Subordinate Courts, NALSA, Lok Adalat & Gram Nyayalayas


  • Part VI (State) spanning from 233 to 237 of the Indian Constitution. State judiciary system consists of a HC and a hierarchy of subordinate courts below it, also known as lower courts.
  • They function below and under the HC at district and lower levels.

Appointment of District Judges 

  • The appointment, posting and promotion of district judges in a state are made by the Governor of the state in consultation with the HC.

Qualification of District Judges

  • He should not already be in the service of the Central or the state
  • He should have been an advocate for seven years.
  • He should be recommended by the HC for appointment.

Appointment of Other Judges

  • Made by the Governor of the state after consultation with the State Public Service Commission and the HC of concerned state.


  • The control over district courts and other subordinate courts including the posting, promotion and leave of persons belonging to the judicial service of a state and holding any post inferior to the post of district judge is vested in the High Court.


  • The Governor may direct that the above-mentioned provisions relating to persons in the state judicial service would apply to any class or classes of magistrates in the state.

Structure and Jurisdiction

  • The organizational structure, jurisdiction and nomenclature of the subordinate judiciary are laid down by the states. Hence, they differ slightly from state to state.
  • Broadly, there are three tiers of civil and criminal courts below the HC of state.
  • Schematic- Hierarchical structure of Sub-ordinate court
  • The district judge is the highest judicial authority in the district.
  • He possesses original and appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal
  • Criminal matters – District judge is known as the Sessions judge.
  • Civil matters – District judge known as the District
  • The district judge exercises both judicial and administrative
  • He also has supervisory powers over all the subordinate courts in the district.
  • Appeals against his orders and judgements lie to the HC.
  • The sessions judge has the power to impose any sentence including life imprisonment and capital punishment (death sentence).
  • 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.

National Legal Services Authority: NALSA


  • Legal Services Authorities Act-1987
  • State Legal Services Authority and in every High Court, a High Court Legal Services Committee
  • District Legal Services Authorities, Taluk Legal Services Committees
  • Lok Adalats

Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 14 – Makes obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law.
  • Article 21– Right to free legal aid or free legal service is Fundamental Rights.
  • Article 22(1) – Right to consult and to be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice in case of arrest.
  • Article 39A (Part IV DPSPs) – of the Constitution of India provides for justice for all and free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society. (Added by 42nd CAA 1976)

Main Functions of NALSA

  • provide free and competent legal services
  • organise Lok Adalats
  • organise legal awareness camps

Composition of NALSA

  • NALSA shall consist of the CJI who shall be the Patron-in-Chief and a serving or retired Judge of the SC to be nominated by the President, in consultation with the CJI, who shall be the Executive Chairman.

The free legal services include

  • Payment of court fee, process fees and all other charges
  • service of lawyers
  • Obtaining and supply of certified copies of orders
  • Preparation of appeal, paper book including printing and translation of documents

Lok Adalats

  • forum where the cases (or disputes) which are pending in a court or which are at pre-litigation stage (not yet brought before a court)
  • ‘People’s Court’.
  • Based on Gandhian principles.
  • Components of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution)
  • settle even petty cases
  • there are no victors and vanquished and, thus, no rancour.
  • statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987
  • Lok Adalat has jurisdiction on any case pending before or any matter falling within the jurisdiction of and is not brought before any court for which the Lok Adalat is organised.
  • It can deal with cases like compoundable civil, revenue and criminal cases, motor accident compensation claims, partition claims, damages cases, matrimonial and family disputes, land-related cases, bounded labour cases, bank unpaid loan cases, and so on.
  • Despite the wide-ranging jurisdiction, the Lok Adalat is not allowed to deal with the non-compoundable criminal cases under any law. Thus, serious crimes are kept outside the ambit of Lok Adalats.
  • Same powers as are vested in a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure (1908)
  • requisite powers to specify its own procedure for the determination of any dispute coming before it.
  • An award of a Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of aCivil Court or an order of any other court. Every award made bya Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties to the No appeal shall lie to any court against the award of theLok Adalat.
  • Benefits
    • no court fee and if court fee is already paid the amount will be refunded
    • no strict application of procedural laws like the Civil Procedure Code and the Evidence Act
    • procedural flexibility and speedy trial
    • directly interact with the judge
    • binding on the parties and it has the status of a decree of a civil court and it is non-appealable
  • Advantages of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution)
    • less expensive, less time-consuming, free from technicalities
    • free to discuss their differences of opinion
    • grievance is redressed and their relationship is restored

Permanent Lok Adalats

  • The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 was amended in 2002 to provide for the establishment of the Permanent Lok Adalats to deal with cases pertaining to the public utility services like transport, postal, telegraph etc.
  • These have been set up as permanent bodies.
  • It shall consist of a Chairman who is or has been a district judge or additional district judge or has held judicial office higher in rank than that of the district judge and two other persons having adequate experience in public utility services.
  • It shall not have jurisdiction in respect of any matter relating to an offence not compoundable under any law. The jurisdiction of the Permanent Lok Adalats is upto Rs. 1 Crore.
  • Before the dispute is brought before any court, any party to the dispute may make an application to the Permanent Lok Adalat for settlement of the dispute. After an application is made to the Permanent Lok Adalat, no party to that application shall invoke jurisdiction of any court in the same dispute.
  • It shall formulate the terms of a possible settlement and submit them to the parties for their observations and in case the parties reach an agreement, the Permanent Lok Adalat shall pass an award in terms thereof. In case parties to the dispute fail to reach an agreement, the Permanent Lok Adalat shall decide the dispute on merits.
  • A major drawback of the Lok Adalats is that if the parties do not arrive at any compromise or settlement, the case is either returned to the court of law or the parties are advised to seek a remedy in a court of law. This causes unnecessary delay in the dispensation of justice.
  • Every award made by the Permanent Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties thereto and shall be by a majority of the persons constituting the Permanent Lok Adalat.

Family Courts

  • Family Courts Act, 1984
  • State Governments in consultation with the High Courts
  • every city or town with a population exceeding one million
  • Matters
    • matrimonial relief, including nullity of marriage, judicial separatedivorce, restitution of conjugal rights, or declaration as tovalidity of marriage
    • property of the spouses or of either
    • declaration as to the legitimacy
    • guardianship of a person or the custody of any minor
    • maintenance of wife, children and parents
  • provides for only one right of appeal which shall lie to the High

Gram Nyayalayas

  • Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008
  • Article 39A
  • Law Commission of India in its 114th Report on Gram Nyayalaya suggested establishment of Gram Nyayalayas
  • court of Judicial Magistrate of thefirst class and its presiding officer (Nyayadhikari)
  • appointed by the State Government in consultation with the HighCourt
  • established for every Panchayat
  • Nyayadhikaris are strictly judicial officers deriving the same powers as First ClassMagistrates working under High Courts
  • Exercisethe powers of both Criminal and Civil Courts
  • shall try criminal cases, civil suits, claims or disputes which are specified in the First Schedule and the Second Schedule to the Act.
  • shall exercise the powers of a Civil Court with certain modifications and shall follow the special procedure as provided in the Act.
  • shall try to settle the disputes as far as possible by bringing about conciliation between the parties and for this purpose. It shall make use of the conciliators to be appointed for this purpose.
  • can try criminal cases, civil suits, claims or disputes which are specified in the Act. For e.g. Offences not punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years.
  • not bound by the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 but is guided by the principles of natural justice and is subject to any rule made by the High Court.
  • shall follow summary procedure in criminal trial.

Appeal against Judgements

  • For criminal case – shall be taken to the Court of Session.
  • For civil case – shall be taken to District court.
  • Appeals in both cases have to be heard and disposed of within six months.

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