Short essay on the Subordinate Courts of India


A Constitution, being the basic law, does not usually go into such details as the provisions dealing with the organisation and working of subordinate courts. Such subjects are left to be dealt with by the Legislature.

The Constitution of India departs from this practice by incorporating detailed provisions concerning even the subordinate judiciary. This is mainly due to certain peculiar conditions which existed in India at the time of the making of the Constitution.

During the British rule, in order to suit the convenience of the foreign government, executive and judicial functions were combined in the same officer at the lower levels of the administration. Under the British, each province was divided into a number of districts which became the pivotal units of administration.


Each of these districts was headed by an officer called the Collector Magistrate who combined in his office both the executive and judicial functions. As an instrument of the alien, imperial government, this officer behaved, more often than not, as a local dictator.

What really made him a dictator was the combination of both the executive and judicial powers in his office. The evils of this system were so far-reaching that it became an instrument of terror during the National movement for political liberation.

There was almost universal condemnation of the system and the demand for the complete separation of the judiciary from the executive was persistent and vociferous. This accounts for the Constitution-makers dealing with this problem in detail.

As we have seen earlier, one of the Directive Principles is the separation of the judiciary from the executive. They were not satisfied with this alone. They wanted also to see that the judiciary at the lower levels was made completely independent of the executive; they sought to establish a judicial system under which from the highest court in the land to the lowest, every layer and each unit in every layer functioned in a spirit of judicial independence.


The special significance of the powers of superintendence which the High Court exercises over the subordinate judiciary is to be understood in this context.

The constitutional provisions dealing with the subordinate courts, therefore, are intended to secure a two-fold objective. First, to provide for the appointment of District and Subordinate Judges and their qualifications. Secondly, to place the whole of the civil judiciary under the control of the High Court.

The importance of these provisions can hardly be exaggerated in the context of the Indian situation. It is the subordinate judiciary that comes into most intimate contact with the ordinary people in the judicial field.

Therefore, it is particularly necessary that its independence is placed beyond question in order to infuse public confidence in it. This is the justification for incorporating these provisions in the Constitution.


The Constitution draws a distinction between two categories of Subordinate Courts, namely, the District Courts and others. Judges of the District Courts are appointed by the Governor in consultation with the High Court.

Further, a person to be eligible for appointment as a District Judge should be either an advocate or a pleader of seven years standing, or an officer in the service of the Union or of the State. In the case of every advocate or pleader, the appointment should be on a recommendation by the High Court.

Appointment of persons other than District Judges to the judicial service of a State is made by the Governor in accordance with rules made by him in that behalf after consultation with the High Court and the State Public Service Commission.

The practice that exists in most States at present is that the Public Service Commission conducts competitive examinations for the selection of candidates for appointment in the State Judicial Service.


The Commission lays down certain minimum educational and professional qualifications for candidates who intend to compete in these examinations. At least three years of experience as an advocate or a pleader is one of the principal qualifications.

The selected candidates are given special training for a certain period before regular appointment to the service, and thereafter they come under the superintendence of the High Court in the discharge of their responsibilities.

Article 235 specifies the nature and extent of the High Court’s control over the subordinate judiciary. According to that Article, the High Court exercises control over the District Courts and the Courts subordinate to them, in matters such as posting, promotions and the granting of leave to all persons belonging to the State Judicial Service.

The Governor is empowered to extend the scope of these provisions in order to include also different classes of magistrates in the State who do not belong to the regular judicial service.


Except for minor local variations, the structure and functions of the subordinate courts are uniform throughout the country. Each State, for the purpose of judicial administration is divided into a number of districts, each under the jurisdiction of a District Judge.

Under him is a hierarchy of judicial officers exercising varying types of jurisdiction. As a result of the progressive implementation of the principle of separation of the judiciary from the executive, the subordinate judiciary in most parts of the country is already functioning separately.

The constitutional safeguards are bound to provide for its firm establishment as a truly independent institution as the framers intended it to be.

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