This Article is Written by Akanksha Chowdhury from Amity University, Kolkata. The article talks about legal aid along with a wider approach to scope, criteria and also landmark cases where the importance of Legal Aid has been portrayed. 


Legal aid helps to provide assistance to people who are unable to afford legal representation and access the court system. Under section 2(1)(c) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1986 includes the providing of any service in any case or legal proceeding before any authority or tribunal. 

Basically, the term legal aid is a modern phenomenon which helps to provide support to various special poor people in the society thus it is mainly designed to help the poor, socially deprived and backward classes of our population who are unable to protect their interests. 

A large section of our society has lost their will to fight against any kind of injustice, though the government introduced various welfare schemes for the benefit of these people but due to lack of resources these schemes cannot be implemented in a proper way. The population of India are mostly illiterate and thus becomes an easy target of injustice prevailing in our country and since these people do not know much about their rights, they are not able to protect themselves in the court and thus start using their muscle power and makes the matter worse. Since the year 1976 the concept of free legal aid was introduced in article 39-A of the constitution of India.

Article 39 A – It says that the state must ensure that the legal system should work in such a way that it provides equal opportunity to everyone and also must provide free legal aid with the help of suitable legislation.  

The right to legal aid services across the globe has been recognized as an important part of human rights and also a fundamental right. In our country , most of the population is poor and most of these people are not able to approach the court of law through  a good lawyer because of lack of resources and thus they suffer a lot however if free legal aid is provided to them then at least even they will have a chance  to protect their interests in the courts . 

The evolution of the idea of legal aid first arrived in France, the government there had introduced an act which could help to provide all kinds of free legal aid to the needy. However, in India this concept of legal aid arrived a little late around the year 1952, again in the year 1980 a committee was formed for supervising the various legal ai programs throughout the country under the chairmanship of Justice P.N. Bhagwati.

In 1987, the Legal Services Authority Act was enacted so as to promote legal aid, however this act was properly enacted in the year 1995.

According to section 12 of the above-mentioned act the following people are eligible for free legal aid: –

> Any member of scheduled caste or schedule tribe 

>Any person who has suffered from any kind of natural calamity, children, lunatic, physically handicapped person etc. 

> Anyone having annual income of less than 1 lakh 

> Any women 

> Order by court 

> Victims of human trafficking  

Criteria for Providing Legal Aid Services

There are some of the criteria which are mentioned who can obtain legal aid services as per the Constitution of India. The criterions are mentioned as accordingly: –

  1. A Member of Scheduled Cast, Schedule Tribe or Other Backward Class;
  2. Any person victim of Serious Human Trafficking or Abuse;
  3. A Women or a Child Facing serious issues anywhere;
  4. Any disabled person or a person having mental disorder;
  5. Any victim of a natural disaster like Earthquake or flood;
  6. A person who is in custody by police;
  7. Any person facing financial problem;

These are some of the categories who have the right to get legal aid and also there are some more criteria mentioned under them which has to be taken care of properly. 

Some cases in which Legal Aid Cannot be Provided

These are some of the cases under which Legal Aid cannot be provided and is therefore really tough to get at. The cases involved under this heading are as follows:

  1. Cases of Defamation;
  2. Cases involving Contempt of Court;
  3. Cases involving lying under oath;
  4. Cases involving certain Economic Conflicts;
  5. Cases where fine of more than 50 rupees is not imposed;
  6. Cases involving Social Laws;

How to Approach for Legal Aid

Talking about the procedure, there are some vital points which clearly outline how a particular person must approach for a legal aid service so as to attain immediate justice as and when needed. The steps are as under:

  1. A proper Written Application has to be made to the particular concerned Authority;
  2. The Authority will look the entire case carefully and record the matter in a rigorous matter and after that take the signature or thumb impression of the one who came to the authority for seeking justice;
  3. The person who came to file for legal aid must file an affidavit before the court which is a really important aspect lying here.

Scope of Legal Aid

Talking about the scope, Legal Aid is really very essential in providing justice to the people at large. In each and every part of the country, citizens have the right to attain legal aid and get access to justice sooner and faster. Especially, the lower sections of the society must be given a certain knowledge about the rights and thus make them introduce through this system. Also, one important aspect which lies over here is about Para-Legal Services which can be given to those having low income. There are certain volunteers who are there to provide justice to these people at an easier and fully free of cost approach. Legal aid provides social and economic justice to the parties affected in the matter. It also protects some of the rights of the individuals like Constitutional, Human and Social rights.


 Air India Statutory Corporation vs United Labor Union 

In this case a wide scope of article 39 A has been explained. The court had said that article 39A furnishes light to the fact that justice should be provided to everyone on the basis of equality and also no one should be denied justice on the basis of economics or any other factor. 

Hussainara Khatoon vs State of Bihar 

This case played an enormous role in formation of the legal aid system and also providing rights to the poor and lower caste people. Also, in this case the court has given importance to article 39 A which focused on the fact that free legal aid shrive was an important element in order to provide reasonable, fair and equal justice and also right to free legal service which is guaranteed under article 21. 

 State of Haryana vs Darshan Devi-

 In this case the court had also held that poor and needy people should not be neglected in getting free legal aid service. 

Khatri vs State of Bihar  

The supreme court had held in this case that the state was constitutionally bound to provide legal service by hiring a particular law to an accused not only during the trial stage but also when they are produced for the first time before the magistrate  and this right should not be denied on the grounds of financial or administrative reasons . The magistrate and sessions court judges has the responsibility to inform the accused regarding his rights. 

Sukhdev vs Arunachal Pradesh

In this particular case justice P.N Bhagwati had outlined the importance of constructing legal awareness to the poor people as they are not aware about their legal rights and further observed that people who stay in rural areas are illiterate , these illiterate people do not possess significant knowledge regarding their rights therefore this absence of knowledge fails to make them understand about the importance of a lawyer in order to seek justice whenever needed. 

This particular case is considered to be a landmark case in the books of constitution of India.

Sheela Barse vs State of Maharashtra

In this particular case, a writ petition was filed by a journalist Sheela Barse speaking for enquiry in custodial violence to women prisoners while they were locked in a police lockup in the city of Bombay. The petitioner had said that there were 15 women prisoners in Bombay Jail and out of which 5 women were assaulted brutally by the police. Out of these 5 girls, 2 girls were tortured more brutally. The main purpose of this writ petition was to have a clear- cut investigation on the grounds in which these 15 women were arrested. The court had claimed the journalist does not have the right to interfere in this case, the Supreme Court after looking into the writ petition ordered the inspector who was accused of torturing these girls to present herself before the court. The court also directed that these girls should get free legal aid through the help of an NGO. The court had given the order to the inspector general and the authorities of the police department to have a clear- cut investigation in the matter. 


After jotting and summarizing everything, we can see that how Legal Aid plays a critical role in providing justice to the public at whole irrespective of caste, color, creed, religion, sex etc. it can also be said that the Goddess of Justice can dispense justice safely with a blind- folded approach only if the administrators, justice givers and the ones who practice justice keep their eyes opened widely and poor and needy people are being given helped in order to have a peaceful living. 

And this can be ensured only by way of effective provisions of legal aid in all societies; developed, developing or the underdeveloped.

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