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Posted by on Mar 12, 2014 in Judiciary |

Jurisdiction, Powers and Control of High Court

The High Court is vested with extensive powers such as highest court of appeal in concerned state, protector of fundamental rights (FRs) of citizens or power to interpretation of the constitution. Also High Court has supervisory and advisory powers over lower courts or tribunal in concerned state.

Original Jurisdiction

  • The High Court has original or exclusive jurisdiction (i.e. to hear in first stance) in matters that are as follows –
    • Matters of admiralty, will, marriage, divorce, company laws and contempt of court.
    • Any election dispute in relation to Parliament and State legislature;
    • Disputes in relation to revenue matters;
    • Enforcement of FRs of citizens;
    • Any matter in relation to interpretation of constitution pending in lower courts;

The four high courts (Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras) have original civil jurisdiction in cases of higher value.

  • Till 1973, 3 high courts (Calcutta, Bombay and Madras) had original criminal jurisdiction but abolished by CrPC, 1973.

Writ Jurisdiction

  • The Writ Jurisdiction of High Court is provided under Article 32 of the Constitution. The constitutional writs such as Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Quo Warranto or Certiorari are tools for enforcement of Fundamental Rights and for any other purpose.
  • Any other purpose” includes any ordinary legal right of a citizen. So High Court can issue writs to any person, authority and govt for enforcement of an ordinary right of a citizen. This power to issue writ is not limited to state where seat of High Court resides but can extend to other state or territory if cause of action arises in its territorial jurisdiction.
  • The aggrieved party in relation to matters of FRs can directly approach to High Court and SC. So High Court has wider writ jurisdiction in relation to SC (as SC can issue writ only for enforcement of FRs and not for any ordinary legal right as of High court).
  • In Chandra Kumar Case (1997), SC held that Writ Jurisdiction of SC and High Court constitutes a basic structure of the constitution and can’t be taken away even by an amendment to the constitution.

Appellate Jurisdiction

The High Court is the highest court of appeal in concerned State and enjoys wide appellate jurisdiction in cases:-

Civil Matters

  • First appeal from orders of dist, additional dist and other subordinate courts on both questions of law and fact if amount of fine exceed a pre defined limit.
  • Second appeal from orders of dist, additional dist and other subordinate courts only on question of law (not includes fact).
  • The Calcutta, Bombay and Madras High Courts have provision for intra court appeal. It means if any judgement or order is delivered by single judge bench then appeal for such case lies to division bench of same high court.
  • Appeals from administrative and other quasi judicial tribunals lie to division bench of the state High court. In 1997, SC ruled that tribunals are subjected to writ jurisdiction of High Court. So an aggrieved person by decision of tribunals has to approach State High Court first rather than SC directly.

Criminal Matters

  • Appeals from order or decision of session and additional session court judge lie to High Court if sentence of imprisonment is more than 7 yrs. But death sentence shall get approval of High Court whether an appeal made by convict or not.
  • Appeals from decision of assistant session, metropolitan or other judges lie to High Court in some specified cases other than petty cases as under section 374, 376, 376G of CrPC (1973).

Supervisory Jurisdiction (Article 227)

  • Every High Court has power of superintendence of all courts and tribunals which falls within its territorial jurisdiction except military courts or tribunal and High Court may
    • call for returns from such courts;
    • make and issue general rules and prescribe forms of regulating the practice and proceedings of such courts;
    • prescribe forms in which books, entries and accounts shall be kept by officers of any such court.


  • The supervisory power of High Court is very wide in nature as
    • It extends to all courts or tribunals whether they lies under appellate jurisdiction of High Court or not;
    • It includes revisional jurisdiction to intervene in cases of gross injustice or abuse of jurisdiction or non exercise/refusal of jurisdiction or in cases of an error of law apparent on faces of the record or violation of principles of natural justice or arbitrary exercise of authority or findings are on no material/fact or error in procedure;
    • It includes both administrative and judicial superintendence;
    • It can be exercised Suo Motto (on its own) either an application filed by party or not.

Control over subordinate courts

As a head of judiciary in concerned state, the High Court has administrative control over sub ordinate courts and these are as follows:-

  • The High Court shall be consulted by governor in matters of appointment, posting and promotion of district judges (Article 233).
  • The High Court is to be consulted along with State PSC by governor in appointing persons to the judicial service of the state other than dist judges (Article 234).
  • The High Court can withdraw any case pending in lower courts if it involves ample question of law that requires interpretation of the constitution.

Court of Record

  • The judgement, proceedings and acts of High Court are recorded and enduring in nature. These records are treated as evident and can’t be questioned when produces before any lower court. These act as legal references.
  • The High Court has power to punish for contempt of court either with simple imprisonment or fine or both.
  • As a court of record, High Court has power to review its own decision or orders albeit any such power not confers by constitution.

Judicial Review

  • The High Court has power of judicial review over all legislative and executive acts of central and state govts. If these acts found in violation of provisions of the constitution then can be declared null & void by High Court.
  • The validity of legislative and executive acts can be challenged in High Court on grounds which are as follows:-
    • It is in conflict with or violation of any of FRs that explained under Part III.
    • If such act is not under competence of authority which has framed it;

If such act is in contradiction with constitutional provisions.

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