STRUCTURE AND JURISDICTION OF SUBORDINATE COURTS
The state's judiciary consists of a high court and a hierarchy of subordinate courts, also known as lower courts. The subordinate courts are so-called because of their subordination to the state high court. They function below and under the high court at district and lower levels.
The organizational structure, jurisdiction, and nomenclature of the subordinate judiciary are laid down by the states. Hence, they differ slightly from state to state. There are three tiers of civil and criminal courts below the High Court.
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. In other words, the district judge is also the sessions judge. When he deals with civil cases, he is known as the district judge and when he hears the criminal cases, he is called the sessions judge. The district judge exercises both judicial and administrative powers. He also has supervisory powers over all the subordinate courts in the district. Appeals against his orders and judgments lie to the High Court. The sessions judge has the power to impose any sentence including life imprisonment and capital punishment (death sentence). However, a capital punishment passed by him is subject to confirmation by the High Court, whether there is an appeal or not. Below the District and Sessions Court stands the Court of Subordinate Judge on the civil side and the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate on the criminal side. The subordinate judge exercises unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction over civil suits.
The chief judicial magistrate decides criminal cases which are punishable with imprisonment for a term of up to seven years.
At the lowest level, on the civil side, is the Court of Munsiff and on the criminal side, is the Court of Judicial Magistrate. The munsiff possesses limited jurisdiction and decides civil cases of small pecuniary stake.
The judicial magistrate tries criminal cases which are punishable with imprisonment for a term up to three 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. Some of the States and Presidency towns have established small causes courts. These courts decide the civil cases of small value in a summary manner. Their decisions are final, but the High Court possesses the power of revision. In some states, Panchayat Courts try petty civil and criminal cases. They are variously known as Nyaya Panchayat, Gram Kutchery, Adalati Panchayat, Panchayat Adalat.