Constitution of Criminal Courts in India

1. Introduction

The Constitution of Criminal Courts in India is a comprehensive system outlined under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). This framework involves various functionaries who play critical roles in the administration of criminal justice. The main functionaries include the Police, Prosecutors, Defence Counsels, Magistrates, Judges of higher courts, and Prison authorities along with Correctional Services Personnel. Among these, the role of magistrates and courts is particularly pivotal, as they form the core of the judicial process. The other functionaries serve more as auxiliary elements that support the judicial framework.

2. Territorial Divisions

The territorial organization of courts is crucial for effective judicial administration. The basic territorial units under the Code are the States, districts, and sessions divisions. Section 7 of the CrPC mandates that every State shall be either a sessions division or composed of multiple sessions divisions. These sessions divisions can further be subdivided into districts and sub-divisions after consultation with the High Court. Additionally, large cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai are recognized as separate territorial units and are designated as metropolitan areas. This special recognition caters to the unique administrative needs of big cities, where criminal activities are often more sophisticated and require a distinct judicial approach.

3. Classes of Criminal Courts

The criminal courts in India are structured in a hierarchical manner, with the Supreme Court of India at the apex, followed by High Courts for each state. The CrPC, under Section 6, categorizes the subordinate criminal courts into various classes: Courts of Session, Judicial Magistrates of the first and second class, Metropolitan Magistrates, and Executive Magistrates. Additionally, there are special courts constituted under other laws, such as Children’s Courts under the Juvenile Justice Act and special courts established under the Criminal Law Amendment Acts.

4. The Supreme Court and High Courts

The Supreme Court of India, established by the Constitution, has the highest authority in the country. It has extensive jurisdiction and powers, including those related to criminal matters. The CrPC provides for appeals to the Supreme Court under certain conditions and enables the Supreme Court to transfer cases between High Courts or subordinate courts to ensure justice.

Article 227 of the Constitution grants each High Court superintendence over all courts and tribunals within its jurisdiction. This includes ensuring the expeditious and proper disposal of cases. The High Courts also have the authority to oversee the functioning of Judicial Magistrates and to manage appeals and revisions.

5. Separation of Judiciary from the Executive

One of the significant reforms in the Indian judicial system is the separation of the judiciary from the executive. This separation aims to ensure the independent functioning of the judiciary, free from executive influence. Prior to this reform, many magistrates performed both judicial and executive functions, leading to potential conflicts of interest. The CrPC now clearly distinguishes between Judicial Magistrates and Executive Magistrates. Judicial Magistrates are under the control of the High Courts, while Executive Magistrates are under the control of the State Government. This separation enhances the quality and speed of judicial processes by ensuring that judicial officers are focused solely on their judicial duties.

6. Courts of Session

For each sessions division, the State establishes a Court of Session, presided over by a Sessions Judge appointed by the High Court. Additional Sessions Judges and Assistant Sessions Judges may also be appointed to exercise jurisdiction in a Court of Session. These courts primarily deal with serious criminal cases. The judgments and orders passed by these judges are considered those of the Court of Session. Assistant Sessions Judges are subordinate to the Sessions Judge and do not function as independent courts.

7. Courts of Judicial Magistrates

(a) Judicial Magistrates of the First and Second Class

In every district, the State Government, after consultation with the High Court, establishes Courts of Judicial Magistrates of the first and second class. These magistrates handle less severe criminal cases compared to the Courts of Session. The High Court appoints the presiding officers of these courts, ensuring that only legally qualified and trained persons serve as Judicial Magistrates.

(b) Chief Judicial Magistrate

Each district has a Chief Judicial Magistrate, appointed by the High Court. This magistrate supervises and controls the other Judicial Magistrates in the district and handles important cases.

(c) Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate

The High Court can appoint Additional Chief Judicial Magistrates who possess the same powers as the Chief Judicial Magistrate, as directed by the High Court.

(d) Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate

The High Court may designate any Judicial Magistrate of the first class in a sub-division as the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate. These magistrates have supervisory powers over other Judicial Magistrates in their sub-division, subject to the general control of the Chief Judicial Magistrate.

8. Local Jurisdiction of Judicial Magistrates

The local limits within which Judicial Magistrates exercise their powers are defined by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, subject to the High Court’s control. If the jurisdiction is not specifically defined, it extends throughout the district.

9. Subordination of Judicial Magistrates

Judicial Magistrates are organized in a hierarchical structure. Every Chief Judicial Magistrate is subordinate to the Sessions Judge, and other Judicial Magistrates are subordinate to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, under the general control of the Sessions Judge. The Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate also has supervisory powers over the Judicial Magistrates in their sub-division.

10. Courts of Metropolitan Magistrates

In metropolitan areas, the State Government, after consulting with the High Court, establishes courts of Metropolitan Magistrates. The jurisdiction and powers of these magistrates extend throughout the metropolitan area. Each metropolitan area has a Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, appointed by the High Court, along with Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrates as necessary.

11. Subordination of Metropolitan Magistrates

Metropolitan Magistrates are subordinate to the Sessions Judge. The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate and Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrates have supervisory authority over other Metropolitan Magistrates, subject to the general control of the Sessions Judge.

12. Special Judicial Magistrates and Special Metropolitan Magistrates

The High Court, at the request of the Central or State Government, can confer magisterial powers on individuals who hold or have held government posts. These individuals, known as Special Judicial Magistrates or Special Metropolitan Magistrates, handle specific cases or classes of cases. The appointment of such magistrates is regulated to ensure they have the necessary qualifications and experience as prescribed by the High Court.

13. Executive Magistrates

Executive Magistrates perform functions of an executive nature. They are appointed by the State Government in every district and metropolitan area. The State Government also designates one of them as the District Magistrate. Additional District Magistrates and Sub-Divisional Magistrates may also be appointed to handle specific administrative functions within their jurisdiction.

14. Local Jurisdiction of Executive Magistrates

The District Magistrate, subject to the control of the State Government, defines the local limits within which Executive Magistrates exercise their powers. These limits ensure that the jurisdiction and powers of Executive Magistrates are clearly delineated.

15. Subordination of Executive Magistrates

Executive Magistrates are subordinate to the District Magistrate, and those in sub-divisions are subordinate to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, under the general control of the District Magistrate. They are also subordinate to the Court of Session and must promptly send case records when requisitioned.

16. Sentences Which Courts May Pass

(a) High Court

The High Court may pass any sentence authorized by law, reflecting its supreme authority within its jurisdiction.

(b) Sessions Judge or Additional Sessions Judge

These judges can pass any sentence authorized by law, but a sentence of death requires confirmation by the High Court.

(c) Assistant Sessions Judge

An Assistant Sessions Judge can pass any sentence except for death or imprisonment for life, or imprisonment exceeding ten years.

(d) Chief Judicial Magistrate or Chief Metropolitan Magistrate

These magistrates can pass any sentence authorized by law except for death or imprisonment for life, or imprisonment exceeding seven years.

(e) Judicial Magistrate of the First Class or Metropolitan Magistrate

These magistrates can impose sentences of imprisonment up to three years, fines up to five thousand rupees, or both.

(f) Judicial Magistrate of the Second Class

A Judicial Magistrate of the second class can impose sentences of imprisonment up to one year, fines up to one thousand rupees, or both.

17. Special Executive Magistrates

The State Government can appoint Special Executive Magistrates for specific areas or functions, conferring on them the powers of an Executive Magistrate as deemed necessary. This provision allows for flexibility to address special administrative needs in particular regions.

18. Conclusion

The Constitution of Criminal Courts in India, as structured under the CrPC, is a well-defined and hierarchical system designed to ensure the effective administration of criminal justice. The separation of the judiciary from the executive is a fundamental aspect of this system, promoting judicial independence and efficiency. By establishing clear territorial jurisdictions, delineating the classes and powers of various courts, and providing for the appointment of special and executive magistrates, the CrPC creates a robust framework for addressing criminal matters throughout India. This comprehensive organization ensures that the judicial process remains fair, efficient, and free from undue influence, thereby upholding the principles of justice and the rule of law in the country.

Reference-

K.N. Chandrasekharan Pillai, “R.V. Kelkar’s Criminal Procedure”

 

 
 

Author

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *