From Justice Definitions Project

What is jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction refers to the legal authority or power of a court to hear and decide a case. It is the power to interpret and apply the law, and to determine the facts of a case and to deliver a binding judgment and enforce it. Jurisdiction can be based on a number of factors, including the location of the parties or the subject matter of the dispute, and may be limited by geography, subject matter, and other legal principles. The jurisdiction of a court is determined by the laws of the relevant jurisdiction and may be defined by statute or by judicial interpretation. Before a court can be held to have jurisdiction to decide a particular matter it must not only have jurisdiction to try it but must also have the authority to decide the questions at issue and pass appropriate orders.

In civil law, there are three kinds of jurisdiction of courts, viz, pecuniary, territorial and jurisdiction as to the subject matter.

Territorial jurisdiction

Territorial jurisdiction refers to the geographical boundaries within which a court can exercise its jurisdiction. The appropriate state government sets these limits.

Pecuniary jurisdiction

The pecuniary jurisdiction of a court refers to the monetary value of cases that can be adjudicated by it. E.g. in Karnataka the pecuniary jurisdiction of a Civil Judge Senior Division is Rs. 5 lakhs and above. This means that a Civil Judge Senior Division can decide cases where the monetary value is more than Rs. 5 lakhs.

Subject matter jurisdiction

Subject matter jurisdiction is the power and authority of a court to try certain categories of suits. E.g. commercial courts have jurisdiction over commercial matters as defined in the Commercial Courts Act, 2015.

Original and appellate jurisdiction

Jurisdiction can also be classified into original and appellate jurisdiction. In the exercise of its original jurisdiction, a court tries original suits instituted in that court. In the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, it hears appeals from orders and decrees passed by subordinate courts.

High courts have jurisdiction over the entire state. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all of the territory of India.

Official definition

Civil law

Section 2(j) of the Code of Criminal Procedure defines "local jurisdiction" as the local area within which a court or magistrate can exercise all or any of its or their powers under this Act. This area could be a local area, a part of a state or the whole of the state. Section 177 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that ordinarily every offence should be inquired into and tried in a court which has jurisdiction over the place where the offence was committed. The place of inquiry or trial of an offence is primarily to be determined by what is contained in the complaint or the police report (chargesheet) about where and how the offence was committed. An accused person can raise a preliminary objection to the maintainability of the complaint on the grounds of jurisdiction before the trial starts.

Certain laws can bar the jurisdiction of civil courts. E.g. section 63 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 provides that no civil court (other than High Court under article 226 or article 227 of the Constitution or the Supreme Court) has jurisdiction over any dispute relating to land acquisition in respect of which the Collector or the Authority is empowered by or under the Act.

Criminal law

Section 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure states that the courts shall (subject to the provisions herein contained) have jurisdiction to try all suits of a civil nature excepting suits of which their cognizance is either expressly or impliedly barred.

Appearance in official databases

On the eCourts portal the search function is organised along court complexes and courts establishments which are organised along the lines of jurisdiction.

Research that engages with jurisdiction

A Study of Karnataka High Court’s Writ Jurisdiction [1]

Litigation landscape of Bengaluru: Series 1: Bengaluru Rural Courts [2]


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