High Court UPSC: Background, Appointment of Judges, Jurisdiction & List of High Courts in India

By Devyani Singh|Updated : September 9th, 2022

The High Courts in India are the topmost judicial body in every state. High Courts serve as lower courts in India's judicial hierarchy than the Supreme Court. A High Court and a system of lower courts make up the state's judicial system. According to the Indian Constitution, each state has a High Court, but the Parliament has the power to establish a common high court two or more states. A high court's territorial jurisdiction is co-terminus with a state's territory.

High Courts in India are one of the fundamental topics of Indian Polity,, making it an absolute requirement from the IAS perspective. This topic is significant for all UPSC Exam aspirants. This article shall cover all necessary details, a list of High Courts in India, their functions, their jurisdiction, their constitutional conception, etc.

Table of Content

High Court

The highest appellate court in Indian States and Union Territories is the High Court. A state's top court is known as the High Court. It is recognised as the nation's second-highest court and is positioned behind the Supreme Court of India. The High Court is composed of the Chief Justice and any additional justices that the President may deem appropriate from time to time, as stated in Article 216 of the Indian Constitution. In this way, unlike the Supreme Court, the number of judges on a High Court can vary and be decided by the President on a case-by-case basis while taking the volume of work before a High Court into consideration.

Every state in India is required to have a High Court, as stipulated in Article 214. A joint High Court, however, may exist for two or more States or two or more States and a union territory, as per Article 231.

In India, there are 25 High Courts, six of which have jurisdiction over several States or UTs. Among the Union Territories, Delhi has its own High Court. 

High Court: Historical Background

A High Court and a system of subordinate courts make up the State Judiciary. An integral cog in the country's judicial system, let's trace its inception.

  • On the recommendation of the Law Commission, the Indian High Courts Act 1861, which proposed the formation of High Courts in the three Presidency cities of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay in place of the Supreme Court, was adopted in 1858. Over time, further High Courts were created.
  • The High Court of Calcutta approved a charter in May 1862, and the High Courts of Bombay and Madras followed suit in June 1862. As an outcome, the Calcutta High Court was established as the first High Court in the nation.
  • The Constitution establishes the High Courts' organisational framework and legal foundation.
  • There are 25 High Courts currently for 28 States and 8 Union Territories. The Andhra Pradesh High Court is a recent addition to the region. It becomes operational on January 1st, 2019.

>> High Court UPSC [PDF]

Appointment of the High Court Judges 

A procedure is followed for the Appointment of High Court judges. It has been briefed in the pointers below:

  • The President appoints the Judges of a High Court.
  • However, before assigning judges to High Courts other than the Chief Justice, the President must contact the Chief Justice of India, the State Governor, and the High Court Chief Justice.
  • According to Article 222, the President may transfer High Court judges after consulting with the Chief Justice of India.

High Court Judges: Tenure, Removal and Salary 

The details briefly explaining the tenure, the process of removal and the salary of a High Court judge have been listed below;

Tenure

  • A High Court judge appointed permanently holds office until age 62.
  • The President decides on any disagreements regarding the age of judges after consulting with the Chief Justice of India; the President's judgement is final.
  • A judge is not in the office while the President is in office.

Removal

  • On the suggestion of the Parliament, the President may order the removal of a judge from his position.
  • Only misbehaviour and incapacity are grounds for removal.
  • The order is approved after each House of Parliament gives a speech that is supported by a majority of the entire House and a majority of two-thirds of the total number of members from each House present at the time and voting.

Salary and Emoluments

  • According to Article 221, a High Court judge is eligible for pension and leave-of-absence benefits that Parliament may periodically decide upon.
  • However, this cannot be altered to the Judge's detriment once appointed.

Jurisdiction of High Courts

The High Court is the superior judicial body in a state. A High Court, however, only exercises its original criminal and civil jurisdiction if the lower courts are not permitted by statute to hear such cases due to a lack of pecuniary or territorial jurisdiction. High Courts may also have original jurisdiction over a specific case if the constitution, state legislation, or federal law expressly grants them that authority.

Most High Courts' activity comprised primarily of writ petitions filed following Articles 226 and 227 of the Indian constitution and appeals from subordinate courts. A High Court's original jurisdiction includes writ jurisdiction as well. 

Territorial Jurisdiction

  • The territorial limits of a state coincide with the jurisdiction of a High Court.
  • The High Court's authority does, however, extend to those areas if the Parliament creates a High Court for two or more States or expands its jurisdiction to Union Areas.
  • The Constitution does not provide a full definition of the High Court's authority, jurisdiction, or other administrative functions.

Original Jurisdiction

  • The other High Courts primarily have appellate authority. However, the High Courts of the Presidency Towns have original and appellate jurisdiction.
  • Only cases involving admiralty, probate, matrimonial law, and contempt of court fall under the original jurisdiction of the other High Court. The Presidency High Courts used to have initial jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases.
  • All High Courts lost their initial criminal jurisdiction due to the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973. Only civil cases with a value above a certain threshold fall under the original jurisdiction.

Appellate Jurisdiction of High Court

  • All High Courts considers appeals in civil and criminal cases from their subordinate tribunals and their original side as they function as appellate courts.
  • Several High Courts permit intra-court appeals. From a single judge's ruling, an appeal may be made to a division bench of the same High Court.
  • On the other hand, tribunals established in accordance with the law governing the nation's military services are outside the purview of the High Courts.

Writ Jurisdiction of High Court

According to Article 226 of the Constitution, the High Courts have the authority to issue directives, orders, or writs to enforce and protect Fundamental Rights and any other reason.

Functions of the High Court 

Being one of the most important judicial bodies of the country, the High Court have numerous functions that account for the smoother administration of justice to the masses. These have been explained below:

Administrative and Supervisory Functions 

  • Every High Court is guaranteed to have complete control over the employees under Article 229 of the Constitution.
  • In accordance with this Article, the Chief Justice of a High Court has the power to designate Court employees.
  • Additionally, he has the power to control employee working conditions and dismiss any employee employed by the Court.
  • The highest court in a state's legal system is the High Court. According to Article 227, a High Court can supervise and direct the lower courts in all legal and administrative affairs.

Court of Record for Subordinate Courts

  • The lower courts must abide by the High Court's decision.
  • All upcoming cases will be related to their methods and judgments.
  • It has the power to punish anyone who disobeys it or one of its lower courts.
  • It can also search the files of its inferior courts.

Superintendence

  • Every High Court has the authority to oversee all courts and tribunals functioning within its territorial jurisdiction, except for those dealing with the Armed Forces.
  • The High Court establishes guidelines and standards for how these courts must do their business and oversee and manage their operations.

The High Court's power

  • Demand the restoration of the judgments from lower courts;
  • Enact and publish general rules controlling the conduct of such courts' proceedings and defining forms;
  • cases are transferred from one court to another and prescribe the formats in which the officers of any such courts need to maintain their records and accounts.
  • Under Article 235, the High Court may also establish guidelines for the appointment, promotion, and absence of lower court personnel.
  • Judicial Review Authority: The High Court has the authority to examine the constitutionality of legislative and executive orders issued by the federal and state governments. Our constitution does not include the term "judicial review," but Articles 13 and 226 explicitly provide the High Court with this authority.

List of High Courts in India

The number of High Courts in India is 25. The list is given below:

Year

Name of the High Court

Territorial Jurisdiction

Seat & Bench

1862

Bombay

Maharashtra

Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman Diu

Goa

Seat: Mumbai

Bench: Panaji, Aurangabad, and Nagpur

1862

Kolkata

West Bengal

Andaman & Nicobar islands

Seat: Kolkata

Bench: Port Blair

1862

Madras

Tamil Nadu

Pondicherry

Seat: Chennai

Bench: Madurai

1866

Allahabad

Uttar Pradesh

Seat: Allahabad

Bench: Lucknow

1884

Karnataka

Karnataka

Seat: Bengaluru

Bench: Dharwad and Gulbarga

1916

Patna

Bihar

Patna

1948

Guwahati

Assam

Nagaland

Mizoram

Arunachal Pradesh

Seat: Guwahati

Bench: Kohima, Aizawl, and Itanagar

1949

Odisha

Odisha

Cuttack

1949

Rajasthan

Rajasthan

Seat: Jodhpur

Bench: Jaipur

1956

Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh

Seat: Jabalpur

Bench: Gwalior and Indore

1958

Kerala

Kerala & Lakshadweep

Ernakulam

1960

Gujarat

Gujarat

Ahmedabad

1966

Delhi

Delhi

Delhi

1971

Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh

Shimla

1975

Punjab & Haryana

Punjab, Haryana & Chandigarh

Chandigarh

1975

Sikkim

Sikkim

Gangtok

2000

Chattisgarh

Chattisgarh

Bilaspur

2000

Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand

Nainital

2000

Jharkhand

Jharkhand

Ranchi

2013

Tripura

Tripura

Agartala

2013

Manipur

Manipur

Imphal

2013

Meghalaya

Meghalaya

Shillong

2019

Telangana

Telangana

Hyderabad

2019

Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh

Amravati

2019

Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh

(Note: Jammu & Kashmir High Court was established in 1928. After the bifurcation of J&K into two union territories; there is now a common High Court.)

Jammu and Kashmir

Ladakh

Difference between Writ Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and High Courts

The writ jurisdiction is a common ground between the Supreme Court o India and the High Courts. Below is a table that concisely differentiates between the two:

Supreme Court

High Court

Only in cases when a basic right has been breached the Supreme Court can issue writs.

High Courts have the authority to issue writs for the enforcement of both basic rights and common citizens' rights. As a result, the High Court has wider jurisdiction than the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is mandated to issue writs under Article 32.

The High Courts have the discretion to provide relief to the harmed party using their writ jurisdiction.

The entire nation is within the purview of the Supreme Court's territorial jurisdiction.

The High Courts only have a little amount of territorial authority.

High Court UPSC

High Courts in India are an extremely topic from the IAS Exam perspective. This topic is very relevant under the subject of Polity in theUPSC syllabus. This makes it an often enquired-about topic in theUPSC Prelims,UPSC Mains, and optional papers. Candidates should brush up on their basics and commit all the facts to their memory. 

High Court UPSC Questions

Question: The transfer of Judges from one High Court to another High Court may be made by the:

  1. President of India in consultation with the Chief Justice of that High Court.
  2. Chief Justice of the concerned High Court
  3. Governor of the concerned State in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
  4. President of India after consultation with the Chief Justice of India.

Answer: Option D

Question: The writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Constitution of India is not wider than that of the writ jurisdiction of the High Courts under Article 226 because the High Courts may exercise this power concerning:

  1. Civil and criminal matters
  2. Fundamental and other legal rights
  3. Fundamental rights and matters in appeals
  4. Fundamental rights and stay matters

Answer: Option B

Other Important UPSC Notes
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Wetlands in IndiaSpecial Economic Zone In India
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High Court FAQs

  • A state's top court is known as the High Court. It is recognised as the nation's second-highest court and is positioned behind the Supreme Court of India. The High Court is composed of the Chief Justice and any additional justices that the President may deem appropriate from time to time, as stated in Article 216 of the Indian Constitution.

  • The Indian High Courts Act, 1861 created the first High Court in India, "The High Court of Judicature at Fort William," which is now known as the High Court of Calcutta, and was formally inaugurated on July 1, 1862.

  • There are 25 High Courts in India, with six having control over more than one State/UT. Delhi has a High Court of its own among the Union Territories. Each High Court shall consist of a Chief Justice and such other judges as appointed by the President of India.

  • On 10 August 2022, Justice U. U. Lalit was appointed the 49th Chief Justice of India. Justice Dhanajaya Yeshwant Chandrachud will succeed Justice U. U. Lalit as the 50th CJI.

  • The Indian High Courts Act of 1861, vested in the Queen of England, the power to issue charters/letters patent to erect and establish High Courts of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. The Letters Patent defined the jurisdiction and powers of the High Court. Download High Court UPSC Notes from here.

  • The primary functions of the High Courts in India: 

    • Original Jurisdiction
    • Appellate Jurisdiction
    • High Court as the Court of Record
    • Power of Judicial Review
    • Power of Certification
    • Administrative Powers of a High Court
  • The Calcutta High Court is the oldest High Court in India. It has jurisdiction over the State of West Bengal and the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

  • There are 25 high courts in India. The number of total judges sanctioned in these high courts is 1108 of which 836 judges are permanent and the remaining 272 sanctioned for additional judges. As of 1 August 2022, 380 of the seats, about 34%, are vacant.

  • Anna Chandy made history on February 9, 1959, when she became the first Indian woman to serve as a judge at a high court.

  • Allahabad High Court has 160 judges, the largest number of judges in a High Court. High Court of Judicature at Allahabad is the high court located in Prayagraj that has jurisdiction over Uttar Pradesh

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