Judicial System in West Bengal
West Bengal has a systematic and organised Judiciary that helps in quick delivery of justices. The Judicial Department is the nodal department relating to the Administration of Justice, Constitution and Organisation of all courts except the Supreme Court, High Court and Rent & Revenue Courts. With the changing times, this department is making judicial outreach to the doorsteps of the people through various facilities and adequate infrastructure.
The judicial system in West Bengal comprises the Calcutta High Court and a system of Lower Courts (labour and tribunal court) called the District courts.
Calcutta High Court
Formerly regarded as the ‘High Court of Judicature at Fort William’, the High Court of Calcutta is the oldest High Court in India.
- As evident from the name, it is in Kolkata, West Bengal.
- It was established on 1st July 1862 under the High Courts Act, 1861 (with name as ‘High Court of Judicature at Fort William’) which was preceded by the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William.
- The High Court of Calcutta has jurisdiction over the state of West Bengal, and the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- The Calcutta High Court extended its Circuit Bench in Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and in Jalpaiguri, the divisional headquarters of the North Bengal area of West Bengal.
- On 7 February 2019, President Ram Nath Kovind finalised the opening of the other circuit bench in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal with the jurisdiction area within five districts- Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Cooch Behar.
Note: Despite the city name changed to Kolkata in 2001, the High Court as an institution still retains the old name as ‘High Court of Calcutta’. The Calcutta High Court is one of the three High courts of India established in the Presidency towns. The peculiar feature of the Court premises is that the High Court building’s design is based on the Cloth Hall, Ypres, in Belgium.
Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court:
- The first Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court was Sir Barnes Peacock.
- Sumboo Nath Pandit was the first Indian to assume office as a Judge of Calcutta High Court on 2nd February 1863.
- Phani Bhusan Chakravarti became the first Indian to be permanent Chief Justice of Calcutta High court.
- The longest-serving Chief Justice was Sankar Prasad Mitra.
- Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan (TBN Radhakrishnan) is the current Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court. (as on 12th July 2019).
Judges: The Court has a Sanctioned strength of 72 (Permanent:54, Additional:18) judges.
Before we proceed further let us have a glance at the Role of Courts in Brief:
Supreme Court (SC)
The Decisions of SC are binding on all Courts. The Supreme Court functions as a last resort tribunal.
High Court is the apex body that governs the State administration, headed by the Chief Justice of the State. Authorised to issue Fundamental Rights related writs
The district court or additional district court exercises jurisdiction both on original side and appellate in civil and criminal matters arising in the district.
Under a High Court, there is a hierarchy of subordinate courts, i.e. district courts and lower courts. The single system of courts, adopted from the Government of India Act of 1935, enforces both Central laws as well as the state laws.
District Court is the highest civil court of a district. It is presided over by the District Court Judge, appointed by the State Government. These judges decide civil related cases such as divorce, will, land, property, money transactions, guardianship and arbitration.
District Courts of West Bengal are under the administrative control of the Calcutta High Court. The decisions of the District Court of West Bengal are subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the Calcutta High Court.
District Courts are of two types under the High Court of Kolkata:
- The criminal court that deals with criminal matters and
- The civil court that deals with civil issues
In Kolkata, criminal cases are tried by the Metropolitan Magistrates, and the city civil courts adjudicate civil suits. Outside Kolkata, criminal cases are tried by Chief Judicial Magistrate.
Note: Generally, in every district considering the total number of cases, population, District Courts are established.
Other Lower Courts
- On the civil side, the subordinate courts in a district are Junior Civil Court, Senior Civil Judge Court (in ascending order).
- Subordinate Courts, on the criminal side (in ascending order), are Second Class Judicial Magistrate Court, First Class Judicial Magistrate Court and Chief Judicial Magistrate Court etc.
There are many Labour Courts established in various districts of West Bengal. The Labour Court and Industrial Tribunal are set up in the State under the Industrial Dispute Act of 1947.
- It has original jurisdiction under the provisions of many Labour Laws and enactments.
- It is also entitled to enforce various rules framed under Labour Acts and enactments.
- These courts fall under the strict supervision of the High Court of Calcutta.
- The Labour Court is presided by an officer who has served one of the judicial officers for a minimum term of seven years, or he/she has been presiding in one of the Labour Court under the State Act for a minimum of five years.
- In addition to this, the presiding officer should have been a District Judge or Additional District Judge for a continuous period of three years or a judge of the High Court.
- Appeal and revision from the judgements and orders of the subordinate original Labour courts can be filled in City civil and Session Courts.
Apart from these courts, there are different Tribunals: Motor accident claims Tribunals, Revenue Tribunals, Administrative Tribunals and Debt Recovery Tribunals to dissolve related litigations.
Court Information System
With the recent advancement of Information and Communication Technology, the legal information system is also adapting some measures. Indian Courts with the help of National Informatics Centre have taken initiatives for digital access to legal information. For speedy dispensation of justice, the increase in the number of courts and judges is not only essential but easy, and quick access to legal information is also equally important.
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