Section 195(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure enacts that the term “court” includes a Civil, Revenue or Criminal Court, but does not include a Registrar or Sub-Registrar under the Indian Registration Act, 1877. The expression “court” is not restricted to courts, Civil, Revenue or Criminal, it includes other tribunals. The expression “court” is not defined in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Under Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act “court” is defined as including “all Judges and Magistrates, and all persons, except arbitrators, legally authorised to take evidence”. But this definition is devised for the purpose of the Evidence Act and will not necessarily apply to the Code of Criminal Procedure. The expression “Court of Justice” is defined in the Indian Penal Code by Section 20 as denoting “a Judge who is empowered by law to act judicially as a body, when such Judge or body of Judges is acting judicially”. That again is not a definition of the expression “court” as used in the Criminal Procedure. The expression “court” in ordinarily parlance is a generic expression and in the context in which it occurs may mean a “body or organizations” invested with power, authority or dignity. In Halsbury’s Laws of England, 3rd Edn., Vol. 9, Article 809, at page 342, it is stated :
“Originally the term “court” meant, among other meanings, the sovereign’s place; it has acquired the meaning of the place where justice is administered and, further, has come to mean the persons who exercise judicial functions under authority derived either directly or indirectly from the sovereign. All tribunals, however, are not courts in the sense in which the term is here employed, namely to denote such tribunals as exercise jurisdiction over persons by reason of the sanction of the law, and not merely by reason of voluntary submission to their jurisdiction. Thus, arbitrators, committees of clubs, and the like, although they may be tribunals exercising judicial functions, are not “courts” in this sense of that term. On the other hand, a tribunal may be a court in the strict sense of the term although the chief part of its duties is not judicial. Parliament is a court. Its duties are mainly deliberative and legislative; the judicial duties are only part of its function.”
In Article 810 it is stated :
“In determining whether a tribunal is a judicial body the facts that it has been appointed by a non-judicial authority, that it has no power to administer an oath, that the chairman has a casting vote, and that third parties have power to intervene are immaterial, especially if the statute setting it up prescribes a penalty for making false statement; element to be considered are (1) the requirement for a public hearing, subject to a power to exclude the public in a proper case, and (2) a provision that member of the tribunal shall not take part in any decision in which he is personally interested, or unless he has been present throughout the proceedings.
A tribunal is not necessary a court in the strict sense exercising judicial power because (1) it gives a final decision; (2) hears witnesses on oath; (3) two or more contending parties appear before it between whom it has to decide; (4) it gives decisions which affect the rights of subjects; (5) there is an appeal to a court; and (6) it is body to which a matter is referred by another body. Many bodies are not courts, although they have to decide questions, and in so doing have to act judicially, in the sense that the proceedings must be conducted with fairness and impartiality, such as the former assessment committees, the former court of referees which was constituted under the Unemployment Insurance Acts, the benchers of the Inns of Court when considering the conduct of one of their members, the Disciplinary Committee of the General Medical Council when considering question affecting the conduct of a medical man, a trade union when exercising disciplinary jurisdiction over its members, or the chief officer of a force exercising discipline over member of the force.”
A body required to act judicially in the sense that its proceedings must be conducted with fairness and impartiality may not therefore necessarily be regarded as a court.
Broadly speaking, Court is a place where justice is judicially administered. In Associated Cement Companies Ltd. vs. P. N. Sharma, (1965) 2 SCR 366 Gajendragadkar, C. J., speaking for the majority observed:
“The expression ‘court’ in the context denotes a tribunal constituted by the State as a part of the ordinary hierarchy of courts which are invested with the State’s inherent judicial powers. A sovereign State discharges legislative, executive and judicial functions and can legitimately claim corresponding powers which are described as legislative, executive and judicial powers. Under our Constitution, the judicial functions and powers of the State are primarily conferred on the ordinary courts which have been constituted under its relevant provisions. The Constitution recognised a hierarchy of courts and to their adjudication are normally entrusted all disputes between citizens and citizens as well as between the citizens and the State. These courts can be described as ordinary courts of civil judicature. They are governed by their prescribed rules of procedure and they deal with questions of fact and law raised before them by adopting a process which is described as judicial process. The powers which these courts exercise, are judicial powers, the functions they discharge are judicial functions and the decisions they reach and pronounce are judicial decisions.”
The hierarchy of courts in this country is an organ of the State through which its judicial power is primarily exercised.