Legal Aid

By Manvi Jain, a Student at DME, Noida (GGSIPU)


This in-depth essay explores the complex environment of legal assistance in India, including its historical development, important legal frameworks such as the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, and the organizations it spawned. It outlines the requirements for anyone seeking legal help in terms of eligibility, the evidence that must be provided, and the situations in which an application for legal aid may be denied or withdrawn. The essay stresses the significance of fostering legal awareness and guaranteeing equitable access to justice while outlining the legal aid application process. In addition to highlighting the continued difficulties in accomplishing the goals of the legal aid movement, the conclusion also highlights how important legal aid is to preserving social order and defending fundamental rights.


Legal Aid advocates on behalf of the impoverished who are unable to pay for court attendance. It means offering free legal representation to low-income people in all legal proceedings, including judicial, administrative, and quasi-judicial ones. The only purpose of this service is to provide fair justice to the downtrodden and disadvantaged. This includes services like Lok Adalats, Legal Awareness, Legal Advice, Public Interest Litigation, Legal Mobilizations, and many more that could put an end to injustice, in addition to the free provision of legal representation from an advocate in court proceedings. The purpose of the updated Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (Act of 1994), which became operative on November 9, 1995, is to establish a nationwide network for providing comprehensive and free legal services to the most vulnerable segments of society. The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 was passed in order to put into effect the criteria specified in Articles 14 and 39-A of the Indian Constitution. In order to achieve justice, the State must guarantee equality before the law and establish a judicial system that promotes equal opportunity for all. Legal aid strives to guarantee equal justice for the underprivileged, marginalized, and poor and to uphold the constitutional promise in letter and spirit.

Historical Background of Legal Aid 

Legal aid’s historical roots in India date back to the post-Independence period, when a number of states implemented the idea for the benefit of the underprivileged. The 14th Law Commission Report, published in 1958, marked a significant turning point in the field by fervently supporting the provision of free legal representation to those who are economically disadvantaged and highlighting the significance of equitable justice. Kerala established the Kerala Legal Aid program, which focuses on the impoverished, taking the lead. In order to make the legal aid system generally accessible, the Expert Committee on Legal Aid published a report in 1973 that emphasized the need for legal help with a statutory base, the creation of legal aid clinics in law schools, and the promotion of public interest litigation. Two judges worked together in 1977 to complete a study that acknowledged the importance of lawyers in seeking justice and suggested the National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) be established. In order to guarantee equal justice and free legal aid for all, the 42nd Constitutional Amendment of 1976 inserted Article 39A under the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP). The Committee for Implementation of Legal Aid Scheme (CILAS) significantly improved conflict resolution and control of legal aid operations across the country in 1980 with the introduction of Lok Adalats.

Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987

The Legal Services Authorities Act, which underwent final amendments and went into operation in 1995, was an important milestone in the legal aid movement in India. This legislative initiative sought to accomplish two main goals: first, by offering free legal services to the economically disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in society, it sought to ensure that no citizen is denied access to justice because of financial difficulties or other limitations. Second, by setting up Lok Adalats, the Act aimed to guarantee the equitable administration of justice, so promoting a more open and inclusive judicial system throughout the nation.

Bodies existing by virtue of the Act

The Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 listed the following institutional frameworks: the National Legal Services Authority, State Legal Services Authority, District Legal Services Authority, and Taluka Legal Services Authority.

  • National Legal Services Authority – The President appoints a retired Supreme Court judge to be the executive chairman of NALSA, and the Chief Justice of India acts as the organization’s patron-in-chief. NALSA develops guidelines, ideologies, and workable financial strategies in order to provide legal services covered by the act with broad accessibility. It also organizes legal aid camps, advertises Lok Adalat as a platform for resolving disputes, regularly assesses legal aid initiatives, and carries out legal services research. It promotes the creation of legal aid clinics at different law schools and universities as well as the advancement of paralegals. Furthermore, NALSA supervises the operations of State Legal Service Authorities while also encouraging non-governmental organizations to provide legal help.
  • State Legal Services Authority – Every state government must establish a State Legal Services Authority, which is made up of the State Governor’s choice of the Chief Justice of the High Court to serve as Patron-in-Chief and an active or retired judge of the High Court to serve as executive chairman. The policies, procedures, and strategies set out by NALSA are implemented by the State Legal Services Authority. This authority is the main body responsible for overseeing the state’s legal services. It also manages several legal aid initiatives, such as Lok Adalats.
  • District Legal Services Authority – The District Judge chairs the District Legal Services Authority, which is mandated by the Legal Services Act to be established in each state’s district. This authority follows the rules set forth by the State Legal Services Authority and performs the tasks assigned to it. It also plans Lok Adalats and manages the Taluka Legal Services Committee’s and other district legal service providers’ operations.
  • Taluk Legal Services Authority – The senior-most judicial official chairs the Taluk Legal Services Committee, which is formed by the State Legal Services Authority, ex officio. It not only arranges Lok Adalat but also plans and oversees the legal services offered in the Taluk. In accordance with Section 3A of the Legal Services Authority Act, the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee was founded to provide justice, support, and legal assistance to the weaker and less fortunate segments of society. This body is also in charge of the Supreme Court’s Lok Adalats and Supreme Court Mediation Center operations. Furthermore, the establishment of the High Court Legal Services Authority by the State Legal Services Authority is explained in Section 8A.

Who are eligible for Legal Aid?

The spectrum of people who are eligible for legal aid in India is wide, guaranteeing justice and inclusivity for a variety of marginalized communities. This covers people who belong to Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes, have been the victims of human trafficking or beggarly, are under the age of eighteen, are women regardless of their financial situation, are mentally ill or disabled, have been affected by mass disasters, ethnic violence, or industrial disasters, are employed in the manufacturing industry, are in custody, live in protective homes or juvenile homes, are in psychiatric hospitals or nursing homes, or have an annual income below Rs. 5 lakh for Scheduled Castes or falling within individual state income limits for others. This foundation for legal aid emphasizes the dedication to helping those in need and promoting a more just judicial system.

Proof of eligibility for Legal Aid 

In India, proving one’s eligibility for legal aid requires submitting an affidavit attesting to one’s identity and income. An essential part of this process is an affidavit, which is a written declaration voluntarily given by an affiant or deponent under oath or affirmation. The affidavit, which is administered by a designated person such as a commissioner of oaths or notary public, attests to the veracity of the affiant’s signature. This attested statement, accompanied by a verification, is admissible in court because it was made under oath and bears the risk of perjury for any misleading statements.

Situations where Legal Aid is Rejected 

An application may not be granted free legal services under certain conditions, guaranteeing a prudent use of resources. These rejections could happen if the person has the resources to pursue justice on their own, if they don’t fit the requirements, if their application doesn’t have enough merit to support a lawsuit, or if the case involves crimes like defamation, malicious prosecution, contempt of court, or perjury. Legal aid may also be denied in election-related processes, instances involving commercial offenses or social law violations, and circumstances in which the applicant lacks the required standing and their interests would not be negatively impacted. These standards provide a practical foundation for allocating pro bono legal services.

Situations where Legal Aid is Withdrawn

It is possible to stop offering free legal services in certain situations, which promotes responsibility and prudent use of resources. Cases where withdrawal is warranted include when aid is obtained by deception or misrepresentation, when the aided person’s circumstances materially change, and when the aid recipient engages in misbehaviour, misconduct, or neglect. Withdrawal may also happen if the assisted individual doesn’t work with the appointed advocate or sees a lawyer who isn’t approved by the Legal Services Authority. Legal aid may also be withdrawn upon the death of the assisted party, with the exception of situations in which civil procedures include surviving rights or liabilities. In addition, in the event that it is determined that the legal proceedings would lead to the abuse of the legal system or legal aid, this support could be terminated, guaranteeing the prudent and moral delivery of pro bono legal services.

Application for Legal Aid

There are several offline and online application methods available to anyone in need of free legal services. First, individuals can fill out an already-made application form that can be found at the Legal Services Authority that is closest to them. Then, you can send this form or turn it in in person at the Authority. As an alternative, candidates may decide to send in a written application with all necessary information by mail or in person. If you would rather communicate with NALSA via email, your message can be sent to Furthermore, the Home Page of NALSA’s website provides a link labelled ‘Online Application’ that leads to an electronic application form that must be completed and the required document uploads uploaded. Sometimes people choose to apply orally, in which case a volunteer paralegal or an official from the relevant Legal Services Authority assists them. In order to meet the various needs and preferences of those looking for free legal services, a variety of application procedures have been provided.


There is still much work to be done before the legal aid revolution’s aim is achieved. It has not yet been fulfilled. The lowest classes of our society are deprived of their independence and liberty as a result of their lack of legal knowledge regarding the fundamental rights. The poor might lose faith in the judicial system and reach an out-of-court settlement if they were unable to exercise their rights. In this case, complete anarchy will ensue from the lack of legal authority. Thus, an impoverished person needs to be informed and provided with legal aid in order to safeguard his equal right to pursue justice. The ability to appeal is a creation of statute, not an inherent or natural right, and it cannot exist unless and until it is specifically provided for in a statute. Nonetheless, it is argued that the petitioner’s fundamental rights as protected by Article 21 would be violated by such a limitation. In addition to violating the individual’s right to liberty, denying them the opportunity to appeal would bring dishonour upon the convicted party. If legal aid is to be effectively administered in India, the populace must be made aware of their constitutionally guaranteed rights to equality and free legal counsel.

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