Karnataka High Court is the highest court of judicature in the state. It stands at the top of the hierarchy within the state but it is below the Supreme Court of India, which is the highest judicial tribunal in the country. Below the High Court are secondary courts in Karnataka such as the civil courts, family courts, criminal courts and various district courts.
As per the Constitution of India the judiciary is independent of the executive and legislative branches of the government.
Karnataka High Court
The Karnataka High Court was established in 1881 with jurisdiction over Karnataka. The High Court was instituted as constitutional court under Part VI, Chapter V, Article 214 of the Indian Constitution. The Karnataka High Court is located in Bangalore and has a sanctioned judge strength of 62. At present it is functional in Bangalore, Dharwad and Gulbarga.
The Karnataka High Court is composed of a Chief Justice and as many other judges as the President of India may appoint from time to time. The President reserves the power to appoint additional judges to the High Court for a maximum period of two years for the purpose of clearance of areas of work in the High Court. The number of judges in the High Court is decided by the dividing the average institution of main cases during the last five years by the national average. The average rate of disposal of main cases per judge per year in the High Court is also considered while making this decision.
The President appoints the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court after consulting the Chief Justice of India and the Governor of Karnataka. For appointing judges to Karnataka High Court the President consults the Chief Justice of India, the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court and the Governor of Karnataka.
Generally the judges hold office till they are 62 years of age. The President of India has the right to remove a judge based on a report of Parliament. The judges of the High Court can also be removed from office on various grounds like misdemeanour and corruption.
Jurisdiction of Karnataka High Court
Karnataka High Court acts as the Court of Original Jurisdiction as well as the Court of Appellate Jurisdiction in the state. It is the highest court of appeal for any criminal or civil cases of the state. The High Court reserves the right to declare its verdict on constitutional point only while leaving it to the concerned lower court to give verdict on the other issues or try the cases as a whole.
Being the Court of original Jurisdiction the High Court is vested with the power to try original cases. It can try all crimes including those punishable with death. It also enjoys original jurisdiction with respect to various other cases including revenue and its collection, cases of succession, divorce etc.
In its appellate Jurisdiction, the Karnataka High Court is empowered to hear appeals from the lower courts in cases related to income tax, copy right, sales-tax, patent-right etc.
The High Court has the power to issue writs to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens. It is empowered to interpret the Constitution of India. It can exercise its power of reviewing the laws of the State Legislature and declare the laws null and void if such laws are found to be against the provisions of the Constitution of India.
The Karnataka High Court can supervise over all the lower courts of the state except the Military Tribunals. It can frame rules and regulations for transaction of business in the subordinate courts. It also acts as a Court of Record and its verdicts can be used for reference while dealing with other cases.
District and Subordinate Courts of Karnataka
The District Courts in Karnataka are at the top of all the subordinate or lower courts. But in terms of hierarchy the District Courts fall below the Karnataka High Court and are under the administrative control of the High Court. The District Courts administer jurisdiction at the district level in Karnataka. The decisions of District Courts in the state are subject to the appellate jurisdiction of Karnataka High Court.
A District and Sessions Judge presides over a District Court. He is referred to as a District Judge when he presides over civil cases and as a Sessions Judge when he presides over criminal cases. The judge is referred to as a Metropolitan Sessions Judge when he presides over a District Court in a city which is recognised as a metropolitan city or area. After the High Court Judge, the District Judge is the highest judicial authority in the state. In addition to the District Judge, the government may also appoint Additional District Judges to manage workload of the court.
The District Courts are endowed with the power to hold jurisdiction over the subordinate courts. In terms of decreasing hierarchy the subordinate courts for handling civil cases are Senior Civil Judge Court (also known as sub-court), Principal Junior Civil Judge Court and Junior Civil Judge Court. Subordinate courts for handling criminal cases in decreasing order of hierarchy are Chief Judicial Magistrate Court, First Class Judicial Magistrate Court and Second Class Judicial Magistrates Court.
Further, there are Family Courts to deal with matrimonial disputes. The principal judge presiding over a family court is equivalent to District Judge.
A judge of the District Court and most of the subordinate courts in Karnataka are appointed by the Governor of the state in consultation with the Karnataka High Court.