Jurisdiction of High Court

Court of Record (Article 215):

Article 215 declares “Every High Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself”.

  • Article 215 is identical with Article 129 which declares the Supreme Court a Court of Record. The scope and nature of the power of the High Court under Article 215 is therefore similar to the powers of the Supreme Court under Article 129.
  • The expressions “Court of Record” and “Contempt of Court” have been explained under Article 129 and would have the same meaning and scope under Article 215.
  • The power to punish a contempt of itself. Neither the Supreme Court nor the Legislature has the power to deprive the High Court of that right and power by ordering a transfer of such proceedings to another High Court.
  • However, in L.P. Misra vs. State of U.P.,” the Supreme Court has ruled that jurisdiction of High Court under Article 215 has to be exercised din accordance with the procedure prescribed by law, and in accordance with procedure prescribed under the High Court Rules. It has been ruled that the High Court, under Article 215, does not have power to punish for contempt of Supreme Court.

Original Jurisdiction:

  • It refers to the ability of a high court to hear disputes in the first instance rather than on appeal. It applies to the following:
  • Disputes of admiralty: The Maritime/Admiralty law is a distinct branch of law that governs disputes and offences related to sailing on the sea or doing business (such as trading) on the sea. It comprises both domestic laws governing maritime activities and private international law regulating relationships between private entities which operate ships/vessels on the oceans.
  • Admiralty Jurisdiction in India:
    • The only Courts statutorily empowered to exercise Admiralty Jurisdiction in India are certain designated High Courts who derive their power from the Colonial Court of Admiralty Act, 1891.
    • These are principally the High Courts of Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta and under the State’s Reorganization Act, the High Court of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa are also considered as Admiralty Courts.
    • An order of “Bombay High Court” can be executed anywhere in Indian territorial waters. The “Bombay High Court” has Pan-India jurisdiction which means a ship can be arrested anywhere in Indian waters with the order of arrest passed by the Bombay High Court while the Gujarat, Madras, Calcutta, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa High Courts have Admiralty Jurisdiction over their state territorial waters only.
    • Disputes over the election of members of Parliament and state legislatures
    • In relation to revenue matter or an act ordered or performed in the course of revenue collection.
    • Protection of citizens’ fundamental rights.
    • Cases ordered to be transferred from a subordinate court to its own file involving constitutional interpretation.
    • In cases of higher value, the four high courts (Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, and Delhi High Courts) have original civil jurisdiction.

Writ Jurisdiction (Article 226):

  • Article 226 of the Constitution authorizes a high court to issue writs such as for the enforcement of fundamental rights and for any other purpose.
  • The phrase “for any other purpose” refers to the enforcement of a common legal right.
  • The high court has the authority to issue writs to any person, authority, or government not only within its territorial jurisdiction but also outside it if the cause of action arises within its territorial jurisdiction.
  • The high court’s writ jurisdiction is not exclusive, but rather concurrent with the Supreme Court’s writ jurisdiction (under Article 32).
  • However, the high court’s writ jurisdiction is broader than that of the Supreme Court. This is because the Supreme Court can only issue writs for the enforcement of fundamental rights and not for any other purpose, which means that it does not apply in cases where an ordinary legal right is allegedly violated.
  • The Court will not ordinarily issue a writ where the impugned order is made by an authority within its jurisdiction and is not clearly erroneous.

Principles for the exercise of Writ Jurisdiction

  • Alternative Remedy: Article 226 provides for a discretionary remedy and high court has the power to refuse the grant of any writ if it is satisfied that the aggrieved party have adequate alternative remedy. Remedies provided under this article can’t be used as a substitute for other remedies. So, therefore it can be said that a writ under Article 226 can’t be issued by the High Court in the case where there exists an equal, efficient and adequate alternative remedy unless there is any exceptional reason for dealing the matter under Article 226.
    • In spite of availability of the alternative remedy, a three-Judge Bench held the writ petition of the Supreme Court in State of H.P. vs Gujarat Ambuja Cement Co. Ltd, held that the High Court may still exercise its writ jurisdiction in least three contingencies:
      • Where the writ petition seeks enforcement of any of the fundamental rights
      • Where there is failure of principles of natural justice
      • Where the orders or proceedings are wholly without jurisdiction or the vires of an Act is challenged.
  • Latch/Delay: there is any specified limitation period for filing a writ petition in Indian Constitution also or in any other law. Whereas, exorbitant delay in filing the petition can be an appropriate ground for refusing to grant relief by The High Court.
    • And if the delay is explained properly to satisfy the court then it can’t be refused by the court on that ground. It was a well-established principle that a writ of certiorari can’t be issued in case there is negligence on the part of the applicant to assert his right. 
  • Suppression of Material Facts:
    • As a general rule, suppression of a material fact by a litigant, disqualifies litigant from obtaining any relief. This rule has been evolved out of the Courts to deter a litigant from abusing the process of Court by deceiving it. However, the suppressed fact must be a material one in the sense that had it not been suppressed it would have had an effect on the merits of the case. It must be a matter ijn which was material for the consideration of whatever view the Court might have taken.
  • Res Judicata:
    • It means if the thing has been judged by the court, the issue before a court has already been decided by another court and between the same parties. Hence, the court will dismiss the case as it has been decided by another court. Res judicata applies to both civil and criminal legal systems. When a petition under Article 226 is dismissed on its merits, it operates as res judicata and bars a fresh petition under article 226.

Supervisory Jurisdiction (Article227,228, 235)

  • General superintendence (Article 227)
  • Power to transfer certain Cases(Article 228)
  • Control over Subordinate Courts (Article 235)
  • High Court, Power of Superintendence (Article 227): Article 227(1) confers on the High Court the power of “superintendence over all courts and tribunals throughout the territories in relation to which its exercises jurisdiction” It empowers the High Court to ensure that the courts and Tribunals inferior to the High Court, discharge their duties and obligations. In the exercise of this power the High Court may
    • Call for returns from such courts.
    • Make and issue general rules and prescribe forms for regulating the practice and proceedings of such courts, and prescribe forms in which books, entries and accounts shall be kept by the officers of any such courts.
    • Prescribe forms in which books, entries and accounts shall be kept by the officer of any such courts.
  • Transfer of Certain Cases to High Court (Article 228): Article 228 empowers the High Court to withdraw to itself certain cases pending before subordinate Courts. For the exercise of this power the High Court must be satisfied that a case pending in a court subordinate to it:
    • Involves a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution, and
    • The determination of the said question is necessary for the disposal of the case.
    • Where the High Court withdraws a case to itself then-
    • the High Court may dispose of the case itself.
    • the High Court may determine the said question and return the case to the court from which the case has been so withdraws together with a copy of its judgment on such question.
  • Control over Subordinate court (Article 235)
    • The control over district courts and courts subordinate thereto including the posting and promotion of, and the grant of leave to, persons belonging to the judicial service of a State and holding any post inferior to the post of district judge shall be vested in the High Court.

Subordinate Court:

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Civil Courts:

  • Civil cases pertain to disputes between two or more persons regarding property, breach of agreement or contract, divorce or landlord-tenant disputes. 
  • The disputes relating to property, succession, ownership and other such rights come under the jurisdiction of Civil Courts, which dispose of these cases in accordance with the Civil Procedure Code. 

Criminal Courts

  • Criminal cases are related to the violation of laws. These cases involve theft, dacoity, rape, pickpocketing, physical assault, murder, etc. These cases are filed in the lower court by the police, on behalf of the state, against the accused.
  • In such cases the accused, if found guilty, is awarded punishment like fine, imprisonment or even death sentence.
  • These cases are disposed of by the Criminal Courts in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal Code. 

Revenue Courts:

  • Revenue courts deal with cases of land revenue in the State. 
  • The highest revenue court in the district is the Board of Revenue. 
  • Under it are the Courts of Commissioners, Collectors, Tehsildars and Assistant Tehsildars. 
  • The Board of Revenue hears the final appeals against all the lower revenue courts under it.

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