High Courts

High Courts

This article deals with ‘High Courts.’ This is part of our series on ‘Polity’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


  • Article 214 to 231 of Part VI
  • Below Supreme Court in single integrated judicial system of India & top judicial body in state 
  • Originated in 1866 when High Court were established in Calcutta,  Madras & Bombay
  • Original Constitution provided for High Court for each state . But after  7th Amendment 1956 –  two or more states & UT can have common High Court.

Number of Judges

  • All  High Courts to have Chief Justice & as many Judges as President may deem necessary
  • Constitution doesn’t specify their strength & leave it to discretion of President

Appointment of Judges

  • Chief Justice of High Court is  appointed by President in consultation with Chief Justice of India & Governor(s) of State(s)  concerned
  • Other Judges –  Appointed by President in consultation with  Chief Justice of India . Chief Justice of concerned high court is also consulted.
2nd Judge Case 1993 – No appointment of Judge unless it is in conformity with opinion of Chief Justice of India
3rd Judge case 1998 –  Chief Justice of India should consult with collegium of two senior most judges of Supreme Court & sole opinion of Chief Justice not constitute consultation

Qualification to become Judge of High Court

  • He should be citizen of India
  • Have held either
    • Judicial office for 10 years or 
    • Advocate of High Court(s) for 10 years


  • There is no minimum age criteria.
  • No provision for appointment of distinguished jurist as High Court Judge. It is there in case of Supreme Court.

Tenure of High Court Judge

No fixed tenure but following 4 provisions regarding that

  • Holds office until he attains age of 62 years
  • Resign his office by writing to President
  • Can be impeached from office by Parliament
  • Vacates his office when he is appointed as Judge of Supreme Court or transferred 

Removal of Judge

  • Can be impeached in same way as Judge of Supreme Court
  • No judge of High Court has been impeached till date

Transfer of Judges

  • President can transfer judge from one High Court to other High Court after consulting Chief Justice of India
  • On transfer he is entitled to  compensatory allowance 
  • Supreme Court’s Judgements
1997 Transfer could be resorted to only as in exceptional measure & only in  public interest & not as way of punishment
1994 Judicial Review is necessary to check arbitrariness in transfer but only judge who is transferred can challenge it
1998 Chief Justice of India should be consulted in addition to 4 Seniormost judges of Supreme Court & 2 Chief Justice of High Courts concerned

Acting Chief Justice

President can appoint any judge of High Court as acting Chief Justice when

  • Office of Chief Justice of High Court is vacant
  • Chief Justice of High Court is temporarily absent
  • Chief Justice of High Court is unable to perform the duties of his office

Other Judges

Additional judge President can appoint a person qualified to become judge of High Court when there is temporarily increase in business of High Court or there are arrears of work in High Court
Acting Judge President can appoint a person qualified to become judge of High Court when any judge of High Court is unable to perform his duties or is acting as Chief Justice of High Court
Retired Judges At any time Chief Justice  of High Court can request retired judge of any High Court to act as judge of High Court for temporary period
– Previous consent of President & of retired judge necessary
– He enjoy all powers & privileges of judge but not deemed to be judge

Provisions to ensure independence of High Courts

  • Mode of appointment of judges to maintain independence of judges
  • Security of tenure to Judges . Judge don’t hold office in pleasure of President although appointed by him
  • Fixed service conditions & cant be reduced to their disadvantage except financial emergency
  • All expenses charged on consolidated fund of state and pensions of judges on consolidated fund of India
  • Conduct of judges cant be discussed in houses of Parliament or  state legislature  except during impeachment
  • Ban on practice after retirement (can’t practice in High Court from where he has retired but can practice in any other High Court & also in Supreme Court)
  • Power to punish contempt of court to maintain dignity and honour of High Court
  • It’s jurisdiction can’t be curtailed
  • Separation from executive i.e. executive don’t have  judicial powers

Jurisdiction of High Court

1 . Original Jurisdiction

  • Matters of admiralty, will, marriage, divorce, company laws & contempt of court
  • Disputes relating to election of members of Parliament & State Legislature (through Election Petition)
  • Regarding revenue matter or an act of revenue
  • Enforcement of Fundamental Rights of citizens
  • Cases ordered to be transferred from subordinate court involving interpretation of constitution .

2. Writ Jurisdiction

  • Article 226 – can issues writs same as Supreme Court for enforcement of Fundamental Rights
  • Not exclusive but in concurrent with writ jurisdiction of Supreme Court
  • Writ Jurisdiction is wider than Supreme Court because can issue writs for enforcement of Ordinary Rights too

3. Appellate Jurisdiction

3.1 Civil Matters

  • First appeals from subordinate courts on both question of law & fact
  • Second appeals from subordinate courts only on question of law(not fact)
  • Appeals from decisions of Administrative Tribunals  (Supreme Court Judgement 1997- appeal from Tribunals has to pass through High Court before reaching Supreme Court)

3.2 Criminal Matters

  • Appeals from subordinate court involving imprisonment of 7 years
  • Cases involving capital punishment should be confirmed by HC before execution
  • Some specified cases under Criminal Procedure Code(1973)

4. Supervisory Jurisdiction

  • Have SUPERVISORY Jurisdiction on subordinate courts & tribunals functioning in its territorial jurisdiction (except military courts or tribunals ) 

5. Advisory jurisdiction

  • No advisory jurisdiction

Control over Subordinate Courts

  • Consulted by Governor in appointment, posting & promotion of district judges
  • It can withdraw case pending in subordinate court if it involves substantial question of law & can dispose itself or dispose question of law & send case back
  • Its law are binding on all subordinate courts functioning in its jurisdiction

Court of Record

Two powers under this

  • Judgements, proceedings & acts of High Court are recorded for perpetual memory & testimony & cant be questioned when produced before any subordinate court
  • Has power to punish for contempt of court with imprisonment of 6 months or fine upto ₹2,000 or both

Contempt of Court has not been defined in constitution & is defined by Contempt of Court Act,1971

Power of judicial review

  • Power of High Court to examine constitutionality of legislative enactments & executive orders of both state & center governments . If they are found to be violative of constitution(ultra-vires), they can be declared as illegal & unconstitutional
  • Phrase Judicial review is nowhere used in constitution but provisions of several articles confer this power

Number of High Courts in India

  • Total number of High Courts in India = 24
  • 3 newly constituted = Tripura, Manipur & Meghalaya in Agartala, Imphal & Shillong  in 2012
  • Punjab & Haryana common High Court in Chandigarh established in 1875 originally in Lahore then moved to India as Punjab High Court & renamed Punjab & Haryana High Court in 1966.
  • Andhra High Court is still Hyderabad. New will be made in Amravati but not yet functional)

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