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History of District Courts

Delhi as a district legal entity was recognised by the Proclamation Notification No.911 dated 17.09.1912 issued by Governor General of India in Council. By this Notification, Delhi came under the immediate authority and management of the Governor General of India in Council and Mr. William Malcolm Hailey, C.I.E., I.C.S. was appointed the first Chief Commissioner of Delhi. Simultaneously the Delhi Laws Act, 1912 was enacted for enforcing the existing laws in Delhi.

On 22.02.1915 the area falling on the other side of the river Yamuna (now known as Trans Yamuna) was also included in the newly created province of Delhi.


During the year 1913, the Delhi Judiciary consisted of :


District & Sessions Judge


Senior Sub-Judge


Judge, Small Causes Court


Registrar, Small Causes Court



Two Courts of Sub-Judges were added in 1920. These Courts continue to function, although due to exigencies some temporary measures were adopted to clear back logs etc. In 1948, one more post of Sub-Judge was created to enforce the Rent Control Act. Thereafter six temporary Courts of Sub-Judges were created in 1953. In 1959, the strength of the Sub-Judges went upto 21. At that time there was one District & Sessions Judge and four Additional District & Sessions Judges. Till 1966 the District Courts of Delhi remained under the administrative control of Punjab High Court when Delhi High Court was established.


Criminal Courts

According to Delhi District Gazetteer (1912), the District Magistrate was responsible for the administration of criminal Justice, being Chief Magistrate and Supervisor of the police, as far as their duties related to crime.  The staff in 1910 consisted of:

Types of Magistrates



First Class Magistrates



Second Class Magistrates



Third Class Magistrates




One of the first-class magistrates had always the powers of District Magistrate to enable him to try serious cases, and thus the District Magistrate and Section Judges were relieved of undesirable strain. The honorary magistrates were all but two located in Delhi itself, where they usually sat as a bench for the trial of minor offences (chiefly assault cases), which occurred in the city.

A bench consisting of a Hindu and a Mohammedan, with Second-Class powers, was constituted for Raisina (New Delhi) in 1912 to deal with cases within the limits of the Imperial Delhi Municipal Committee to which the exercise of their powers was confined. The Najafgarh Bench of two Magistrates with Third Class powers was constituted in 1921, having the power throughout the province.

During 1926, there were two First-Class and one Second-Class Honorary Magistrates at Delhi.  The comparative strength of criminal courts in the Union Territory of Delhi during 1951 and 1961 was as follows:

Type of Court



District Magistrate   



Addl. District Magistrate



Stipendiary Magistrates



Honorary Magistrates



The institution of honorary magistrates was abolished in Delhi in October 1969.  The magisterial strength in 1972 consisted of one District Magistrate, three Additional District Magistrates and twelve Sub-Divisional Magistrates.

Separation of Executive and Judiciary

The Judiciary of the Union Territory of Delhi was separated from the Executive in October 1969 under the Union Territories (Separation of Judicial and Executive Functions) Act, 1969.  The Act provides for two classes of criminal courts, namely the Courts of Sessions and the Courts of Magistrates.  The latter consists of Judicial Magistrates namely (i) The Chief Judicial Magistrate and the Judicial Magistrate of the First and Second Class and (ii) the Executive Magistrates including the District Magistrate, Sub-Divisional Magistrates, Executive Magistrates of the First and the Second Class and the Special Executive Magistrates.

Prior to the separation of judicial and executive functions, the entire Magistracy used to function under the direct control of the District Magistrate of Delhi.  Under the new setup, The Judicial Magistrates were placed under the direct control of the High Court.  The Chief Judicial Magistrate exercised most of the powers under the Criminal Procedure Code previously exercisable by the District Magistrate.

For the proper implementation of the scheme of separation, Section 5 of the Criminal Procedure Code 1898 (as amended by Act 19 of 1969) streamlined the sphere of duties of both the Judicial and Executive Magistrates.  The Judicial Magistrates were to deal with the matters which involved the appreciation of sifting of evidence or the formulation of any decision which exposes any person to any punishment or penalty or detention in custody pending investigation, inquiry or trial or would have the effect of sending him for trial before any court.  But where such functions related to matters that are administrative or executive in nature, such as the grant of licence, sanctioning a prosecution or withdrawing from a prosecution, they fell within the purview of an Executive Magistrate.  In brief, and Executive Magistrate was to deal with matters concerning law and order and with preventive measures while offences, under IPC, special or local laws, including petty offences came to be tried by Judicial Magistrates.

The new Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (Act No 2 of 1974) came into force on 1st of April 1974.  The Code specifically provided for two types of Magistrates viz. Judicial Magistrates and Executive Magistrates. The towns having population exceeding one million could be declared as Metropolitan Areas.  With effect from 1st April 1974 Delhi was declared the Metropolitan Area by a notification under Section 8 (1) of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 being notification No. 155 dated 28th March 1974 of the Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi, published in Gazette of India (Extra) Part II Section 3 (ii). 

Accordingly the designation of Judicial Magistrate First-Class or Judicial Magistrate Second-Class came to an end.  The Judicial Magistrates functioning in Delhi were all conferred with the powers of Metropolitan Magistrates.  The Courts of Metropolitan Magistrates were created by Section 16 of the Criminal Procedure Code.  The Court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate and those of The Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrates were created by Section 17 of the Code.  Section 18 of the Code also provided for Special Metropolitan Magistrates.  As against these Metropolitan Magistrates the other Magistrates created by the Code were Executive Magistrates with powers distinct from those given to the Metropolitan Magistrates. The Metropolitan Magistrates, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate and the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrates are subordinate to the Sessions Judge whereas the Executive Magistrates are placed under the subordination of the District Magistrate.

Delhi has three tires of criminal courts, namely those of:

1. Metropolitan Magistrates

2. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate /Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrates

3. The Sessions Judge / Additional Sessions Judges

The entire judicial district of Delhi, which is now National Capital Territory of Delhi, is comprised in one Sessions Division.  It is headed by one  Sessions   Judge.   It has one chief Metropolitan Magistrate and four Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrates.  The number of the courts of the Sessions and Courts of Metropolitan Magistrates varies from time to time depending upon the quantity of work and the number of officers available at a time for presiding over these courts.

Separate Judicial Services

On 27th August 1970 two judicial services were created for Delhi, namely Delhi Higher Judicial Service and Delhi Judicial Service.  The strength of these two services has continuously increased. Now the sanctioned strength of Delhi Higher Judicial Service is 187.  The Delhi Judicial Service has 283 posts.  


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Delhi 110054
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