a rule of law which implies absence of administrative law.
    • The English Common Law recognises no distinction between the acts of Government officials and ordinary citizens.
  • Absence of Judicial Review: It is because of Parliamentary sovereignty.
  • Jury System: A group of people who are sworn to give a verdict on a case provided by a court, including judgment or penalty. Hears evidence & arguments. The verdict can either be unanimous or require only a majority of the jury members’ votes. They are appointed by court.

Organisation of British Judiciary

The present day organisation of law courts in England flows from the Judicature act 1872, as amended by the act od 1925. There are two kinds of court” Criminal and Civil court.

Criminal Court:

  • Justices of the Peace (JPs): The lowest rung of criminal courts is the JPs. In England when a person is charged with a crime, he is brought before one or more, JPs or in the large towns, before a stipendiary magistrate. The jurisdiction of the JPs and magistrates extends over minor misdemeanours which are punishable by a fine up to £ 9 and simple imprisonment of not more than fourteen days.
  • Court of Quarter Sessions: Appeals from the lower courts may be taken to the Court of Quarter Sessions which consists of all the JPs in the country meeting four times a year and it is for this reason that it is called “Quarter Sessions.” It also exercises original jurisdiction in serious criminal cases but not serious enough to warrant holding the accused for the assizes. Help of the jury is sought in these courts. The grave cases like those of murder, treason, etc., do not originate in this court.
  • Court of Assizes: In the hierarchy, above the JPs, are the assizes courts. They are branches of the High Court of Justice. They are held in the country towns and in certain cities three times a year. Each such court is presided by a judge or sometimes two judges of the High Court of Justice who go around on circuits. The Court of Assizes functioning in London is called “Central Criminal Court” and in popular parlance it is known as “Old Baeley”. The jurisdiction of the Assizes includes all the grave offences, for example, armed robbery, kidnapping.

Civil Court:

  • The civil courts are concerned with civil cases pertaining to property or wealth.
  • Country Court: These are the lowest court in civil matters which decide dispute in which amount involved is not more than 400 pounds. There are about 500 country court in England and wales. They function in 75 circuits.The next tier above the country court is Supreme court of judicature. It is divided into three branches:
    • High court of justice
    • Court of Appeal: Receives appeals from both the country courts and High court of justice. Appeal can be taken only on question of law. From the court of appeal, dissatisfied litigant can prefer an appeal on questions of law to the House of Lords.
    • House of Lords: The hierarchical order of the Civil Courts runs as County Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and House of Lords, whereas that of Criminal Courts is-Court of Summary Jurisdiction, Quarter Session Court, Assizes, Court of Criminal Appeal and House of Lords.

The Supreme Court: Constitutional reforms

  • The supreme court comprises of 12 Judges known as “Justices of the Supreme Court” they include a President and Deputy President, appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of Judicial Appointment Commission
  • Power of Supreme court:
    • The Supreme Court being the final court of appeal plays an important role in the development of United Kingdom law. As an appeal court, Supreme Court can consider after a relevant order made in a lower court.
    • The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal for all the United Kingdom Civil and criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
    • It hears appeals on arguable points of law of general public importance.
    • It concentrates on cases of greatest public and constitutional importance.
    • Supreme Court maintains and develops the role of the highest court in the United Kingdom as a leader in the common law work.
    • The Supreme Court hears appeals from the following courts in each jurisdiction.

US Court

The federal court system has three main levels: district courts (the trial court), circuit courts which are the first level of appeal, and the Supreme Court of the United States, the final level of appeal in the federal system. There are 94 district courts, 13 circuit courts, and one Supreme Court throughout the country.

The Constitution does not refer to structure of organisation. It states that Judicial power will be vested in the Supreme Court and the inferior Courts as Congress may ordain and establish. The other federal courts have been created by the Congress. The Supreme Court stands at the apex of the American judicial pyramid.

Supreme Court:

  • All the judges are appointed by the President and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Constitution prescribes no qualifications for of the Apex Court judge. Hence, the President is free to appoint any one for whom senatorial confirmation can be obtained. The rule of “Senatorial Courtesy” does not limit the choice of the President. From its very inception, an attempt has been made almost invariably to select men of high prestige and outstanding ability.
  • The judges hold office during good behaviour and are removable by impeachment only. A judge may retire, if he wishes, when he reaches the age of seventy or at any time thereafter. He may retire at sixty-five with fifteen years of service, or at the age of seventy with ten years’ service at his credit and receive full pay for life. Since the judges do not readily give up office even when they reach the retirement age, there has been criticism of life appointments.
  • There are no benches. All the judges sit together for judgement.

District Court

  • The District Courts are the federal courts of original jurisdiction. There are ninety-four US District Courts. Each State constitutes at least one district, while the more populous States have two, three or even eight within their boundaries. Some districts are sub-divided into divisions.
  • In each district, there is at least one judge though in many cases there are several judges for a single district. Where there is more than one judge in a district, each holds court simultaneously. They do not sit together. Judges can also be shifted temporarily from one district to another, whenever such action becomes desirable through pressure of work.
  • The district judges are also appointed by the President for life, or at any rate, for good behaviour. There have been occasional removal for misbehaviour either by impeachment or by demands backed by the threat of impeachment, but such actions have been rare.
  • The appointments to the district judges are subject to the senatorial approval, and herein the rule of “Senatorial Courtesy” plays its full part.

Circuit Court

  • Once the federal district court has decided a case, the case can be appealed to a United States court of appeal. There are twelve federal circuits that divide the country into different regions. The Fifth Circuit, for example, includes the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Cases from the district courts of those states are appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana. Additionally, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has a nationwide jurisdiction over very specific issues such as patents.
  • Each circuit court has multiple judges, ranging from six on the First Circuit to twenty-nine on the Ninth Circuit. Circuit court judges are appointed for life by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
  • Any case may be appealed to the circuit court once the district court has finalized a decision.

Comparison of Indian & US Judiciary

In India and US, the Constitution acts as the ‘Supreme Law of the Land’ while the judiciary acts as the guardian and interpreter of the Constitution.

  • India follows Procedure Established by Law. Whereas USA follows Due Process of Law.
  • Original Jurisdiction is confined to federal matters in Indian Supreme Court. Whereas, its American counterpart enjoys wider authority.
  • While, Supreme Court of India, in exercise of its Appellate Jurisdiction, covers constitutional, civil and criminal matters. The Supreme Court of America is confined to constitutional cases only.
  • Indian Judicial System has a wide discretion to grant Special Leave to Appeal. However, American Judicial System has no plenary powers to grant such an appeal.
  • Indian Judicial System has a provision for Advisory Jurisdiction. Whereas, no such provision is provided in the American Judicial System.
  • In India, the scope of Judicial Review is limited whereas it has a wider scope in USA.
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