Section 20 CrPC Magistrates: Authority and Jurisdiction

The magistrates play a crucial role in the administration of justice within the criminal justice system. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), Section 20 delineates the authority and jurisdiction of magistrates, establishing their roles, powers, and responsibilities.

section 20 crpc

This article explores the multifaceted dimensions of Section 20 CrPC, highlighting the historical context, types of magistrates, their jurisdiction, powers, and the procedural framework governing them.

Bare Act. Section 20 Cr.P.C.
Executive Magistrates.

(1) In every district and in every metropolitan area, the State Government may appoint as many persons as it thinks fit to be Executive Magistrates and shall appoint one of them to be the District Magistrate.
(2) The State Government may appoint any Executive Magistrate to be an Additional District Magistrate, and such Magistrate shall have 1[such] of the powers of a District Magistrate under this Code or under any other law for the time being in force 2[as may be directed by the State Government].
(3) Whenever, in consequence of the office of a District Magistrate becoming vacant, any officer succeeds temporarily to the executive administration of the district, such officer shall, pending the orders of the State Government, exercise all the powers and perform all the duties respectively conferred and imposed by this Code on the District Magistrate.
(4) The State Government may place an Executive Magistrate in charge of a sub-division and may relieve him of the charge as occasion requires; and the Magistrate so placed in charge of a sub-division shall be called the Sub-divisional Magistrate.
3[(4A) The State Government may, by general or special order and subject to such control and directions as it may deem fit to impose, delegate its powers under sub-section (4) to the District Magistrate.]
(5) Nothing in this section shall preclude the State Government from conferring, under any law for the time being in force, on a Commissioner of Police, all or any of the powers of an Executive Magistrate in relation to a metropolitan area.

Uttar Pradesh
In section 20 of the said Code, after sub-section (5), the following sub-section shall be inserted, namely :—
“(6) the State Government may delegate its powers under sub-section (4) to the District Magistrate.”
[Vide Uttar Pradesh Act 1 of 1984, s. 5]

1. Subs. by s. 7, ibid., for all or any (w.e.f. 18-12-1978).
2. Ins. by s. 7, ibid. (w.e.f. 18-12-1978).
3. Ins. by Act 25 of 2005, s. 2 (w.e.f. 23-6-2006).

Understanding Section 20 of the CrPC

Section 20 of the CrPC outlines the classification and powers of magistrates. This section is pivotal in defining how justice is administered at the grassroots level. Magistrates are vested with specific powers to adjudicate various criminal matters, ensuring that justice is delivered efficiently and effectively. Their authority extends across administrative, judicial, and executive functions, making them instrumental in upholding law and order.

See also  Understanding the Crucial Role of Public Prosecutors Under Section 24 CrPC

Historical Context of Section 20 CrPC

The inception of Section 20 CrPC dates back to the colonial era when the British established the framework for criminal justice in India. The CrPC, enacted in 1973, consolidated earlier laws and introduced reforms to modernize the judicial system. Section 20 specifically aimed to decentralize judicial powers, enabling local magistrates to handle cases promptly and reduce the burden on higher courts.

Magistrates in the Criminal Justice System

Magistrates serve as the first point of contact in the criminal justice process. Their decisions impact the trajectory of criminal cases, from initial hearings to final adjudication. By conducting preliminary inquiries, issuing warrants, and presiding over trials, magistrates ensure that justice is accessible and expedient.

Types of Magistrates under Section 20 CrPC

Judicial Magistrates: These magistr

ates handle judicial functions, including the adjudication of criminal cases, issuing warrants, and conducting trials. Judicial Magistrates can further be classified into Chief Judicial Magistrates (CJM), Additional Chief Judicial Magistrates (ACJM), and Judicial Magistrates of First and Second Class.

Executive Magistrates: Primarily involved in administrative and executive functions, Executive Magistrates maintain law and order, handle public nuisances, and prevent crimes. This category includes District Magistrates (DM), Additional District Magistrates (ADM), and Sub-Divisional Magistrates (SDM).

Special Executive Magistrates: Appointed for specific purposes or during special circumstances, these magistrates have temporary jurisdiction to address particular issues such as election-related offenses or special law enforcement initiatives.

Jurisdiction of Magistrates under Section 20 CrPC

Territorial Jurisdiction: This refers to the geographical area within which a magistrate can exercise their powers. It is crucial for ensuring that cases are heard in the appropriate locality, facilitating witness attendance and evidence collection.

See also  Section 43 CrPC: Arrest by Private Person and Procedure on Such Arrest

Subject-Matter Jurisdiction: Magistrates have the authority to hear specific types of cases, categorized by the nature of the crime. This jurisdiction ensures that complex or severe cases are escalated to higher courts while magistrates handle less severe offenses.

Pecuniary Jurisdiction: This determines the financial limits within which magistrates can adjudicate cases. It is designed to distribute cases according to their monetary stakes, ensuring an equitable workload across the judicial system.

Powers Conferred by Section 20 CrPC

Administrative Powers: Magistrates have administrative authority over their courts, including case management, court scheduling, and overseeing court staff. They also play a role in maintaining public records and issuing licenses.

Judicial Powers: These powers enable magistrates to hear and decide cases, issue warrants, grant bail, and impose sentences. They also have the authority to conduct preliminary inquiries and commit cases to higher courts if necessary.

Executive Powers: As part of their executive functions, magistrates can enforce law and order, manage public safety, and respond to emergencies. This includes handling preventive actions and addressing violations of public peace.

Appointment and Qualification of Magistrates

Eligibility Criteria: To qualify as a magistrate, candidates must meet specific educational and professional standards. Typically, this includes a degree in law and a successful completion of the requisite judicial examinations.

Appointment Process: Magistrates are appointed through a rigorous selection process conducted by the judiciary and the state government. This involves competitive exams, interviews, and training programs designed to ensure that only qualified candidates are appointed.

Roles and Responsibilities of Magistrates

Adjudication of Cases: Magistrates are responsible for hearing and deciding criminal cases, which includes examining evidence, hearing witness testimonies, and delivering verdicts. They must ensure that trials are conducted fairly and impartially.

Supervisory Functions: Magistrates oversee the functioning of lower courts, ensuring adherence to legal procedures and judicial standards. They provide guidance and support to junior magistrates and court staff.

Enforcement of Law: Magistrates play a key role in enforcing legal provisions, ensuring compliance with court orders, and managing public safety. They work closely with law enforcement agencies to maintain order.

Procedural Framework Governing Magistrates

Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC): The CrPC provides a comprehensive legal framework that governs the functioning of magistrates. It outlines procedural rules for criminal trials, evidence handling, and case management.

Relevant Judicial Pronouncements: Judicial decisions and interpretations of the CrPC by higher courts significantly impact the functioning of magistrates. These rulings provide clarity on legal provisions and guide magistrates in their decision-making.

Challenges Faced by Magistrates under Section 20 CrPC

Case Overload: One of the major challenges is the overwhelming number of cases that magistrates must handle, leading to delays and inefficiencies in the judicial process.

See also  Comprehensive Guide to Section 11 CrPC: Understanding Courts of Judicial Magistrates

Resource Constraints: Magistrates often face limitations in terms of infrastructure, staffing, and technological support, which can hinder their ability to perform their duties effectively.

Reforms in the Magistrate System under CrPC

Technological Integration: Implementing technology in court procedures, such as digital case management systems and video conferencing, can significantly enhance efficiency and reduce case backlogs.

Training and Development Programs: Continuous training and professional development for magistrates can improve their legal knowledge and administrative skills, ensuring they are well-equipped to handle their responsibilities.

Section 20 CrPC in Practice: Case Studies

Analyzing case studies where Section 20 CrPC has been applied provides valuable insights into the practical challenges and successes experienced by magistrates. These examples illustrate how magistrates navigate complex legal issues and contribute to the judicial process.

The Impact of Magistrates’ Decisions

On the Criminal Justice System: Magistrates’ decisions play a pivotal role in shaping the criminal justice system. Their rulings influence legal precedents, impact case law, and contribute to the development of judicial standards.

On Society at Large: Beyond the courtroom, magistrates’ decisions affect public trust in the justice system. Fair and timely adjudication of cases enhances societal confidence in legal institutions and promotes the rule of law.

Comparative Analysis: Magistrates in Different Jurisdictions

Comparing the role and functioning of magistrates in India with those in other countries highlights differences and similarities in judicial practices. This analysis can identify best practices and potential areas for reform in the Indian context.


The authority and jurisdiction of magistrates under Section 20 CrPC are fundamental to the administration of justice in India. By understanding their roles, powers, and challenges, we can appreciate the critical function they serve in maintaining law and order. Ongoing reforms and support are essential to ensure that magistrates can continue to perform their duties effectively, upholding the principles of justice and contributing to a robust legal system.

Frequently Asked Questions

Magistrates under Section 20 CrPC include Judicial Magistrates, Executive Magistrates, and Special Executive Magistrates, each with distinct roles and responsibilities.

Magistrates have administrative, judicial, and executive powers, enabling them to adjudicate cases, maintain law and order, and manage court operations.

Magistrates are appointed through a selection process involving competitive exams, interviews, and training programs conducted by the judiciary and state government.

Challenges include case overload, resource constraints, and the need for continuous training and technological integration to enhance judicial efficiency.

Reforms can include the integration of technology in court procedures, continuous training and development for magistrates, and addressing resource constraints to improve the judicial process.