Kerala, About the Judiciary

About Kerala Judiciary

The High court is the highest court of Justice in the state. The High Court consists of a Chief Justice and a few other judges. The high court has two types of Jurisdiction, the original jurisdiction and the appellate jurisdiction.

The High Court's power to issue writ is called the original jurisdiction. It has the original jurisdiction to issue writs for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights and to settle union and state legislature election disputes. The appellate jurisdiction of the High Court includes both civil and criminal cases from the lower courts.

The High Court has the power of superintendence over lower courts in the state. It can give order or writ including Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Quo warrentio etc. to individuals, Government and organisations that come under its area of jurisdiction. It settles the disputes between Civil and Criminal courts in the name of Power for Jurisdiction. Using the power of scrutiny it can stop litigation and can interfere in the jurisdiction of Lower courts. Though the officers of High Court are appointed by the Chief Justice of High Court, the law sanctioning the salary, allowances and pension is approved by the Governor.

The High Court of Kerala

High Court of Kerala came into being from 1st November 1956, with its seat at Ernakulam. High Court is a constitutional Court in terms of the Article 215 of the constitution of India.

It has its credits to the Rulers of Travancore-Cochin and the British Diwan, Colonel Munro. Till the time of Colonel Munro there was no provision for the administration of justice in the form of independent Tribunals. In order to reform the Judicial System he submitted a regulation to reorganise the courts. Her Highness the Rani who insisted upon the preservation of the trial by ordeal passed the Regulation in 1811. In 1811, Zilla courts were established and in 1814, a Huzur Court (Court of Appeal) was also established. The Huzur Court was the final court of appeal. The Sadar Court replaced this court of appeal (Huzur Court) in 1861. The Sadar Court practically possessed all the powers now exercised by the High Court. It functioned from 1861 to 1881. The High Court of Travancore was established in 1887 with five Judges. The first Chief Justice of Travancore High Court was Mr. Ramachandra Iyer. It was during the Diwanship of Col. Munro in 1812 A.D. that graded law courts came to be established for the first time in Cochin State. Prior to that Desavazhis and Naduvazhis settled disputes according to their custom and traditions. More serious disputes were sometimes taken to the king himself. Col.Munro also established two Sub Courts one at Trichur and other at Tripunithura. The Huzur Court was reconstituted as the Raja's Court of Appeal and the Sub Courts were reconstituted as the Zilla Court. The Zilla Courts were given unlimited jurisdiction, but subject to confirmation by the Raja's court of appeal. It was in 1900 that the Raja's Court of appeal was reconstituted as the Chief Court of Cochin with three permanent Judges with Mr. S. Locke, Bar at Law as the first Chief Judge. During the Diwanship of Sri Shanmukham Chettiyar, the Chief Court became the High Court. 
On the integration of  Travancore-Cochin State after independence on 1st July 1949, it was on the 7th of July 1949 that the High Court of Travancore-Cochin was inaugurated with its seat at Ernakulam. Under the state re-organisation Act, 1956 Travancore Cochin State and Malabar were integrated to form the State of Kerala, on 1st November 1956. High Court of Kerala was thus established on that day. It inherited 3409 main cases from Travancore-Cochin High Court and 1504 cases from the High Court of Madras. Its territorial jurisdiction extends to the entire State of Kerala and the Union Territory of Lakshadweep.

The High Court transacts its judicial functions, the Judges sitting in Single, in Division Bench and in specifically referred cases in Full Bench and also in Larger Bench. The power of distribution of work in courts vests with the Chief Justice and the work is distributed depending on the subject matter of the cases. The constitution of sittings and work distribution is published daily. There are all together 13 Judicial Sections in the High Court to deal with 50 types of cases filed in the court from filing to issue of Certified Copy of Judgment / Orders. The cause list of cases posted before different courts / chambers are also published daily and weekly. There are 14 Principal District Courts. All of them, except the District Courts at Thodupuzha, Manjeri and Thalasserry are situated at the Head Quarters of the Revenue District.  
There are 26 Addl. District Courts. Of them, the Addl. District Courts at Mavelikkara and North Paravur are having filing power independent of the Principal District Court. There are 51 Sub Courts (18 Addl.), 81 Munsiff Courts, and 17 Munsiff-Magistrate Courts in the state. There are 7 Family courts functioning at Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Ernakulam, Ettumanoor (Kottayam), Thrissur, Manjeri and Kozhikode having jurisdiction over the respective District. Also, there are 22 Fast Track Courts, 2 Special Courts exclusively for the trial of NDPS cases at Thodupuzha and Vadakara, 2 Special Courts for the trial of SPE/CBI cases, one Special Court for the trial of Essential Commodities Act Cases at Thrissur and one Special Court for the trial of cases relating to Idamalayar Investigations. There are 19 Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals. In addition, District Judges at Kalpetta and Kasargod also function as Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal. Certain Addl. District Courts and certain special courts in the State also function as Addl. Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals. There are 3 Wakf Tribunals in the State. As in the case of Subordinate Civil Judiciary, there are 14 Chief Judicial Magistrates, 4 Addl. Chief Judicial Magistrates and 122 Courts of the Judicial Magistrates of First Class. 
Lower Courts

The lower courts of High Court are the District Courts, Munsif Courts, District Magistrate Courts, I Class, II Class, III Class Magistrate courts etc.. The court concerned with the Jurisdiction of a District is under District Sessions Court. The District Courts manages all civil cases and the Sessions court handles criminal cases.

Judicial Setup

The sanctioned Judge strength of the High Court of Kerala is 27 Permanent Judges including the Chief Justice and 2 Additional Judges. The Hon’ble Judges sit in single, Division Bench and in specifically referred cases in Full Bench and Larger Bench. The High Court has Original, Appellate as well as Revisional Jurisdiction in both Civil and Criminal matters and the power to answer references under various Statutes. Under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the High Court has power to issue, subject to its territorial jurisdiction, Directions, Orders and Writs including writs in the nature of Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition, Quo warrants etc. 
Administrative Setup

The Registrar heads High Court administration, the Other Registrar looks after the Subordinate Judiciary matters, Registrar (Vigilance) is in Charge of the vigilance wing of the High Court and the Director of Training heads the Training Directorate. Three Joint Registrars, five Deputy Registrars, Public Relations Officer, Protocol Officer and fifteen Assistant Registrars are the other important functionaries in the High Court administration.

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