The Government of India Act, 1935 changed the structure of the Indian Government from “Unitary” to that of “Federal” type. The Distribution of powers between the Centre and the Provinces required the balance to avoid the disputes which would be arisen between the constituent units and the Federation. The system of Federation clearly demanded the creation of a Federal Court which would have jurisdiction over the States as well as the Provinces. Federal Court functioned only for 12 years. It was the highest Court in India. Over it, there was Privy Council.
But to approach the Privy Council required huge expenses to the litigants’ Hence the establishment of the Federal Court was made necessary. It saved the time, expenses to the litigants. It was also a convenience to the Indians. Therefore, the Federal Court lessened the work load of the Privy Council, and gradually it occupied the position of Privy Council. Lastly, in the place of Federal Court, the Supreme Court of India has been established on 25-1-1950. Establishment:
Section 200 of the Government of India Act, 1935 provided for the establishment of Federal Court in India. On 1 -10-1937, the Federal Court was inaugurated at Delhi. Sir Mauric Gwyer was the First Chief Justice of the Federal Court. It was a Court of Record. Appointment of Judges:
Judges and the Chief Justice were to be appointed by His Majesty. They were to lode office till the age of 65 years. His Majesty was empowered to remove any Judge from his office on the grounds of misbehavior or infirmity of mind or body, on the recommendation of the judicial committee of the Privy Council. Qualifications:
Qualifications required for a judge are- i. 5 years experience as a Judge of a High Court; or ii. 10 years standing as an advocate or barrister; or iii. 10 years standing Court. Salary: The Judges of the Federal Court were entitled such salaries and allowances and to such rights in respect of leave and pensions, as were laid down by His Majesty from time to time. Jurisdiction of the Federal Court:
The Federal Court got three kinds of jurisdictions i. Original; ii. Appellate; and iii. Advisory. i. Original Jurisdiction: The Original Jurisdiction was confined to disputes between Units of the Dominion or between the Dominion and any of the units. The private individuals had no right to sue any Dominion before the Federal Court. Ii. Appellate jurisdiction:
The Federal Court exercised appellate jurisdiction in constitutional cases under the Act of 1935. Its appellate jurisdiction was extended to civil and criminal cases. On the same principles and jurisdiction the Supreme Court of India was established. An appeal from any judgment, decree or final order of a High Court would be entertained by the Federal Court, if the High Court certified that the case involved a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Act of 1935 or any other Act and law. The certificate was a condition precedent to every appeal. iii. Advisory Jurisdiction:
The Federal Court was empowered to give advisory opinion to the Governor-General, whenever a question of law had arisen or is likely to arise which is of such a nature and of such public importance that it was expedient to obtain the opinion of the Federal Court upon it. The Court after such hearing as it thinks fit report to the Governor- General thereon. Authority of Federal Court:
The High Courts were subordinate to Federal Court. The law declared by the Federal Court and any judgment of the Privy Council will be binding on all the courts in British India. Expansion of Jurisdiction:
From 1937 to 15-8-1947, the Federal Court entertained only the appellate jurisdiction in constitutional cases. After Independence Act, 1947, the Federal Court was empowered to have the appellate jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters also. But at the same time, geographical area was reduced, as the Pakistan was separated. Abolition of Federal Court:
The abolition of the Privy Council Jurisdiction Act 1949 severed the connection of Privy Council with Federal Court with effect from 15-12-1949 by the Act of 1949, “Period of golden Age of Federal Court” began when lasted till the establishment of the Supreme Court of India on 26-1-1950. Conclusion:
Federal Court worked for a short period of 12 years. But it left a permanent work and mark on the legal history of India. It was the First Constitutional Court. It was also the First All-India Court of extensive Jurisdiction. During the period of 1937 to 1950, two English and 6 Indian Justices performed their services. All of them got the rare distinction of being the Federal Court of India. They maintained the noble traditions. They contributed a great deal to the establishment of sound federal judiciary in India. They also built up great traditions of independence, impartiality and integrity which were inherited by its successor the Supreme Court of India.