There are four categories of magistrates in India. This classification is given in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. It stipulates that in each sessions district, there shall be
- A Chief Judicial Magistrate
- Judicial Magistrates First Class;
- Judicial Magistrates Second Class; and
- Executive Magistrates
"Chief Judicial Magistrate" includes Additional Chief Judicial magistrates also. There is a Sub Divisional Judicial magistrate in every Sub Division (SDJM) although he is technically only a Judicial Mgistrate First Class (JMFC). Judicial Magistrates can try criminal cases.
A judicial magistrate first class can sentence a person to jail for up to three years and impose a fine of up to Rs 5,000.
A judicial magistrate second class can sentence a person to jail for up to one year and impose a fine of up to Rs 3,000.
An Executive Magistrate is an officer of the Executive branch (as opposed to the Judicial branch) who is invested with specific powers under both the CrPC and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). These powers are conferred in the main by the following sections of the CrPC: sections 107-110 and the relevant provisions; sec 133 and sec 144 and the relevant provisions, sec 145& 147 and the relevant provisions.
- These officers cannot try any accused nor pass verdicts.
- A person arrested on the orders of a court located outside the local jurisdiction should be produced before an Executive Magistrate who can also set the bail amount for the arrested individual to avoid police custody, depending on the terms of the warrant.
The Executive Magistrate also can pass orders restraining persons from committing a particular act or preventing persons from entering an area (Sec 144 CrPC). There is no specific provision to order a "curfew" The Executive Magistrates alone are authorized to use force against people. In plain language, they alone can disperse an "unlawful assembly"; technically, the police is to assist the Executive Magistrate. They can direct the police about the manner of force (baton charge/ tear gas/blank fire/ firing) and also how much force should be used. They can also take the assistance of the Armed Forces to quell a riot.
There are, in each Revenue District (as opposed to a Sessions District) the following kinds of Executive Magistrates:
- one District Magistrate (DM)
- one or more Additional District Magistrates (ADM)
- one or more Subdivisional District Magistrates (SDM)and
- Executive Magistrates
All the Executive Magistrates of the district, except the ADM, are under the control of the DM; for magisterial duties, the ADM reports directly to the government and not to the DM.
These magistracies are normally conferred on the officers of the Revenue Department, although an officer can be appointed exclusively as an Executive Magistrate. Normally, the Collector of the district is appointed as the DM. Similarly, the Sub-Collectors are appointed as the SDMs. Tahsildars and Deputy/Additional Tahsildars are appointed as Executive Magistrates.
Under the old CrPC, there was no distinction between the Executive and Judicial Magistrates; some states still follow the old CrPC, eg. Nagaland; there, the Collector is also the head of the judicial branch of the district and can pass sentences, including capital punishment, under IPC.