The original jurisdiction of a court is the power to hear a case for the first time, as opposed to appellate jurisdiction, when a higher court has the power to review a lower court's decision.


The lowest civil court of France, the tribunal de première instance (literally, "Court of First Instance"), has original jurisdiction over most civil matters except areas of specialist exclusive jurisdiction, those being mainly land estates, business and consumer matters, social security, and labor. All criminal matters may pass summarily through the lowest criminal court, the tribunal de police, but each court has both original and limited jurisdiction over certain separate levels of offences:

  • juge de proximité ("Magistrate Court"): petty misdemeanors and violations;
  • tribunal de police ("Police Court"): gross misdemeanors or summary offences (jurisdiction);
  • tribunal correctionnel ("Criminal Court"): felonies or indictable offences generally;
  • cour d'assises ("Court of Sessions"): capital and first-degree felonies or major indictable offences, high crimes, crimes against the State.

For the administrative stream, any administrative court has original jurisdiction. However, while the Council of State has supreme appellate jurisdiction for administrative appeals, it also has original jurisdiction on a number of matters brought against national governmental authorities including cases against statutory instruments (executive and ministerial orders) and certain types of administrative decisions. These decisions are made up out of 2/3 Congress's vote.


In India, the Supreme Court has original, appellate and advisory jurisdiction.[1] Its exclusive original jurisdiction extends to all cases between the Government of India and the States of India or between Government of India and states on one side and one or more states on other side or cases between different states. Original jurisdiction is related to cases which are directly brought to the Supreme Court. Cases which require the interpretation of the constitution or cases relating to the denial of fundamental rights are heard In the supreme court. In case there is a dispute between two or more states or between the union and the states, the Supreme Court decides such cases. In addition, Article 32 of the Constitution of India grants original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court on all cases involving the enforcement of fundamental rights of citizens.[1] It is empowered to issue directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari to enforce them.

The appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can be invoked by a certificate granted by the High Court concerned under Article 132(1), 133(1) or 134 of the Constitution in respect of any judgement, decree or final order of a High Court in both civil and criminal cases, involving substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the Indian Constitution.

The Supreme Court has special advisory jurisdiction in matters which may specifically be referred to it by the President of India under Article 143 of the Indian Constitution.

United States

In the United States, courts having original jurisdiction are referred to as trial courts. In certain types of cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has original jurisdiction concurrently with lower courts. The original jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court is governed by Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution and Title 28 of the United States Code, section 1251. Most commonly, original jurisdiction cases involve suits between states as parties, usually over territorial or water rights disputes.

The United States Constitution defines Original Jurisdiction thusly:

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make. United States Constitution Article III, § cl. 2

The Federalist Papers of Hamilton clearly reveal that the purpose of Original Jurisdiction before the SCOTUS was to address cases either involving (1) Ambassadors, with no mention of limiting the cases to Ambassadors of other Nations and/or cases including (2) one of the States of the union including instances where individual citizens were involved. As organic law, statues are secondary to the U.S. Constitution, the intended meaning of which can be found in the discussions of those who were responsible for formulating the Constitution and its Amendments. These reasons seem sufficient to satisfy a candid mind, that the want of such a power would have been a great defect in the plan. Let us now examine in what manner the judicial authority is to be distributed between the supreme and the inferior courts of the Union. The Supreme Court is to be invested with original jurisdiction, only "in cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls, and those in which A STATE shall be a party. Public ministers of every class are the immediate representatives of their sovereigns. All questions in which they are concerned are so directly connected with the public peace, that, as well for the preservation of this, as out of respect to the sovereignties they represent, it is both expedient and proper that such questions should be submitted in the first instance to the highest judicatory of the nation. Though consuls have not in strictness a diplomatic character, yet as they are the public agents of the nations to which they belong, the same observation is in a great measure applicable to them. In cases in which a State might happen to be a party, it would ill suit its dignity to be turned over to an inferior tribunal. Though it may rather be a digression from the immediate subject of this paper, I shall take occasion to mention here a supposition which has excited some alarm upon very mistaken grounds. It has been suggested that an assignment of the public securities of one State to the citizens of another, would enable them to prosecute that State in the federal courts for the amount of those securities; a suggestion which the following considerations prove to be without foundation. It is inherent in the nature of sovereignty not to be amenable to the suit of an individual WITHOUT ITS CONSENT. This is the general sense, and the general practice of mankind; and the exemption, as one of the attributes of sovereignty, is now enjoyed by the government of every State in the Union. Unless, therefore, there is a surrender of this immunity in the plan of the convention, it will remain with the States, and the danger intimated must be merely ideal. The circumstances which are necessary to produce an alienation of State sovereignty were discussed in considering the article of taxation, and need not be repeated here. A recurrence to the principles there established will satisfy us, that there is no color to pretend that the State governments would, by the adoption of that plan, be divested of the privilege of paying their own debts in their own way, free from every constraint but that which flows from the obligations of good faith. The contracts between a nation and individuals are only binding on the conscience of the sovereign, and have no pretensions to a compulsive force. They confer no right of action, independent of the sovereign will. To what purpose would it be to authorize suits against States for the debts they owe? How could recoveries be enforced? It is evident, it could not be done without waging war against the contracting State; and to ascribe to the federal courts, by mere implication, and in destruction of a pre-existing right of the State governments, a power which would involve such a consequence, would be altogether forced and unwarrantable. (The Federalist Papers: No. 81) However, the U.S. Congress and the SCOTUS have established that the 14th Amendment, passed subsequent to the 11th Amendment, so limits the 11th. Respondents do not have immunity from Original Jurisdiction suit before this Court. “The Eleventh Amendment does not bar … the principle of state sovereignty … limited by the enforcement provisions of § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, … the substantive provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, which themselves embody significant limitations on state authority.”…"The prohibitions of the Fourteenth Amendment are directed to the States, and they are to a degree restrictions of State power. … Congress is empowered to enforce, and to enforce against State action, however put forth, whether that action be executive, legislative, or judicial. Such enforcement is no invasion of State sovereignty. Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445, 446 96 S. Ct. 2666, 49 L. Ed. 2d 614 [1976]

In the federal court system and those of most U.S. states, there are several types of trial courts. That is, there are several specialized courts with original jurisdiction over specific types of matters, and then a court with original jurisdiction over anything not reserved to more specialized courts.

Not all "trial courts" exclusively exercise original jurisdiction. Indeed, in both the federal and most state court systems, the trial courts of "general jurisdiction" hear appeals from trial courts of limited original jurisdiction; many states call these courts "superior courts" for this reason. For example, United States district courts hear appeals from their Bankruptcy Courts (which operate as quasi-independent units of district courts but are constitutionally separate Article I tribunals). Similarly, the Law and Chancery Divisions of the Superior Court of New Jersey hear appeals from New Jersey County Courts; the Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas, besides hearing major trials, hear appeals from the minor trial courts (Magistrate Courts in most counties; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have unique systems) and from certain agencies of local (e.g., zoning board) and state governments (e.g., Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board).

See also


  1. ^ a b "Jurisdiction of The Supreme Court". Supreme Court of India. Retrieved 2012-06-23.