[Updated 2022] High Court of India: Powers and Functions of High Court

Last Updated on: 24th February 2022, 01:11 pm

Powers and Functions of High Court –

Though the constitution of India provides for a single judicial system, yet provisions are made of separate courts for each state. The high court is the highest court in the state. Article-214 of the constitution provides that, ‘There shall be a high court for each state’.

However, the parliament may by law establish a common High Court for two or more states and a union territory.

At present, for example – there is a common High Court for the states of Punjab, Haryana and the union territory of Chandigarh.

Similarly, there is a common High Court for Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, and Mizoram.

At present, there are 24 High Courts in India. 

1. Composition of High Court –

The number of judges of the High Court has not been fixed by the constitution, but it has been left to the discretion of the president.

Every High Court consists of a Chief Justice and other such judges as the President may from time to time appoint. (Article 216). (Powers and Functions of High Court)

2. Appointment of the Judges of the High Court –

The president appoints the judges and the Chief Justice of the High Court. While appointing the Chief Justice of the High Court, the president consults – Chief Justice of India and the Governor of the state.

When the office of the Chief Justice of High Court Falls vacant for the Chief Justice by reason of absence or otherwise, is unable to perform the duties of his office, the president can ask any other judge to act as the Chief Justice.

3. Qualifications for the Judges of High Court –

  • He must have a judicial office for 10 years in the territory of India.
  • He must have been an advocate for at least 10 years in one or more high courts.

4. Tenure of Judges of High Court – 

According to Article-217, the judges of the High Court hold their office until they attain the age of 62 years.

5. Removal from Office – 

The judges of the High Court may resign before the age of 62 or maybe removed from office by the President after an address is presented to him by the Parliament, passed in each house by a majority of its total membership and 2/3rd majority of its membership present and voting. (Powers and Functions of High Court)

powers and functions of high court
powers and functions of high court

What are the Powers and Functions of the High Court? 

(A) Judicial Power

 The powers and functions of High Court can be divided into two parts – 

1) Original Jurisdiction 

2) Appellate Jurisdiction

1) Original Jurisdiction

 The high courts do not have very wide original jurisdiction. Its original jurisdiction extends to the following fields –

(i) Cases related to fundamental rights can be brought before the High Courts. The High Courts have been empowered to issue writs in order to enforce fundamental rights. The writs of Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Certiorari, and Quo-Warranto or Prohibition can be issued by a State High Court for protecting the fundamental rights of the people of India.

(ii) The High Courts of Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai possess original jurisdiction with respect to Civil cases of value exceeding rupees 20,000 or more.

(iii) High Courts have original jurisdiction in cases related to such matters as divorce, will- contempt of court.

(iv) Election Disputes can also be taken to the High Courts. 

  • Power of Judicial Review

The High Court can declare unconstitutional any law passed by the State Legislature or any executive order of the State Government, which it finds violative of any provision of the constitution.

  • Constitutional Jurisdiction

The cases related to constitutional disputes can originate in the High Court. The High Court in such cases can allow leaving to appeal in the Supreme Court if it deems necessary.

2) Appellate Jurisdiction

High Courts are primarily courts of appeal. The appellate jurisdiction of the High Court is both Civil and criminal.

(i) Appeals in Civil Cases

In a civil case, an appeal to the high court lies from the decision of a district court, an appeal can also be made from the subordinate courts directly, provided the dispute involves a value higher than Rupees 5,000 or a question of fact or law.

Thus, to the high court, an appeal can be either a first appeal or second appeal.

(ii) Appeals  in Criminal Cases

  • An appeal to the High Court lies in the sessions court has awarded punishment for 4 years or more.
  •  All cases involving capital punishment awarded by the session court come to the high courts as an appeal. 

(B) Administrative powers 

  • It supervises and superintends the working of all the courts subordinate to it.
  •  It makes rules and regulations for the courts subordinate to it in order to ensure the efficient working of these courts.
  •  It can transfer any case from one court to another court and can even transfer the case to itself and decide the same.
  • The High Court has the power to determine the salary, allowances and other conditions of service of its administrative staff.

 In addition to the Judicial and Administrative Powers, the High Court has some other power also, which are –

(C) Act as a Court of Record

High courts like the Supreme Court of India, are also courts of record. Its decisions are recorded and the courts subordinate to it accept these decisions and judicial precedents.

The records of all its decisions are admitted to be of evidentiary value and cannot be questioned. They have the power to punish for their contempt any person or institution.

(D) Right to Transfer the Cases

It can transfer any case from a subordinate Court to itself and take any of the following actions – 

 i) Can itself decide it.

 ii) Can send the case back to the subordinate court, in question, after deciding the question of law involved in it.

(Power and Function of High Court)

Additional Powers and Functions of High Court-

High Court is the highest court of the state and it has all those powers which the supreme court has at the national level. The only difference is that no appeal can be made against the decisions of the supreme court in any other court in the country whereas the decisions of the High Courts can be objected in the supreme court.

Beside this, all the High Courts within the territory of India are bound to conform the decisions of the supreme court whereas the supreme court is not bound to obey the decisions of the High Courts.

In the state the High Court almost plays the same role which the supreme court plays at national level such as –

1. Safeguard of Fundamental Rights –

The High Court can issue Writ of Habeas Corpus, Writ of Mandamus, Writ of Prohibition, Writ of Quo Warranto and Writ of Certiorari for the safeguard of the fundamental rights.

2. Power of Judicial Review –

The High Court also has the power of judicial review.

The laws passed by the union parliament and the state legislature and the orders issued by the executive can be challenged in the High Court.

The High Court sees that a specific law or executive order is according to the constitution or not and in case any of these is not according to the constitution, the High Court is empowered to declare such a law unconstitutional.

3. Role in Administrative Field –

The High Court plays an important role in administrative field such as –

  • The Chief Justice makes the appointments of the administrative staff of the High Court.
  • The Chief Justice in conformity with the law passed the state legislature can determine the salary.

4. Disposal of Election Petitions-

The High Courts listen election petitions and settle down the disputes.

Conclusion – Powers and Functions of High Court

The high court occupies an important position in the judicial system of India. It is a creation of constitution and functions in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.

High Courts in India have given full freedom and independence in imparting justice to the people.

All its decisions are binding and cannot be questioned in any Court except in the Supreme Court. The High Court makes the rules for the lower courts and superintends their work, it plays the role as the guardian of the constitution and it possesses the power of Judicial Review.

In last, as a protector of the fundamental rights, it issues various writs to enforce these rights. (Powers and Functions of High Court)

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