Courts of Law - Criminal Courts, Civil Courts, Special Courts

Courts of Law - Criminal Courts, Civil Courts, Special Courts


Courts are institutions wherein disputes are adjudicated and justice administered. They are created by Statutes and enjoy such powers and jurisdiction, which the Statutes Confer



The State judiciary under the High Court is organized in a hierarchy on the civil & criminal side based on their jurisdiction, territorial or monetary.


Criminal Courts:
On the Criminal side the Criminal Procedure Code provides for the Magistrates Courts (First or Second Class depending on the extent of powers for punishment) and above them are session courts, usually one in each District.


Civil Courts:
A Civil Court is constituted by a State as a part of the normal hierarchy of Courts of Civil Jurisdiction maintained by the State under its constitution exercising judicial power of the state except those which are excluded by law from their jurisdiction. The District Court is Subordinate of High Court and every civil court of a grade inferior to that of a District Court and every Court of small causes are subordinate to District Court and High Court.


Special Courts:
There can be Special Courts set up for specific purposes such as Family Courts, Fast Track Courts, Mahila Courts


Apart from these judicial bodies, Indian judiciary is also characterised by numerous semi-judicial bodies involved in dispute resolution. These bodies function as semi or quasi-judicial bodies because they may consist of administrative officers (without a legal background) or judges.
Tribunals have been constituted under specific constitutional mandate enshrined in the Constitution of India or through legal enactments, e.g. a law passed by the legislature. Their creation aims at increasing efficiency in resolving disputes and reducing the burden on courts. Tribunals complement and supplement the role of courts in maintaining law and justice in the society. and Examples of some of these tribunals include: Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) established under Administrative Tribunal Act 1985, for resolving the grievances and disputes of central government employees. It is necessary that chairman of the tribunal should be a former or retiring Chief Justice or a Senior Judge of a High Court. All the appointments must be made by a high-powered committee with a sitting judge of the Supreme Court as its Chairman. These modifications have been carried out by the Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Act, 1987. Other examples are Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) for resolving disputes in the telecom sector in India; and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for disputes involving environmental issues, Consumer forums/ Commissions under consumer Protection Act, 1986.


Read more:-  Classification of Law



There are several legislations dealing with Criminal Law. However, two important sources are:

  • The Indian Penal Code, 1860, which defines various crimes such as murder, theft, etc.
  • Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which lays down the procedure for both the police to investigate crimes and for trial of offences.

In addition the following legislations are important:

  • The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, which stipulates the kind of evidence admissible in court.
  • Special Criminal Laws passed by the Parliament or State Legislatures such as the Prevention of Corruption Act, Food Adulteration Act, Dowry Prevention Act, Commission of Sati Act etc. Each of these laws defines crimes that are in addition to those defined under the IPC.

To know in detail about the Difference between Civil and Criminal Courts visit the linked article.


In 1834 the first Indian Law Commission was constituted to investigate into the jurisdiction, powers and rules of the existing courts as well as police establishments and into the laws in operation in British India. The Indian Penal Code was drafted by the first Indian Law Commission under the presidentship of Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay and was submitted to the Governor-General of Indian in Council in 1837.


Crimes Against Body Murder, Culpable Homicide not amounting to Murder, Kidnapping & Abduction, Assault etc
Crimes Against Property Theft, Criminal misappropriation, Criminal Breach of Trust, Dacoity, Robbery, Criminal Trespass
Crimes Against Reputation Defamation
Crimes Against Property Theft, Criminal misappropriation, Criminal Breach of Trust, Dacoity, Robbery, Criminal Trespass
Economic Crimes Forgery, Cheating
Crimes Against Women and Children Rape, Dowry Death, Cruelty by Husband and Relatives, Molestation, Sexual harassment, Kidnapping & Abduction
Dowry harassment, Abetment to suicide
Crimes Against Public order Riots, Arson


There are various kinds of acts which if done normally are crime but if done under certain circumstance will not amount to offence. These are:-

  • Act done by a person bound, or by mistake of fact believing himself bound, by law

  • Act done by a person justified, or by mistake of fact believing himself justified, by law

  • Accident in doing a lawful act

  • Act likely to cause harm, but done without criminal intent, and to prevent other harm

  • Act of a child under seven years of age

  • Act of a child above seven and under twelve of immature Understanding

  • Act of a person of unsound mind

  • Act of a person incapable of judgment by reason of intoxication caused against his will

  • Act not intended and not known to be likely to cause death or grievous hurt, done by consent

  • Act not intended to cause death, done by consent in good faith for person’s benefit

  • Act done in good faith for benefit of a person without consent

  • Act done in pursuance of right of private defence of the body and of property

Click here for more information about  The Punishment for Violations of the Body

The onus of proving exceptions lies on the accused, who has to prove the circumstances brining the case within any of the general exceptions. The court shall presume the absence of such circumstance. Apart from the above exceptions, a Every person has a right to defend body or property (against offences of theft, robbery, mischief or criminal trespass, or their attempt) of himself or any other person.


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