According to Punjab Administration Report (1911-12), District Ambala was formed out of the lapsed and confiscated territories of ‘North-West Frontier’ in 1846 by the British representatives at Delhi. The District was placed in charge of Deputy Commissioner. He was given subordinate civil, criminal and fiscal powers. The Commissioner was superintendent of revenue & police and exercised the Civil appellate and the criminal original powers of a Sessions Judge.
In 1853 first Chief Commissioner was appointed as the head of the local executive administration. A Judicial and a Financial Commissioner, who were the chief authorities in the judicial and revenue departments respectively, were appointed subordinate to him. The Judicial Commissioner was also head of the Police. He supervised educational operations and superintended the control of local and municipal funds.
In 1866 a Chief Court consisting of two Judges, a Civilian and a Barrister, was substituted for the Judicial Commissioner and was constituted the final appellate authority in civil and criminal cases , with powers also of original criminal jurisdiction in cases where European British subjects were charged with serious offences and of original civil jurisdiction in special cases. In the year 1869, a third Judge, a Civilian, was added to the Court. The constitution of the Chief Court remained unaltered until 1881.
Subordinate to the Chief Court was the Divisional and Sessions Judge exercising civil and criminal jurisdiction in a civil and sessions division comprising one or more districts. As Divisional Judge, the Officer, tried most of the first appeals in civil suits and as Sessions Judge he tried sessions cases and heard criminal appeals from the District and Ist class Magistrates and thus fulfilled the functions of the District and Sessions Judge.
The Court of District Judge was the principal court of original jurisdiction and to hear appeals in minor civil suits from the subordinate courts of the district. A Subordinate Judge exercising unlimited civil jurisdiction was appointed to assist the District Judge but the majority of civil suits were tried in the first instant by Munsifs, posted either at the District headquarters or at outlying stations. Munsifs were of three grades, the jurisdiction of the first grade Munsif was limited to suits not exceeding Rs.1000/- in value. The assistant to the Deputy Commissioner was vested with the powers of Munsifs and assist largely in disposal of civil suits, but the former practice of investing Tehsildars with Munsif’s powers was gradually discontinued, with the increase in the number of Munsifs themselves. Honorary Civil Judges with powers of a Munsif were appointed from time to time.
Upto the year 1875, the officers of the administration remained combined within the scope of their duties of all judicial and executive functions. Due to increase of judicial work, steps were taken towards the ultimate separation of judiciary from executive duties . Accordingly, measures were introduced to relieve Tehsildars , Deputy Commissioners and Commissioners from the judicial work. In each Tehsil, where the number of suits was large, a Munsif was posted. The increase in the volume of executive business and the desirability of still further involving the separation of judiciary from the executive branch of the administration led to the withdrawal of whole judicial work from the Deputy Commissioner and separate officer was given the powers of District Judge in 1884.
The Punjab Separation of Judicial and Executive Function Act 1964 was given effect from 2nd October, 1964. On adoption of this Act all the Magistrates who opted to work in Judicial side were designated as Judicial Magistrates and they came under the direct administrative Control of the High Court and the District & Sessions Judge. The Judicial Officer below the rank of District & Sessions Judge who exercised only Civil Powers before coming in the force of this Act, was empowered with both Civil and Criminal powers. Prior to this, the Magistrates exercising criminal powers were under the immediate control of the Deputy Commissioner and thus they were always under the influence of Executive. By the passage of this Act, Punjab State made applicable one of the most important directive principles adopted by the framers of our constitutions.
Till the separation of Judiciary from the Executive in the year 1964, besides the District & Sessions Judge and Additional District & Sessions Judges, there was one Senior Sub Judge and two Sub Judges at Ambala District Headquarters. One Sub Judge was provided at each Tehsil headquarter, namely Jagadhri and Ropar. There was a circuit Court at Ambala Cantt., where a Sub Judge from the District headquarter used to visit alternate days. Similarly, Nalagarh, which became part of Ambala District as a result of Punjab Re-organization Act, 1956, was also visited by the Sub Judge at Ropar for 10 days in a month. There were two Courts of Sub Judges at Chandigarh. The District & Sessions Judge, Ambala used to hold circuit court at Chandigarh for disposal of judicial work of Ropar and Kharar Tehsils.
As a result of Punjab Re-organization Act 1966, the map of Ambala District was considerably shrinked. Similarly, the Judicial structure of Ambala District was also affected. The present strength, revised due to reorganization and due to separation of Judiciary from Executive is headed by the District & Sessions Judge at Ambala.
On the formation of Yamuna Nagar as a separate Sessions Division, Jagadhri was separated from Ambala on 28.09.2001 and on the creation of Panchkula as a Sessions Division, Panchkula was detached from Ambala Sessions Division on 02.05.2005.