Subordinate Courts – District Court

  • Articles 233 to 237 in Part VI
  • The subordinate courts are function below and under the high court at district and lower levels

Appointment of District Judges

  • The appointment, posting and promotion of district judges are made by the Governor in consultation with the high court.


  • He should not already be in the service of the Central or the state government.
  • He should have been an advocate or a pleader for seven years.
  • He should be recommended by the high court for appointment.

Appointment of other Judges

  • Appointment to judicial service of a state are made by the Governor in consultation with the State Public Service Commission and high court

Control over Subordinate Courts

  • The control over district courts and other subordinate courts including the posting, promotion and leave of persons belonging to the Judicial Service of a state
  • Decision about post of District Judge is vested in the High Court


  • The expression ‘district judgeincludes
    1. Judge of a city civil court
    2. Additional district judge
    3. Joint district judge
    4. Assistant district judge
    5. Chief judge of a small cause court
    6. Chief presidency magistrate
    7. Additional chief presidency magistrate
    8. Sessions judge
    9. Additional sessions judge
    10. Assistant sessions judge.

Structure and Jurisdiction

  • The organisational structure, jurisdiction and nomenclature of the subordinate judiciary are laid down by the states.
  • They differ slightly from state to state.
Subordinate Courts
  • The district judge is the highest judicial authority in the district.
  • He possesses original and appellate jurisdiction in both civil as well as criminal matters.
  • When he deals with civil cases, he is known as the district judge
  • when he hears the criminal cases, he is called as the sessions judge.
  • The district judge exercises both judicial and administrative powers.
  • Appeals against his orders and judgements lie to the High Court.
  • The sessions judge has the power to impose any sentence including life imprisonment and capital punishment
  • However, a capital punishment passed by him is subject to confirmation by the High Court, whether there is an appeal or not.
  • The chief judicial magistrate decides criminal cases which are punishable with imprisonment for a term up to 7 years
  • The judicial magistrate tries criminal cases which are punishable with imprisonment for a term up to 3 years.
  • In some metropolitan cities, there are city civil courts (chief judges) on the civil side and the courts of metropolitan magistrates on the criminal side.
  • In some states, Panchayat Courts try petty civil and criminal cases.
  • They are variously known as Nyaya Panchayat, Gram Kutchery, Adalati Panchayat, Panchayat Adalat and so on.

National Legal Service Authority (NLSA)

  • Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections
  • Articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution also make it obligatory for the State
  • In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted by the Parliament
  • It came into force in 1995
  • NLSA provides a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections
  • It monitor and evaluate implementation of legal aid programmes and to lay down policies and principles for making legal services available
  • In every State, a State Legal Services Authority and in every High Court, a  High Court Legal Services Committee have been constituted.
  • District Legal Services Authorities, Taluk Legal Services Committees have been constituted in the Districts and most of the Taluks to conduct Lok Adalats
  • Supreme Court Legal Services Committee has been constituted
  • Chief Justice of India is Exoffice chairman of NALSA
  • Next senior most judge is Executive chairman of NALSA
  • NALSA lays down policies, principles, guidelines and frames schemes for the State Legal Services Authorities
  • State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services Authorities, Taluk Legal Services Committees, etc. have been asked to discharge the following main functions
    1. To provide free and competent legal services
    2. To organize Lok Adalats
    3. To organize legal awareness camps in the rural areas.
  • The persons eligible for getting free legal services include
    1. Women and children
    2. Members of SC/ST
    3. Industrial workmen
    4. Victims of mass disaster, violence, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial disaster
    5. Disabled persons
    6. Persons in custody
    7. Persons whose annual income does not exceed Rs. 1 lakh (in the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee the limit is Rs. 1,25,000/-).
    8. Victims of trafficking in human beings or begar.

Lok Adalats

  • Lok Adalat is a forum where the cases or disputes which are  pending in a court or not yet brought before a court are compromised or settled

Meaning  by Supreme Court

  • The ‘Lok Adalat’ is an old form of adjudicating system prevailed in ancient India
  • ‘Lok Adalat’ means ‘People’s Court’.
  • This system is based on Gandhian principles.
  • It is one of the components of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) system.
  • Indian courts are overburdened with the backlog of cases
  • The regular court process are lengthy, expensive
  • Lok Adalat, therefore, provides alternative resolution or devise for expedious and inexpensive justice.
  • In Lok Adalat proceedings, there are no victors and vanquished and, thus, no rancour.
  • It is viable, economic, efficient and informal one.

Statutory Status

  • The first Lok Adalat camp was organized in Gujarat in 1982
  • Lok Adalat has been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
  • Lok Adalats can be organized by
    • State Legal Services Authority
    • District Legal Services Authority
    • Supreme Court Legal Services Committee
    • High Court Legal Services Committee
    • Taluk Legal Services Committee
  • Any pending case can referred to the Lok Adalat if
    1. The parties agree to settle the dispute in the Lok Adalat
    2. One of the parties makes an application to the court, for referring the case to the Lok Adalat
    3. The court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate to be solved by the Lok Adalat.
  • The Lok Adalat have powers of Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure (1908)
  • Lok Adalat have power of Criminal Court under Indian Penal Code (1860)
  • Every award made by a Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties.
  • No appeal shall lie to any court against the award of the Lok Adalat.


  • There is no court fee and if court fee is already paid the amount will be refunded
  • The basic features of Lok Adalat are the procedural flexibility and speedy trial
  • There is no strict application of Civil Procedure Code and the Evidence Act
  • The parties to the dispute can directly interact with the judge

Permanent Lok Adalats

  • The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 was amended in 2002
  • It provides the establishment of the Permanent Lok Adalats
  • Lok Adalat is presided over by a sitting or retired judicial officer as the chairman
  • 2 other members, usually a lawyer and a social worker.

Family Courts

  • The Family Courts Act, 1984 was enacted to provide for the establishment of Family Courts
  • It settle disputes relating to marriage and family affairs.


  • The Law Commission in its 59th report (1974) told that, the dealing with disputes in family need to adopt a different approach from the ordinary civil proceedings
  • The Code of Civil Procedure was amended in 1976 to provide for a special procedure relating to matters concerning the family
  • It create a Specialized Court which will exclusively deal with family matters
  • To have flexibility and an informal atmosphere in the conduct of proceedings.


  • It provides for the establishment of Family Courts by the State Governments in consultation with the High Courts.
  • It makes it obligatory to set up a Family Court in every city or town with a population exceeding one million.
  • It enables the State Governments to set up Family Courts in other areas also
  • During this stage, the proceedings will be informal and rigid rules of procedure shall not apply
  • Court may, in the interest of justice, seek assistance of a legal expert
  • It provides for only one right of appeal which shall lie to the High Court.

Gram Nyayalayas

  • It established by the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008
  • Gram Nyayalayas provides access to justice to the citizens at their doorsteps
  • Under the Act State Governments need to establish Gram Nyayalayas in consultation with the respective High Courts.


  • Article 39A directs the State to secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity and shall provide free legal aid
  • Government has taken various measures to strengthen judicial system, inter alia, by simplifying the procedural laws
  • Law Commission of India in its 114th Report suggested establishment of Gram Nyayalayas
  • Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 is broadly based on the  recommendations


  • The Gram Nyayalaya shall be court of Judicial Magistrate of the first class
  • Its presiding officer (Nyayadhikari) shall be appointed by the State Government in consultation with the High Court.
  • The Nyayadhikaris are strictly judicial officers
  • Salary and powers same as First Class Magistrates working under High Courts
  • Gram Nyayalaya shall be a mobile court
  • It shall exercise the powers of both Criminal and Civil Courts.
  • It shall be guided by the principles of natural justice and subject to any rule made by the High Court.
  • Appeal in criminal cases shall lie to the Court of Session, which shall be heard and disposed of within a period of six months

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