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The Hierarchy of Judges In District Courts

Being the largest democracy in the world with a population of 1.2 billion, and a population as varied as Indian and yet having a single integrated system of judiciary is an achievement. When one looks at the judicial system of India, it is not hard to spot the influences it has from the British colonial rule.

Before independence the judiciary in India was not independent, it was mostly influenced by the economic and political powers of the elites.[1] After Independence India retained the common law model of the British Empire. This means that law of the land is codified and applied on the basis of precedent, customs and legislation.

The judiciary system is of adversarial nature in India. The burden to prove the guilt of the defendant lies on the plaintiff. And the defendant has to defend himself against such allegations. The role of the judge is not that of a detective to find out the facts bur of an empire to judge the case on the basis of arguments advanced and evidence presented. The hierarchy of higher judiciary is easy to understand. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal in the country.

The Constitution provides for the establishment of the Supreme Court.[2] The Supreme court has the sanctioned strength of one Chief Justice and 33 other judges.[3] The Chief Justice has additional administrative powers but the power of each judge remains the same. As remarked by the Supreme Court in the case of Ashok Pande v Supreme Court of India, Chief Justice is ‘first among equals’.

The next in this hierarchy is the High Courts. Every state and union territory has a High Court[4]. There is no bar on the number of judges in a High Court, they are appointed by the President as he/she may deem fit for the working of that specific High Court. The number of judges can also be changed by the President from time to time as per the requirement. There is one Chief Justice of every High Court.

The Chief Justice of High Court is appointed by the President with the advice of Chief Justice of India and other judges with the advice of Chief Justice of the respective High Court as well. The High Court has superintendence over all the courts and tribunals within its jurisdiction.[5]

The High Court if it deems fit can call for return from such courts, can make rules to regulate the forms of proceeding in such courts, and prescribes forms in which book entries and accounts have to be kept by officers in such court[6]. Till the High Court, the structure of the hierarchy is easy to understand but after this, it gets difficult for a layman to understand.

The hierarchy of these courts can be best understood by the rank of the judge who sits in the court. The District Judge is the highest administrative and judicial officer in a District Court. The District Judge allows cases to every court at the district level. The district court is divided into two parts: civil courts and criminal or session courts. On both parts, there is a pecuniary jurisdiction. The pecuniary jurisdiction varies from state to state.

It is usually a limit for example if the states set the limit to be one lakh. The cases cost of which are below one lakh will be settled by junior division judges and above one lakh will be settled by senior division judges. The Civil Judge Junior division is further divided into city and Hawali. The cases in the territory of city limits that is urban areas are filed in civil judge city and the cases which are not in city limits are filed in civil judge Hawali.

The Criminal side judges are called a magistrate. There are also two divisions, the senior division magistrate is called the chief judicial magistrate and the junior division magistrate is called the judicial magistrate. The territorial jurisdiction of the courts is divided into thanas. Each thana is under the authority of a judicial magistrate. The Thanas are usually linked so that in case of absence of one judicial magistrate, the authority can be delegated to others. Apart from these, there are also courts of Railway Magistrate.

There are also courts of special judges (Additional District Judge Rank) as per various laws: Anti-corruption, EC Act, POCSO Act and Gangster Act. The first appeal against the order of a senior division and junior division judges lies in the court of District Judge.


  1. Dr. Ram Sharan, THE JUDICIARY OF INDIA: SINCE PRE-INDEPENDENCE TO POST INDEPENDENCE (1950-2011), Vol.5 No.12 International Journal of Advanced Research in Management and Social Sciences, 185,185, (2016)
  2. India Const., Art.124, Cl.1.
  3. The Supreme Court (Number Of Judges) Amendment Bill, 2019, No.191, Acts Of Parliament, 2019
  4. India Const., Art.214
  5. India Const., Art.227, Cl.1
  6. India Const., Art.227, Cl.2 (A, B, C)

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