Classification Of The Lower Judiciary And Their Functions


Indian Judicial system is divided into the Supreme Court, High Court and the Subordinate Courts. The Indian Courts are differentiated based on the size, jurisdiction and the punishment imposed.

Supreme Court is the apex court and all other courts are subject to the law declared by the Supreme Court[1]. Any violation of fundamental rights, a writ petition can be filed under Article 32[2] of the Constitution. Jurisdictionary powers include Original Jurisdiction[3], Advisory Jurisdiction[4], Appellate Jurisdiction. High Court is present in almost every Indian State and is subject to the Supreme Court in the exercise of its powers. A writ petition can be filed in the High Court for violation of fundamental rights under Article 226 of the Constitution. The Jurisdiction of the High Court is restricted to state(s) or Union Territory.

Lower Judiciary

A subordinate or the lower courts are divided into Lower Civil Courts, Lower Criminal Courts, Revenue Courts.

Civil Courts Constitute:

District court is the highest court in every district and it derives its jurisdiction from the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 and Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. It is presided over by a district judge and additional, assistant district judges. If the district judge is presiding in a city district then he can be addressed as a metropolitan session judge.

Small Causes Court adjudicates cases related to small civil matters. It deals with tax, family issues and other matters of relatively low compensation.

Lok Adalat is a village court which is also known as a Nyaya panchayat. It forms a part of the Madras Village Court Act, 1888. It is of a relatively micro nature.

District Munsiff is the lowest handling court of civil cases in a district. It is generally under the purview of the District Court and its pecuniary limits are notified by the State Government.

Criminal Courts:

Classes of Criminal Courts under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 include

Executive Magistrates, Judicial Magistrates of Second Class, Judicial Magistrates of First Class and in any Metropolitan Area: Metropolitan Magistrate, Courts of Session, High Court.

Chief Judicial Magistrate may pass sentence prescribed by law, except for death, life imprisonment or term above 7 years.

First Class Magistrate may pass imprisonment sentence for a term, not above 3 years and is allowed to impose fine of less than five thousand rupees or both.

Second Class Magistrate may pass imprisonment sentence for a term, not above 1 year and is allowed to impose fine of one thousand rupees or both.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate has the powers of the Chief Judicial Magistrate Metropolitan Magistrate and that of a First Class Magistrate.

A Court of Session or Sessions Court is the highest court in a district and is of criminal jurisdiction. The highest punishment awarded is fixed at 7 years imprisonment, life imprisonment and death. It is formed within the ambit of Section 9 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and is established for the session’s division by the State Government. It takes responsibility for cases like theft, dacoity, murder, etc. it is generally known for its expeditious disposal of cases, but has recently been in conflict for the same.

Revenue Courts:

It is comprised of Board of Revenue, Tehsildar, Assistant Tehsildar, Commissioner, Collector.

Revenue court has been set up with the prime objective of dealing with land revenue related matters. The issues dealt with include: Land transfer, boundary demarcation, encroachment removal etc.

It comes under the purview of Section 5(2) of Civil Procedure code, 1908 as a court that has jurisdiction to try and decide suits relating to rent, revenue but is excluded from a civil court.

Board of Revenue comprises a chairman and 9 members combined from both administrative and the judicial side. It supervises and controls the Records and other Revenue, Settlement matters.

Tehsildar is an officer who accompanies the Revenue Inspectors and is in charge of obtaining the land revenue. They are given priority and are allotted powers in areas like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh etc.

A collector is an administrative officer who is in charge of revenue of tehsil, subdivision in India, among various other duties.


  • They serve as temples of justice in districts and enable harmonious resolution of cases.
  • Play the role of a catalyst and uphold citizens’ rights from the ground level.
  • They settle conflicts and are dispute settlement mechanisms in themselves.
  • They are empowered with minor jurisdiction and are easily accessible.
  • They are located in every district thus educating the rights and enabling administration of justice at micro-levels.


Apart from the view taken above, Another aspect of the hierarchy is taken into account as follows, the Court Structure is divided into Supreme Court, High Court, Metropolitan Courts, District and Session Courts. Metropolitan Courts are further divided into Civil (City Civil, Small Causes Court) and Criminal (Sessions Court, Chief Metropolitan Court, and Metropolitan Magistrate Courts). District and Sessions Court are further divided into Civil (District Court, Sub Court, Principal Junior Civil Judge Court, Munsiff Court) and Criminal (Sessions Court, Judicial Magistrate of First Class, Judicial Magistrate of Second Class).


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[1] Article 141 of the Constitution of India, 1950

[2] Article 32 confers Writ Jurisdiction on the Supreme Court.

[3] Original Jurisdiction is conferred by Article 141 of the Constitution.

[4] Article 143 of the Constitution deals with the Power of President to consult with the Supreme Court.

This Article is Authored by V. Krishna Laasya, 4th Year, B. Com. LL. B (Hons.) Student at School of Excellence in Law, Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University.

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