Subordinate Court: Types, Appointment of District Judge | Subordinate Court UPSC

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Subordinate Court in India is counted among the list of courts that are lower in rank than the High Court and functions as its subordinate. The Subordinate Courts are directly under the control of the High Court. All the other courts except the High Court come under the list of Subordinate Courts and form the Subordinate Judiciary in India. The High Court is positioned at the top & is the highest judicial body. Subordinate courts form an integral part of the judicial system in India. They are lower-level courts that operate beneath the higher courts and are responsible for handling a wide range of civil and criminal cases.

Subordinate courts are established at the district level and below, and they play a crucial role in delivering justice at the grassroots level. They handle matters such as petty offences, civil disputes, family matters, and other legal disputes that arise within their jurisdiction. They ensure law and order are maintained, and justice is provided to the people of each state through proper judicial procedure.

Subordinate Court

As is evident from the term itself, a Subordinate Court is a state-specific lower court that acts under the jurisdiction of the State High Court. The judicial process might differ with each state. There are generally many kinds of Subordinate Courts in India state-wise that handle various types of cases. These courts are either ruled upon by a District Judge or a District and Sessions Judge.

A Subordinate Court may also act upon more than one state depending on the cases and the population of every district. The final decisions taken by a District Court are further subjected to the appellate authority of the High Court. Articles 233-237 in the 6th part of the Constitution of India mention the provisions related to the Subordinate Courts.

Types of Subordinate Courts

Each district in India has its own District-level court depending upon the number of cases and the population there. Generally, the types of Subordinate Courts are categorized into three classes based on the types of cases they look into, such as:

Civil Subordinate Court

Based on the kind of cases that the Civil Court receives, it has been given this name. We can easily say that a Civil Court looks into cases related to familial disputes, and disagreements, including landlord-tenant disputes. A District Judge or a District Sessions Judge presides over a Civil Court and can sometimes be represented by a Sub-Judge in the small family courts.

  • Civil Courts are responsible for the settlement of such family disputes.
  • Generally, a Civil Court doesn’t reprimand the parties involved.
  • Non-criminal issues like those of property, succession, ownership, etc are dealt with by the Civil Courts that give out decisions as per the Civil Procedure Code.

Criminal Subordinate Court

As clear by the name, a Criminal Court handles criminal cases. Such cases involve disrespect and violation of laws and therefore involve punishment. Criminal cases are generally cases of theft, assault, murder, etc. Such cases are usually filed on behalf of the state by the police in the Court.

  • Criminal Court is addressed by a Sessions Judge or a Sessions & District Judge.
  • A Metropolitan Judge is also present at times under the Sessions Judge.
  • The accused party is subject to severe punishment if proven guilty.
  • The Criminal Court cases are settled based on the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.

Revenue Subordinate Court

The third type of Subordinate Court is the Revenue Court. Clearly, these types of courts tackle cases related to land revenue in any state. The highest court of revenue in any district is the Board of Revenue.

  • The Board of Revenue is the highest authority and only takes up the final appeals.
  • Other authorized people in the Board of Revenue are the Courts of Commissioners, Collectors, Tehsildars, and Naib or Assistant Tehsildars.

Appointment of District Judges in Subordinate Courts

The appointment of a District or a Sessions Judge for a Subordinate Court is taken up by the Governor of the State along with the High Court. There are a few conditions for someone to be eligible for a District Judge which are:

  • One should have been non-working in the state for a minimum period of 7 years.
  • The candidate will have to be recommended by the High Court.
  • He/ She should have been a pleaser or an advocate for 7 years.

Subordinate Courts – Articles 233 to 237

Part 6 of the Indian Constitution specifies the provisions relating to the Subordinate Courts in India. These provisions have been mentioned in Articles 233 to 237 of the constitution. Let’s have a look at each of the Articles that deal with the Subordinate Judiciary system.

Article of the Constitution Details
Article 233 Related to the appointment of District Judges
Article 234 Concerns about the appointment of others except for the District Judges
Article 235 Mentions about the control over the Subordinate Court
Article 236 Talks about the interpretation
Article 237 Related to the application of the provisions to Magistrates

Functions of Subordinate Court

Based on the different types of cases being handled, a Subordinate Court has been divided into three types. All three types of courts look into three different types of categories & adopt their policy to announce final decisions. The functions of the subordinate courts include:

  • A Civil Court takes up civil cases that are mostly related to family disputes, landlord-tenant issues, etc. as they do not formally violate any law, therefore the court does not announce any kind of punishment here.
  • A Criminal Court tackles all the cases related to serious crimes such as murder, physical assault, dacoity, etc. Since these involve violations of the law, serious penalties and punishments are announced in such cases.
  • The Revenue Courts handle cases related to land revenues and act accordingly.

Organization and Structure of Subordinate Courts

The Subordinate Judiciary in India follows a specific structure maintaining the hierarchy. The roles and responsibilities are distinguished, and the mode of operation also differs in each Subordinate Court.

  • The power, structure, and nomenclature of the Subordinate Court are decided upon by the concerned state.
  • The top-most authority is the Supreme Court under which three different levels of civil and criminal courts are present.
  • With respect to civil and criminal cases, the District Judge has the highest authority.
  • While addressing criminal cases, a judge is called a Sessions Judge whereas while looking into civil cases, a judge is called a District Judge.
  • A Sessions Judge has the authority to give away a death sentence or life imprisonment to a criminal.

Subordinate Court UPSC

Subordinate courts, also known as lower courts or district courts, are an integral part of the judicial system in India. They handle a wide range of civil, criminal, and administrative cases at the district level. The topic of subordinate courts is covered under the Indian Polity and Governance Syllabus.

It is important for candidates to study the types, functions, organization, and structure of subordinate courts to gain a comprehensive understanding of the judicial system in India and its functioning at the grassroots level. Candidates preparing for the UPSC exam should be well-versed in the topic so that they can answer the Polity questions that appear in the exam in a correct manner.

Subordinate Court UPSC Questions

Questions on the topic of Subordinate courts are frequently asked in the UPSC prelims and mains exams. Candidates can check the sample questions given below for reference, which will give them a proper understanding of the topic.

Question: Which of the following statements regarding subordinate courts are correct? (1) They function at district and lower levels, (2) The pattern and designation of subordinate courts in the States is not uniform, (3) Munsiff ’s courts have both civil and criminal jurisdiction, (4) The pattern of subordinate courts in metropolitan areas is the same as that in districts.


Question: Who appoints the judicial officers of the subordinate judiciary other than the district judges? (A) Union Public Service Commission, (B) State Public Service Commission, (C) Governor in accordance with the rules made by him in consultation with the High Court and State Public Service Commission, (D) Governor in consultation with the High Court exercising jurisdiction in relation to such state

Answer: (C) Governor in accordance with the rules made by him in consultation with the High Court and State Public Service Commission

Question for UPSC Mains: Discuss the role and jurisdiction of subordinate courts in the Indian judicial system. How do they contribute to the administration of justice at the grassroots level?

Question for UPSC Mains: Analyze the challenges faced by subordinate courts in India and suggest measures to improve their efficiency and effectiveness in delivering timely justice.

UPSC Notes
Cop26 Glasgow Plasmid and its type
Third and Fourth Anglo Mysore War Writ of Mandamus
Miniratna Companies Centre State Relations
NATO UPSC Standup India Scheme
National Family Health Survey UAPA Act UPSC
Constitutional Morality Zero Budget Natural Farming
Our Apps Playstore
SSC and Bank
Other Exams
GradeStack Learning Pvt. Ltd.Windsor IT Park, Tower - A, 2nd Floor, Sector 125, Noida, Uttar Pradesh 201303
Home Practice Test Series Premium