The judiciary in India is a complex structure with a number of officials at every level to administer the legal proceedings of the state. Leading from the helm at each of these districts is a magistrate, who adjudicates the cases that come before the judicial system.
Magistrates are in a way a one-man court in themselves that take care of minor criminal cases. Their power is more administrative in nature and thus provides for a quicker justice system to be inherent in the Indian judiciary system.
The word ‘magistrate’ is derived from Middle English ‘magistrat,’ which means “civil officer in charge of administering laws.” Hence, magistrates are not as much an institution in themselves, instead, they provide room for more administrative control by cutting down the work of judges by taking care of cases that are not so grand in their dynamics.
Long story short, Magistrates are the officials who act as the deciding figures in regular cases with an immediate remedy for it.
How are Magistrates different from Judges?
Magistrates and judges seem to be the same in respect to the judiciary but this is not true as the two have many differences, especially in the nature of their powers. The magistrate is known to have powers more of an administrator, and most of them handle only minor offences.
They may handle offences such as petty theft, small crimes, and traffic violations. On the other hand, judges handle large cases. As the less important cases are handled by the magistrates, the judges are free to focus on complex cases.
A Magistrate has a limited jurisdiction when compared to a judge. A magistrate may only have jurisdiction within a region, district, or province. This jurisdiction may differ from one country to another.
The judges have a higher authority and may widen to the state or even an entire country. Basically, a Magistrate is more or less a civil officer. He has the power that is granted to administrative personnel.
Hence, he is in charge of administrative laws, while the Judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone, with a panel of judges or an along with a jury, depending on the jurisdiction. A judge also has the power to exercise more law enforcing powers than a magistrate.
Judicial magistrates are in charge of dispensing judicial functions, and Executive magistrates are responsible for executive functions. As per the Criminal Procedure Court(CrPC), Judicial Magistrates are the lowermost tier of the criminal Judiciary.
It is every accused person’s right to be produced before a Judicial Magistrate within 24 hours of his arrest. Executive Magistrates, also called District Magistrates, are officers of the Executive, and hold administrative positions in the governance of the district.
Four Categories of a Magistrates in the Judiciary of India
- a Chief Judicial Magistrate
- a Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate
- a Judicial Magistrate First Class, and
- an Executive Magistrates(including DM, ADMs, SDMs)
How to become a Magistrate?
Candidates who wish to become Magistrates must appear in the exams carried out by the Law Service Commission. They can also write the State Judicial Law Entrance Exam that is conducted by the Public Service Commission.
The notifications for these exams will be available in all leading newspapers. Students who have finished their graduation in Law are eligible to become magistrates. Their age should be more than 21 and must not exceed 35 years at the time of applying.
Those candidates who have finished their LLM degree are also eligible to apply. The candidates must have secured a minimum of 55% marks in their final exam.
It is important to prepare well for the written examination. They can either study by themselves or go for coaching classes. Another good option is to write mock test papers. This can be bought from book or stationery stores.
Practising on these question papers will help them to get an idea about the exam structure and pattern. Candidates can also confer with those who have attended these tests earlier. When they appear for the interview, the candidates must be prepared to answer in a straightforward manner.
It would also be good if the candidates answer unhurriedly. This will give them some time to think. Moreover, it is important that the candidates be honest while replying.
A day in the life of a Magistrate
Hi, there. I’m a Magistrate in one of India’s busiest districts. My job is to administer and decide upon cases that would otherwise take up the court’s time. I have an office allotted to me by the Government of India and my professional life is quite a challenge.
But I’ve had to devote myself sincerely to the study of law and qualify for the position that I hold. Here’s a typical day in my life.
9:00 AM: I’ve just arrived at the office and work is already in wait to welcome me. I have a few documents to go through and sign first. Most of it is paperwork related to cases I dealt with in the past year.
The wheels of court, while steady, are slow and any number of obstacles might prevent the judiciary from converging to quick decisions. The ones I’m signing off today have found a final verdict.
10:00 AM: Waiting now for the cases that have come before the district judiciary and are scheduled for hearing today. These usually include theft, robbery, traffic rules violation, etc.
Magistrates, just like lawyers, specialize in sub-disciplines of law. I specialize in criminal law and deal with varying magnitudes of crime on a daily basis.
12:00 PM: I just got done with the first sessions of hearings. The morning session typically deals with minor violations such as traffic misdemeanours. Typically, these go without anyone having to expend too much energy on it.
I’m going to see the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) to discuss a pending case. This may take a while. Some cases get complicated by the involvement of sensitive issues and politics, which have to be dealt with tactfully.
1:30 PM: My discussion with the CJM was a conclusive one and we’ve sorted out some very crucial matters. I’ll stop by for a quick lunch now before going back to the office.
The second session is often shorter but deals with a case that is more serious from one perspective or another.
2:30 PM: We resume our hearing session for the day. Most longstanding criminal investigations take a long time to settle – unlike what TV would make you believe, the vast majority of crimes in a society are not violent, and require detailed adherence to protocol. Criminals do not go to jail based on the judge’s whim.
3:45: PM: The official work in my office seem to come to a close for the day. I’m now making my way to one of the esteemed law schools of the city, to judge a debating competition as their Guest of Honor. One of the perks of the job that I do.
Aside from being a practising magistrate, I also oversee the internships of a hoard of young law students every summer. The opportunity to keep my association with academia is one of the best things about my job, to me.
6:00 PM: It was well spent evening. It’s nice to see how the youth is so much aware than it was in our times. My days are never stressful, but given my age, I still get very tired in the evenings. I’ll retire for the day and spend what is left of the evening with my wife.
Are you interested in pursuing a career as a Magistrate? We hope this article has been a fruitful one for you. Have your say in a comment box below. Enjoy Reading!