The Legal Structure of India

India attaining independence on 15th August 1947, required to frame its own legal structure. Constitutions are either unitary or federal. In the unitary government, the powers of the government are centralised in the central government & the states are subordinate to the centre. In the federal constitution, there is a division of power between the states & the central government & both are independent in their own spheres.

The nature of Indian Constitution can be understood as it is:

1. Federal features:

The federal features of the Indian Constitution can be understood in the following points:

The most essential feature of the federal constitution is that it has a dual government that means a dual polity consisting of the union at the centre and the states at the periphery. Each is endowed with sovereign powers to be exercised in the field assigned to them respectively by the Indian Constitution.

The Union government deals with the matters of national importance like defence, foreign affairs & so on. The state government look after the matters of the regional & local importance like health, agriculture & so on.

A federal constitution is almost necessary for a written constitution. The Indian Constitution is not only a written document but also the lengthiest constitution of the world.

The Indian Constitution has divided the powers between the centre & the state in terms of union list, state list & the concurrent list as mentioned in Schedule VII.

The Indian Constitution is the supreme law of the land which means all the authorities of the Union & the State are subject to the authority of the Indian Constitution.

The procedure of amending the constitution regarding the federal principle is rigid. The Indian Constitution cannot be changed unilaterally either by the centre or by the state government. Hence, the Indian Constitution is rigid to the extent of those provisions which are concerned with federal structure can be amended by the joint action of the centre and the state as well.

2. Unitary features: 

The unitary features of the Indian Constitution can be understood by Article 1 of the Indian Constitution says that India is the union of states which implies two things i.e., it is not the result of an agreement among the states & the second is that the states have no power to separate itself from the Union.

In India, the government has the power to separate or alter the boundaries of the states & it is laid down in Article 3 of the Indian Constitution.

The process of a constitutional amendment is less rigid than what is found in other federations. The bulk of the Indian Constitution can be amended by the unilateral action of the parliament.

3. Quasi Federal: 

The quasi-federal feature of the Indian Constitution can be understood as it has always been a matter of debate that whether the Indian Constitution is federal or unitary in nature.

The Indian Constitution is both federal & unitary in nature as it is a combination of federal & unitary features.

In the federal set-up, there is a two-tier government with well-assigned powers & the functions of all the parts. Prevention as well as for the betterment of the conflict of the interest of the centre and the state is an integral part of federalism.  No doubt that the essay characteristics of a federal constitution are present in the Indian Constitution. It is claimed that the constitution does not embody the federal principles because the centre can in certain contingencies encroach upon the field reserved for the states. The power of intervention given to the centre is inconsistent with the federal system as it places the states in a subordinate position.

How has the judiciary system contributed in maintaining the legal setup in India? 

The Indian Constitution has established an integrated judicial system with the Supreme Court at the top & the states High courts below it.

The Judicial System in India is divided into three categories – the Apex Court or the Supreme Court of India, the High Courts in respective states and union territories and lower courts at the district level.

Apex Court: Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court is the highest level of the Indian judicial system. It was established under the provision of Part V Chapter IV of the Constitution of India. The said provision ratified the concept of the Supreme Court as the Federal Court acting as the guardian of the Constitution of India. Also, it is the highest court of appeal.

As per article 124 to 147 of the Indian Constitution, the jurisdiction and composition of the Supreme Court are determined. 

The Supreme Court accepts to hear the appellate matters against the orders passed by the High Courts, under its power of appellate jurisdiction. 

The Court also hears writ petition under the provision of Art. 32 of the Indian Constitution when there is a suspension of the fundamental rights or a violation of human rights. The writ petitions do not require to follow any hierarchy, it can directly reach the Supreme Court. The article confers rights to ensure remedies through the constitution. The Court also hears the serious issues which requires to be attended immediately – for eg., right now it is attending the matter of the Farm Bill protested by the farmers of the country.

There are 30 judges in the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice of India. The proceeding of the Supreme Court is heard in only English.

Article 145 of the Constitution of India ensures the regulation of judicial procedure and practices of the Supreme Court.

Middle Court: HIgh Courts

High Courts are the second-highest court in the judicial hierarchy and are regulated by Article 141 of the Constitution of India. They are governed by the bindings conferred by the Supreme Court of India so far as judgments and orders are concerned.

Article 214 Part IV Chapter V of the Constitution of India specifies the power of the High Courts in India. There are 24 High Courts in India, out of which Calcutta High Court is the oldest one.

The High Courts are limited to the jurisdiction of the State, group of states and Union Territory. The High Court governs the jurisdiction of the lower courts – district court, family court, civil and criminal court and the other courts of the districts. 

The High Courts have the jurisdiction of hearing the appeals from the district court orders. High Courts are mainly exercising their jurisdiction related to the civil or criminal domain if the lower courts are proved incapable of exercising their power as per authorization extended by law.  These situations may be generated through the inability of financial or territorial jurisdiction. There are specific areas in which only High Courts can exercise the right for hearing like cases related to Company Law as it is designated especially in a state or federal law.

The Court has the power to hear the writ petition under Article 226, regarding any violation or threat to the fundamental right or human rights within the territory of the state.

The high courts with the handling of most of the cases of a particular area are provided with the facility of permanent benches or branches of the court situated there only. To serve the complainants of remote regions the establishment of circuit benches had been made to facilitate the service with the schedule of operation as per the occurrence of the visit of the judge.

Lower Court: District Court

Under the discretion of the state government of the union territories, the courts are structured mainly under several factors like the number of cases, distribution of population, etc. Depending upon those factors the state government takes the decision of numbers of District Courts to be in operation for the single district or clubbing together different adjacent districts.

The jurisdiction of the district court is limited to the territorial extent of the district and the district judges are appointe3d by the state government.

The subordinate courts covering the civil cases, in this aspect are considered as Junior Civil Judge Court, Principal Junior and Senior Civil Judge Court, which are also known as Sub Courts, Subordinate Courts. All these courts are treated with ascending orders. The subordinate courts covering the criminal cases are Second Class Judicial Magistrate Court, First Class Judicial Magistrate Court, and Chief Judicial Magistrate Court along with family courts for dealing the matrimonial issues.

There are a total of 351 district courts in operation.

Village Court: Panchayat

Panchayat is an extra-judicial body, where the matters are solved through mediation. However, the Panchayat can not force any of the parties to obey its order, neither can pass a punishment.

India has experienced and still experience evil activities like Khap Panchayat imposing their decision in personal matters like matrimonial matters, that is not a judicial proceeding, rather persons ionvolve3 in these kinds of activities are punished.

Out of Court Settlement: Lok Adalat

Lok Adalat is an extra-judicial body, where the parties wishing to release each other from the existing judicial proceeding and solve the matter through mediation, can take it to the Lok Adalat, which is presided by retired district judges, respected gove3rnment official and other eminent personalities, whom the general public of that area obeys (often a school headmaster in a rural area).

The decision is finalised upon the points of agreement between the parties, and the decision passed by the Lok Adalat requires to be validated by the District Court.


India follows the common law and has a single court system to administer both Central and State laws. The court system is broadly three tiered, comprising the lower District courts, the High Courts and the apex court – the Supreme Court of India. Court litigation in India is generally subject to delays, and owing to a backlog of cases before Indian courts, commercial disputes are being subject to alternative modes of dispute resolution, such as arbitration.

The choice of dispute resolution mechanism can have significant commercial, financial and legal consequences and investors should consider the advantages and disadvantages of each mode of dispute resolution, be it litigation before Indian courts or arbitration.

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