The high courts are the principal civil courts of original jurisdiction in each state and union territory. However, a high court exercises its original civil and criminal jurisdiction only if the subordinate courts are not authorized by law to try such matters for lack of pecuniary, territorial jurisdiction. High courts may also enjoy original jurisdiction in certain matters, if so, designated specifically in a state or federal law. However, the work of most high courts primarily consists of appeals from lower courts and writ petitions in terms of Article 226 of the constitution. Writ jurisdiction is also an original jurisdiction of a high court. The precise territorial jurisdiction of each high court is different.

Each state is divided into judicial districts presided over by a district and sessions judge. He is known as district judge when he presides over a civil case, and sessions judge when he presides over a criminal case. He is the highest judicial authority below a high court judge. Below him, there are courts of civil jurisdiction, known by different names in different states. Under Article 141 of the constitution, all courts in India — including high courts — are bound by the judgments and orders of the Supreme Court of India by precedence.

Powers of High Court

  1. (a) Original Jurisdiction: The High Courts of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras possess original jurisdictions in civil and criminal cases arising within these towns. They are authorized to hear a civil case involving property of the value of Rs. 20,000/- or more. This is an exclusive right enjoyed by these three High Courts.

(b) Original Jurisdiction regarding Fundamental Rights: The High Courts have been empowered to issue writs in order to enforce fundamental rights.

(c) Original Jurisdiction in respect of some other Cases: All High Courts possess original jurisdiction in cases relating to divorce, will, admiralty and contempt of court.

  1. Appellate Jurisdiction:

(a) Appellate Jurisdiction in Civil Cases: In a civil case appeal to the High Court can be made against the decision of a district court. An appeal can also be made from the subordinate court directly, provided the dispute involves a value higher than Rs. 5000/- or on a question of fact or law.

(b) Jurisdiction in Criminal Cases: An appeal to the High Court lies in case a Sessions Court has awarded the punishment of four years or more. All cases involving capital punishment awarded by the Session Court come to High Court as appeals. A death sentence awarded to a criminal by a Session Court can be carried out only if the High Court upholds the decision. Any case involving an issue of interpretation of the Constitution can go to the High Court as an appeal.

  1. High Court as the Court of Record: High Courts, like the Supreme Court of India, are also Courts of Records. The records of all their judgements can be the basis for deciding cases by the subordinate courts. Each High Court has the power to punish all cases of its contempt by any person or institution.
  2. Power of Judicial Review: Like the Supreme Court of India, each High Court also enjoys the power of Judicial Review. It has the power to declare any law or ordinance unconstitutional if it is found to be against the Constitution of India.
  3. Power of Certification: In most of the cases decided by a High Court, an appeal can go to the Supreme Court only when it is certified by the High Court that such an appeal can be made.
  4. Administrative Powers of a High Court:
  • It has the power to superintend and control all subordinate courts.
  • It can issue 1 rule regulating the working of subordinate courts.
  • It can ask for the details of the proceedings from subordinate courts.
  • It can transfer any case from one court to another and can even transfer the case to itself and decide the same.
  • It has the power to investigate or enquire into the record or other connected documents of any court subordinate to it.
  • Each High Court has the power to appoint its administration staff and determine their salaries, allowances and other conditions of service.
  • The appointment, promotion and posting of the district judges is made by the Governor in consultation with the High Courts.

Appeal to the High Court

Appeal is considered to be a process by which the judgment or the order of the subordinate court is challenged before the high court. This can be filed any person who is a party to the dispute and in case of death of the person, the legal heirs or the representative files the same before the high court or can continue to maintain such appeal. The person who files the appeal or continues to maintain the appeal on behalf of the deceased person is known as appellant. The court which hears such appeal is termed as appellate court. The law has not given any inherent right to challenge the order of the subordinate court. The appeal can only be filed if it is specifically allowed by the law in the specific manner as mentioned by the Specific Courts. Appeal from the decisions of the District Court in the Civil or Criminal Matter lie to the High Court. As per the hierarchy system of the Courts, the trial courts are subordinate to the High Court to administer the civil and criminal cases. The Code of Criminal Procedure regulates the civil court where as the Criminal Procedure Code governs the Criminal Court. Any person who is aggrieved by the decision of the court can challenge decision before the higher court for appeal. There are mainly three types of jurisdiction by which the matters are entertained by the civil or criminal court. These are as follows:

  • Territorial Jurisdiction
  • Pecuniary Jurisdiction
  • Jurisdiction with respect to the subject matter of the case.

Appeals in Civil Matters

Appeals filed either against the order or judgment of the civil cases is considered as the Civil Appeals which are governed by the Civil Procedural Code. However, the high court has the authority to frame its own procedures and rules to conduct the civil appeals.

Appeals from original decree: Any judgment/order or decree passed by the district judge or the additional District judge can be challenged before the High Court.

Second Appeal: The decree or the judgment passed by the appellate civil court is considered to be the first appeal and if such judgment or the decree is challenged before the high court then in that case the appeal is considered to be the second appeal. In a case where the substantial question of law is involved then the second appeal can be filed against an expert decision of the appellate court.

Grounds of Appeal:

  • The decree or judgment passed by the court can be challenged on the basis of the facts of the case and the legal interpretation of the legal provisions.
  • In the cases where the party to the dispute raises any objection with respect to the territorial and pecuniary of the court passing the judgment and the decree.
  • On the basis of the failure of justice relating to the incompetency of the court.
  • In the cases where the parties to the dispute have not joined in the original suit, in such matters appeal lie against the judgment/ decree of such court.
  • Where there is a challenge to the interpretation of law which are applied by the subordinate court
  • On the grounds of any defect or error or irregularity in the legal proceedings of the case
  • In the cases where the substantial question of law exists and it is affecting the rights of the parties.

No Appeal: With the consent of the parties, no appeal can be filed against the judgment/decree passed by the Court. Where the value of the subject matter is less than Rs. 3000/- and the question of law arises, in such cases the appeal can be filed before the superior court. In the cases where the decree is passed by the single judge of the High Court in second appeal is not allowed for appeal.

Appeals in criminal matters

Appeal by the convicted person: Any person who is convicted for the offence which is punishable with imprisonment of seven years or more on a trial held by session judge or held by another court may appeal to High Court.

Appeal by the state: The state government has the power to appeal to the high court regarding the enhancement of the sentence of the accused in the cases where the sentence is inadequate. The reasonable opportunity is given to the accused for challenging the enhancement of the sentence. Also, the accused person has the right to appeal for the acquittal or for the reduction of the sentence. And the state can also appeal to the High court against the order of acquittal passed by the Court. Only the high court has the authority to hear the appeal of it grants leave for the same to the high court.

Appeal by the complainant:

  • Upon the case of complaint filed by the complainant, the accused has a right to file the appeal against such complaint for acquittal after seeking leave to file the appeal.
  • The complainant seeking the leave has to file the appeal within 60 days from the date of order of acquittal.
  • If such application is refused by the high court, then no appeal shall be filed by the state.

Bail pending appeal: Where the appeal is pending before the court, the court shall record the reasons in writing and suspend the sentence which is passed against the convict person and if the convicted person is in the confinement. If the person is convicted by the high court, then the high court has the power to grant the bail if the court is satisfied by the reason:

  • Commission of the offence by the accused is bailable and the person is on bail.
  • When the person is released on bail and is sentenced for not more than 3 years of imprisonment. The bail granted to the convict person is for some period, during which the accused can file the appeal and obtain a bail from the appellate court.
  • In cases where the appellant is sentenced to imprisonment, the time during which the accused is released on bail is excluded for the computation of the term of the sentence. But in certain cases where the high may issue the warrant for the arrest of the accused person and it may either grant him bail or may sentence him with imprisonment, such appeal are filed against the acquittal order by the state or the complainant himself.

The time period for filing the appeal is 30 days against the death sentence passed by the death sentence passed by the session court or the high court having its original jurisdiction. The limitation period is 90 days against the order of acquittal and the limitation period is 90 days in the cases where the order has to be made after seeking the special leave of the court. There is no court fee for the convicted person who are filing the appeals through the jail authorities otherwise the court fee is applicable as prescribed by the Act.

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