The High courts of India are the principal civil courts of original jurisdiction in each state and union territory. However, a high court exercises its original civil and criminal jurisdiction only if the subordinate courts are not authorized by law to try such matters for lack of pecuniary, territorial jurisdiction. High courts may also enjoy original jurisdiction in certain matters, if so designated specifically in a state or federal law.

Basically, the work of most high courts primarily consists of appeals from lower courts and writ petitions in terms of Article 226 of the constitution. Writ jurisdiction is also an original jurisdiction of a high court.

Each state is divided into judicial districts presided over by a district and sessions judge. He is known as district judge when he presides over a civil case and session’s judge when he presides over a criminal case. He is the highest judicial authority below a high court judge. Below him, there are courts of civil jurisdiction, known by different names in different states. Under Article 141 of the constitution, all courts in India — including high courts — are bounded by the judgments and orders of the Supreme Court of India by precedence.

Judges in a high court are appointed by the President of India in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the governor of the state. High courts are headed by a chief justice. The chief justices rank fourteenth (within their respective states) and seventeenth (outside their respective states) on the Indian order of precedence. The number of judges in a court is decided by dividing the average institution of main cases during the last five years by the national average, or the average rate of disposal of main cases per judge per year in that High Court, whichever is higher.

The Calcutta High Court is the oldest high court in the country, established on 2 July 1862. High courts that handle numerous cases of a particular region have permanent benches established there. Benches are also present in states which come under the jurisdiction of a court outside its territorial limits. Smaller states with few cases may have circuit benches established. Circuit benches (known as circuit courts in some parts of the world) are temporary courts which hold proceedings for a few selected months in a year. Thus cases built up during this interim period are judged when the circuit court is in session. According to a study conducted by Bangalore-based NGO, Daksh, on 21 high courts in collaboration with the Ministry of Law and Justice in March 2015, it was found that average pendency of a case in high courts in India is 3 years. High court looks after the issues which are not solved in district court. High courts were first established in three presidency cities of Calcutta, Bombay and madras in 1862. The high court of Delhi came up in 1966. Currently there are 25 high courts. While many states have their own high courts, Punjab and Haryana share a common high court at Chandigarh, and four northeast states have a common high court at Guwahati. Some high courts have been benches in other parts of the state for greater accessibility.


NameYearTerritorial establishment jurisdictionSeat
Allahabad  1866Uttar PradeshAllahabad (Bench at Lucknow)
Andhra Pradesh1956Andhra PradeshHyderabad
Bombay   1862Maharashtra, Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and DiuBombay (Benches at Nagpur, Panaji and Aurangabad)
Calcutta   1862West BengalCalcutta (Circuit Bench at Port Blair)
Guwahati(2) 1948Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland,Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal PradeshGuwahati (Benches at Kohima, Aizwal & Imphal. Circuit Bench at Agartala & Shillong)
Gujarat  1960GujaratAhmedabad
Himachal Pradesh 1971Himachal PradeshShimla
Jammu & Kashmir  1928Jammu & KashmirSrinagar & Jammu
Karnataka(3) 1884KarnatakaBangalore
Kerala 1958Kerala & LakshadweepErnakulam
Madhya Pradesh  1956Madhya PradeshJabalpur (Benches at Gwalior and Indore)
Madras   1862Tamil Nadu & PondicherryMadras
Orissa 1948OrissaCuttack
Patna   1916BiharPatna
Punjab& Haryana(4)1975Punjab, Haryana & ChandigarhChandigarh
Rajasthan  1949RajasthanJodhpur (Bench at Jaipur)
Sikkim 1975SikkimGangtok
Chhattisgarh01/11/2000ChhattisgarhBilaspur (Chhattisgarh)

2. Originally known as the Assam High Court, renamed as Guwahati High Court in 1971.

3. Originally known as Mysore High Court, renamed as Karnataka High Court in 1973.

4. Originally known as Punjab High Court, renamed as Punjab & Haryana High Court in 1966.

Constitution and composition of High courts

Every high court consists of a Chief Justice and a number of judges, who are determined by the President from time to time. Article 217 deals with the appointment of judges and states that every judge of high court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the state.

Jurisdiction and powers of High Court

The powers and jurisdiction of High Court can be classified under following heads:

1) Original Jurisdiction- it means that applicant can directly go to High Court and not by means of appeals. This power is used in the following matters –

• Disputes arising out of relating to members of Parliament and state legislative assembly

• Relating to marriage, law, admiralty divorce, contempt of court etc

• Enforcement of fundamental rights (Supreme Court also has this power)

• Cases transferred from other court to itself which involves a question of law.

2) Writ Jurisdiction- Article 226 states that High Court shall have power throughout the territories in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction to issue to any person or authority including in appropriate cases, any government, within those territories directions, orders, or writs.

3) Appellate Jurisdiction-

It is said that the high court is the primary court of appeal i.e. it has power to hear the appeals against the judgment of the subordinate courts within its territories. This power can be classified in to 2 categories-Civil jurisdiction and Criminal jurisdiction

In civil cases its jurisdiction includes to the orders and judgments of the district courts, additional district courts and other subordinate courts.

In criminal cases its jurisdiction includes judgments relating to sessions courts and additional sessions court. These cases should be involving imprisonment for more than 7 years, confirmation of any death sentence awarded by session court before execution

4) Power of Superintendence –

The High Court has this power over all courts and tribunals except those dealing with the armed forces functioning in the state. Hence in the exercise of this power it may –

• Call for return from such courts

• May issue general rules and prescribe forms for regulating the practice and proceedings of such courts

• Prescribe the form in which books and accounts are being kept by the officers of any court

• Settle fees payable to the sheriff clerks, officers and legal practitioners

The constitution does not place any restriction on this power of superintendence over the subordinate courts, it is not only by means of appeal by the person, it can be suo motto. It is of the nature of revision as it verifies the earlier judgments. In this regard it is considered as a special function as the Supreme Court has no similar power vis a vis the High Court.

5) Control over Subordinate Courts –

This is an extension of the above supervisory and appellate jurisdiction. It states that the High Court can with draw a case pending before any subordinate court, if it involves the substantial question of law. The case can be disposed of itself or solve the question of law and return back to the same court. In the second case the opinion tendered by High court would be binding on the subordinate court. It also deals with matters pertaining to posting promotion, grant of leave, transfer and discipline of the members there in. In this regard it appoints officers and servants to be made by Chief Justice or such other judge of High Court as the Chief Justice may direct.

6) Court of Record – It involves recording of judgments, proceedings and acts of high courts to be recorded for the perpetual memory. These records cannot be further questioned in any court. Based on this record it has power to punish for the contempt of court either with simple imprisonment or with fine or both.

7) Judicial Review –

This power of High Court includes the power to examine the constitutionality of legislative and executive orders of both central and state government. It is to be noted that the word judicial review is no where mentioned in our constitution but the Article 13 and 226 explicitly provide High Court with this power.

8) Extension of jurisdiction of High Court to Union Territories –

Parliament by law may extend the jurisdiction of a High Court to or exclude the jurisdiction of a high court from any union territory.

Procedure for removal of Judges:

The judge’s enquiry act governs the removal or impeachment of judges of High Court. Hence the grounds for removal are

• Proved misbehaviour

• Incapacity

He is removed by the President as per the removal order passed by each house of the parliament by a special majority i.e. a majority of the total membership of the house and a majority of not less than two thirds of members present and voting. A detailed procedure followed is as follows:

1. The initial removal motion to be signed by 100 members in Lok Sabha or by 50 members of Rajya Sabha and be presented to the speaker/ chairman of the house.

2. The speaker has the option of either accepting or rejecting the motion

3. If it is accepted a committee would be constituted to investigate the matter

4. The committee so constituted consists of chief justice or judge of Supreme Court, chief justice of high court and a distinguished jurist.

5. If the committee ascertains the guilty of the judge then the houses take up the issue.

6. If the motion is passed in each house of the parliament by a special majority then the it is later presented to the President for his assent.

7. The President then passes order for removal of judge. The judge is considered removed from that day. (In fact no judge has been removed till now)

Transfer of a judge from one high court to another (Article 222) –

According to it the President may after consultation with the chief justice of India transfer a judge from one High Court to any High Court. Also when a judge has been or is so transferred he shall during the period he serves, after the commencement of the constitution act as a judge of the other high court, so shall be entitled to receive in addition to his salary such compensatory allowance as may be determined by Parliament by law and until so determined such compensatory allowance as the President may by order fix.

Later on in 1977 in K Ashok Reddy case ruled that there requires judicial review in case of arbitrary transfer of judges. Hence as to locus standi only the judge who is transferred can challenge it.

Appointment of acting Chief Justice (Article 223) –

When the office of Chief Justice of a High Court is vacant or when any such Chief Justice by reason of absence or otherwise, unable to perform the duties of his office, the duties of the office shall be performed by such one of the other Judges of the court as the President may appoint for the purposes. However, appointments of persons other than district judges to the judicial service of a state shall be made by the Governor of the state in accordance with rules made by him after consultation with the state public service commission and with the high court exercising jurisdiction in relation to such state.