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Legal Aid in India


In a country where education is still a luxury and not a necessity, legal aid is still not a much known concept. People in India are more than just informed of their crimes but of their rights?

No, not very much. Social issues like illiteracy, manipulation by higher authorities, lack of awareness doesn’t help the dream of widespread of justice at all. One of the instruments for justice is legal aid to the needy. The introduction of concept of legal aid dates back to the 18th century. The term legal aid was coined in the country of France where an enactment was introduced to provide legal assistance to indigent. In 1994, Britain became the second nation to use the concept of legal aid. A committee was appointed by the Lord Chancellor for ensuring that legal advice was provided by the state to poor and needy.

Background of legal aid in India

The development of legal aid for the poor in India is certainly not an unexpected whimsical thought of a few idealistic rationalists of the modern era. Philosophers and historians state that the concept of legal aid can be traced back to the Vedic age. Even though legal aid has been practiced since the times of the old Indian society, it came into limelight with the beginning of the 1952, when the newly elected government of independent India recoganised the needs of indigent and started asking for legal aid in various law conferences. In 1980, a committee was formed for drafting of legal aid guidelines under the chairmanship of Hon’ Justice P.N. Bhagwati. This committee came to be known as CILAS -Committee for Implementing Legal Aid Schemes and it started working to provide legal help to the ones in need throughout the country. The next commendable step taken to inculcate legal aid in Indian society was in 1987, when Legal Services Authorities Act came in force. This made providing of legal aid to all the people that fall in eligibility criteria (under this act) mandatory for states under Indian province.[1] The ultimate rule book for every law in India, the Indian constitution also provides provisions for safeguarding the interests of poor in matters of legal affairs under Article 39A. It states that the State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities[2]. The provisions under Article 39A, Article 14 and Article 22(1) of the Constitution make it a requirement for the State to guarantee equality under the steady gaze of law and a legitimate framework which offers equity to every one of its subjects. Another effort made by the government to ensure legal aid is constitution of NALSA (National Legal Service Authority) under legal services authorities’ act, 1987 to monitor and evaluate the implementation of legal services accessible under the Act. [3]

Indian democracy is based on the principles of justice, equality, human dignity and fraternity. Our national goal has always been to achieve justice in all economic, social, political and legal issues through the natural rule of law. Therefore it is vital to give legitimate legal aid to poor and oppressed in order to empower them to get equality before court of law and effectively use the justice system for their benefits. Along with such constitutional remedies various other government and non government bodies like legal aid clinics, NGOs (MARG,ClapIndia), legal aid centers set up by various law colleges, pro bono cases taken up giant corporate law firms, etc also work tirelessly so that those in need can get legal aid and not be subdued.

Issues faced by legal aid in India

Every one of these endeavors render futile when the significant population of our nation is not aware of this holy grail accessible to them and are abused by the malicious and the rich in the court. Lack of awareness and illiteracy constitute a major challenge faced in implementation of legal aid in India. Lack of awareness among people leads to believing in myths like free service is in contradiction with quality services. The people to advocate ratio in India also doesn’t help the situation. According to BCI there is 1 lawyer for 1800 people [4]so the main source of legal aid is less than its demand. Another reason for failure of legal aid in India is lawyers for the most part are uninterested in giving skilled lawful help due to budgetary imperatives. Along these lines, despite the way that free lawful guide has been held to be an important extra of the standard of law, the legitimate guide development has not accomplished its objective. Also, again and again legal counselors appointed to provide legal aid by state and paid from state fund don't loyally represent their clients, giving occasion to feel qualms about genuine the believability of the plan of legal aid gave to more fragile areas of society.[5]


“To the poor the Courts are a maze, if he pleads there all his life, law is so lordly, and loath to end his case; without money paid in presents, law listeneth to few.”[6] Legal aid is not a charity or bounty but an obligation of the nation towards its people. The preamble of India guarantees social, economical andpolitical justice to all the citizens. Law never discriminates people on the basis of their riches then why do workers and practitioners of law do?! It is very sad that even after so many years of independence the weaker section of society still feel impaired in their quest of seeking justice. Through legal aid, justice should be delivered to all even to the downtrodden in the remotest part of the country. Special preferences should be given to persons in custody, women, children and people below poverty line. In spite of all challenges and deterrents there is still hope for the spreading of free legal aid in India law authorities though very competent should realize the need of the hour and focus in provision of legal aid to the needy and spread awareness and make them believe and truly understand that they are not alone in their fight and that justice shall be delivered to all. Legitimate mindfulness will make certainty among them and will empower them to still, small voice utilization of law as an instrument of defending the enthusiasm of the majority. [WU1] The concept of seeking justice cannot be equated with value of dollars. Money plays no role in seeking justice.[7]


[1] Section 2(1)(c), Legal Services Authorities Act,1987. [2] The Constitution of India, 39A [3] [4] Bar Council of India. Retrieved [5] [6] visions of piers plowman [7]Justice Blackmun in Jackson v. Bish 2d 571- Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, 1968 Submitted by,

Nishtha Gupta,

New Law College, BVPDU.


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