This article was written by Anumeha Karnatak of NLS Bangalore while she was interning with iPleaders.



Jurisdiction can be defined as the limit of a judicial authority or the extent to which a court of law can exercise its authority over suits, cases, appeals etc. The rationale behind introducing the concept of jurisdiction in law is that a court should be able to try and adjudicate only in those matters with which it has some connection or which fall within the geographical or political or pecuniary limits of its authority. A 1921 Calcutta High Court judgment in the case of Hriday Nath Roy v. Ram Chandra sought to explain the meaning of the term ‘jurisdiction’ in a great detail. The bench observed:

An examination of the cases in the books discloses numerous attempts to define the term ‘jurisdiction’, which has been stated to be ‘the power to hear and determine issues of law and fact;’ ‘the authority by which three judicial officers take cognizance of and decide cause;’ ‘the authority to hear and decide a legal controversy;’ ‘the power to hear and determine the subject-matter in controversy between parties to a suit and to adjudicate or exercise any judicial power over them;’‘the power to hear, determine and pronounce judgment on the issues before the Court;’‘the power or authority which is conferred upon a Court by the Legislature to hear and determine causes between parties and to carry the judgments into effect;’ ‘the power to enquire into the facts, to apply the law, to pronounce the judgment and to carry it into execution.

Types of Jurisdiction:

In India, there are mainly 5 types of jurisdiction which can be classified as follows:

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  • Subject-matter jurisdiction:

It can be defined as the authority vested in a court of law to try and hear cases of a particular type and pertaining to a particular subject matter. For example, District Forums established under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 have jurisdiction over only consumer-related cases. It cannot try criminal cases.

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  • Territorial jurisdiction:

Under this type of jurisdiction, geographical limits of a court’s authority are clearly delineated and specified. It cannot exercise authority beyond that territorial/geographical limit. For example, if a certain offence is committed in Madhya Pradesh, only the courts of law within the boundaries of Madhya Pradesh can try and adjudicate upon the same unless otherwise provided for in a particular piece of legislation.

  • Pecuniary jurisdiction:

Pecuniary means ‘related to money’. Pecuniary jurisdiction tries to address whether a court of law can try cases and suits of the monetory value/amount of the case or suit in question. For example, consumer courts have different pecuniary jurisdictions. A district forum can try cases of value upto Twenty lakh rupees only.

  • Original jursidiction:

It refers to the authority of a court to take cognizance of cases which can be tried and adjudicated upon in those courts in the first instance itself. It is different from appellate jurisdiction in the sense that in case of the latter, the courts rehear and review an already decided matter whereas in case of the former the cases are tried for the very first time. For example, the High Court of Allahabad has original jurisdiction with respect to matrimonial, testamentary, probate and company matters.

  • Appellate jurisdiction:

It refers to the authority of a court to rehear or review a case that has already been decided by a lower court. Appellate jurisdiction is generally vested in higher courts. In India, both the High Courts and the Supreme Court have appellate jurisdiction to hear matters which are brought in the form of appeal before them. They can either overrule the judgment of the lower court or uphold it. At times they can also modify the sentence.

Some of the other types of jurisdiction include:

  • Concurrent jurisdiction: A situation in which more than one court of law has the jurisdiction to try certain matters. Sometimes, this type of jurisdiction is also referred to as ‘co-ordinate jurisdiction’.
  • Admirality jurisdiction: Jurisdiction pertaining to mercantile and maritime law and cases.
  • Probate jurisdiction: Matters concerning the administration of an estate belonging to a dead person and its guardianship come under probate jurisdiction. For example, cases involving administration and execution of the will of a deceased person.
  • Summary jurisdiction: It refers to the authority of a court to try matters in accordance with the summary procedure. Such cases take form of summary trials in order to speedily resolve a dispute.


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