The judiciary is essential to maintaining the rule of law and upholding justice in any democracy. High Courts retain a special place among the several levels of the judiciary as the supreme judicial power at the state or provincial level in many nations. High Courts act as stewards of justice, assuring the protection of individual rights, settling conflicts, and preserving the balance of power between the administrative, legislative, and judicial institutions with their extensive jurisdiction and significant powers.
This article explores the role of high courts, their duties, how they are organised, and how they affect society.
The Significance of High Courts
High Courts occupy a central place in the judicial system by exercising supervisory and appellate jurisdiction over lower courts and tribunals. Their primary responsibility lies in interpreting laws, ensuring their constitutionality, and promoting fairness in the administration of justice. As the highest appellate courts at the state level, High Courts provide a vital avenue for individuals and organisations to seek redressal against unjust decisions, thereby ensuring access to justice for all citizens.
One of the crucial roles of High Courts is safeguarding fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. They act as guardians of these rights, protecting citizens from any infringement by the state or its instrumentalities. High Courts often entertain writ petitions and public interest litigation (PIL), enabling citizens to seek remedies against arbitrary actions or policies. Through their judgments, High Courts set legal precedents that guide lower courts, ensuring consistent and fair application of the law.
Structure and Jurisdiction of High Courts
High Courts are typically established in federal or quasi-federal systems where power is distributed between the central government and sub-national units. In countries like India, Australia, and Nigeria, High Courts exist at the state or provincial level, complementing the Supreme Court or Federal Court at the national level. The number of High Courts varies, depending on the number of states or provinces within a country.
High Courts usually comprise multiple judges, with the Chief Justice leading the bench. The appointment of judges is typically made by the President or Governor, based on recommendations from the Supreme Court or a collegium of senior judges. This ensures the independence of the judiciary and the selection of competent individuals with integrity and legal acumen.
High Courts have broad authority over a variety of civil, criminal, constitutional, and administrative issues. In some situations, they have original jurisdiction, and they have appellate jurisdiction over judgements rendered by lesser courts and tribunals. High Courts are also endowed with the authority of judicial review, which enables them to assess the legality of laws and government actions to guarantee conformity to constitutional norms.
Impact on Society
The decisions rendered by High Courts have far-reaching implications for society, as they often deal with issues of public importance and social justice. High Courts have played a pivotal role in promoting progressive changes and safeguarding the rights of marginalised sections of society. They have been instrumental in protecting the environment, ensuring access to education, and promoting gender equality.
High Courts have been active in addressing public interest concerns through PIL. In India, landmark judgments by the High Courts have resulted in the protection of child rights, curbing corruption, and promoting transparency in governance. Similarly, the Australian High Court’s ruling on the constitutional rights of indigenous people has had a transformative impact on their recognition and representation.
As a further safeguard against the abuses of the executive and legislative parts of government, the High Courts are present. They keep the government’s actions within the parameters of the constitution by maintaining a delicate balance of power. High Courts have the capacity to overturn legislation that are in conflict with the constitution, acting as a check on any abuse of power.
High Courts are the cornerstones of justice, preserving the rule of law and defending citizens’ basic rights. High Courts are essential for settling disputes, guaranteeing access to justice, and preserving the balance of power in a democratic polity because of their broad jurisdiction.
Their decisions shape legal precedent, influence policy formulation, and have a lasting impact on society. As the highest judicial authorities at the state or provincial level, High Courts bear the responsibility of safeguarding individual rights, promoting equality, and fostering an environment of justice and fairness for all.