Political documents and institutions have been established in our nation with the underlying objective of incorporating the notion of justice into society. This notion is naturally accompanied by an impression of equality. However, the current era has seen the attenuation of these moral beliefs as justice is denied to segments of this society. The concept of pro bono legal services, which is often termed legal aid, has been instituted to safeguard the interests and fundamental rights of these debarred groups. The article lays emphasis on historical developments and the existing scenario of legal aid. It scrutinizes the role of our government in facilitating the operations by laying down panoptic legislation and uplifting various law schools in the country to expedite the expansion of the scope. The vital findings have been mentioned, along with the identification of drawbacks and obstacles. This document also provides solutions to these problems so that law schools can ensure their better contribution to catering to the distress of legal aid.

KEYWORDS : Equity; Article 39A of the Indian Constitution; Social, Economic and Political Justice; Legal Aid Committees; Law schools; LSAA,1987; CILAS; Philosophical School. 


Justice is “the crowning glory”, “the sovereign mistress”

 and “the queen of virtue”.


Justice is divine and takes into account the aspirations of several segments of society living within a united territory. Justice is a virtue that transcends all walls, and the rules, procedures, or oddities of the law cannot stand in the way of the administration of justice. The interpretation was made in the landmark judgment of Lily Thomas. Chiefly, it is a manifestation of justice, equity, and good conscience. A very substantial object of law is to expedite the incessant administration of justice to each and every section of a civilization, and therefore, pro bono legal service as a concept has gained momentum in recent times. It facilitates access to justice for emasculated, marginalized segments of society. Pro bono legal service is a contemporary approach in the law field where lawyers impart legal awareness and serve the welfare of society without charging any professional fee. In the backdrop of poverty and inequality, law schools and institutions embellish this holistic notion of free legal aid and have started functioning towards attainment of idealisms of ‘Social, Economical, and Political’ justice that are enshrined in our Constitution under the Directive Principles of State Policy.

Historical Aspect

In 1770, the culture of pro bono legal services originated. It was the deferential will of America’s second president, John Adams, that gave a head start to the sense of free legal aid when, amid the confrontations between Britain and America, he stood in defense of some British soldiers who were charged and prosecuted for shooting and killing five American army personnel. Since then, the cryptic and underlying aim has been to bring out the true objective of justice by imparting legal awareness and promoting consciousness in society.

India, a country that employs a billion people, has an incredible legal system. This system is considered to be one of the oldest, and over the years, several noteworthy and ardent progressions have been taken in the form of umpteen legislations and enactments for social upliftment addressing issues related to poverty, women’s rights, public health, housing, etc. Ironically, the country has succumbed to judicial imbroglio, where there is still disproportionate execution of justice among contrasting classes of people. Indeed, meddling with justice has led to the creation of a dystopian society.

Philosophical School

Somewhere, this theme of legal aid has its roots in the old propositions and myriad doctrines of the philosophical academy of law. According to the philosophical academy, law is the product of mortal reason, and its purpose is to elevate and deify mortal personality. The justices spoke for the eidolon of a man’s qualities and traits as the ultimate ideal of law. They stressed the propagation of moral values and had this belief that law emanates from humanity and will live with humanity till eternity, negotiating the end of cherishing society with morality. Likewise, the end of pro bono legal services is to profit the state by aiding the disposal of justice via indifferent law.

Development in India

But before examining the current developments with respect to pro bono, the interrogatives regarding the need for such affairs must be given due consideration. The edifice of society is not a homogeneous one. It consists of Indies, that is, people who wish to live independently from the mainstream in their own ways. The growing roots of democracy have brought the fruits of absolute rights to its citizens. But when the point concerning the implementation of these rights is raised, it just ends with a fishing and roving inquiry. The very concept of the rule of law and ideas of natural justice have made it discernible that equality is the most significant aspect that is to be kept in mind by the system, and for this, the authorities must take relevant steps. The concept of pro-bono legal services enters midway, safeguarding the rights of poor people from being jeopardized. It stresses providing free legal services to needy people in matters of costly court proceedings, inclusive of the lawyer’s fees, and appreciably diffusing sociolegal cognition in society.

The maiden growth in this sector could have been traced back to 1973, when a committee was established to facilitate the working of legal aid. The committee was known as ‘Processional Justice to the Poor’ and was presided over by Honourable Justice Krishna Iyer. The emphasis was placed on the widespread dissemination of licit details and the availability of legal aid services so that needy and poor people would remain well conversant with the amenities. Following this, another committee was instituted under the chairmanship of Honourable Justice P.N. Bhagwati, which was known as the ‘Committee for Implementing Legal Aid Schemes (CILAS). The underlying notion behind such an establishment was achieving the ultimate goal of making the people aware of the laws of the country and in what ways they could fight for their rights. Consequently, the government had to give statutory recognition to legal services based on the recommendations made by CILAS in the form of the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987. The Constitution of India, under Article 39A, provides a very comprehensive approach and lays down the classes and categories of people who are to be included under the color of legal aid. The scope extends to Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, women and children without any qualification in respect of their financial status, victims of human trafficking and any man-made catastrophe, ethnic violence, etc. The challenge is to construct such an efficacious and democratic government that should have the ability to meet the needs of ordinary citizens, including the poor, responsibly to subserve in their upgrading.

Legal Education and linkage with Legal Aid

Legal education in India has gone through several transitions. The influx of pro bono culture forced the authorities to invest time underpinning the growing significance of this term. In our country, pro bono publico, i.e., for the public good, is ordinarily used but seldom applied. Such activities are often related to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and do not acquire a certain definitive substance, unlike the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Therefore, in this context, it can be understood as the responsibility of an institution, the state herein, to bear in mind the economic, social, and environmental consequences of its actions, where the elemental motive should be the maximization of the public good and embellishing the interests and rights of the people. In relation to legal education, the curriculum is structured in sync with the idea of cultivating the roots in young minds by embarking on the learning procedure with an understanding of legal ethics and core principles because the fundamental aim of the legal profession is the public good. Pro bono, when entwined with pedagogy, would definitely serve an advantage to the welfare of the state because, when we are seeding in young minds the professionalism carried by the public good, we are budding development.

Lawyers are the peacemakers of society, and therefore, law schools play a notable role in setting up rapport. Accessing justice is one such term, which encompasses the quality of legal education and bridging the gap between the legal profession and education. It must be remembered that legal aid does not only correspond to assistance in administrative, judicial, and quasi-judicial procedures. The ambit has widened over time, and so has inculcated society with legal awareness by conducting numerous legal awareness drives, acts, camps, webinars, and old-age home visits. This aspect of legal aid has been identified as a matter of intrinsic importance by the Indian judiciary. The law schools in today’s time are playing a pivotal role in taking up the initiative of spreading information about Indian laws and making needy people aware of the benefits they can avail of under multiple legal aid schemes and services.

Rules and regulations for legal aid are laid down in the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. It provides a mandate to provide free and competent legal services to the underprivileged and disadvantaged sections of society to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or several disabilities and to ensure that the functioning of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity for all.

Suggestions and Conclusion

After evaluating the far-reaching approach of the mentioned statutory laws, court observations, committees, eminent theories, etc., it can be safely concluded that major steps have been taken to underpin the pillars of this system. However, the pace of growth has been anomalous. The contemporary world does not approach this ethical institution with great zeal because, as we speak of society, it has grown pompous and grouchy. Law schools are well conversant with the pertinent fact that they have a noteworthy role in motivating the new generation about humanitarian and philanthropic objectives, but they lack such motivation. Though rules and guidelines are laid down, anticipated participation and contribution are not seen. Lack of appropriate funds and disinterest in guiding students and helping them when required are leading problems in law schools.


The expansion of the ambit of pro bono legal service is relevant as it has a multilateral objective. Ensuring the instrumental utilization of the student force by providing incentives and awards can be a vital step toward advancement. The burgeoning issues related to political and economic conditions have indubitably beleaguered the development process, but a holistic strategy can be drawn out. A distinguished idea of creating legal aid cells in institutions might prove beneficial in pulverizing the evil practices of civilization and imbuing people with social responsibility. 

Author: Aditya Krishna Gupta, a student at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Dwarka, New Delhi.

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