Published Date : 26 June 2019 | Akanksha Singh
What is Legal Aid?
Legal Aid means free legal service provided to the people who cannot afford to hire an advocate for the representation of a case in the court of law. It is basically free legal aid provided by the state to the weaker sections of the society on any legal matter.
Laws governing Legal Aid in India
The Preamble of Indian Constitution promises to secure “Justice – social, economic and political” to all the citizens. Articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law. In 1976, Article 39A is inserted in the Constitution of India to fulfill the objectives of the Preamble to provide justice even to the poor and weaker sections of the society.
In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted by the Parliament, which provides provisions for the establishment of National Legal Services Authority and other state legal services authorities to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society. The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and the Senior most Honourable Judge, Supreme Court of India is the Executive Chairman of the Authority.
State laws for Legal Aid in India
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) issues the same guidelines for all State Legal Services Authorities as well as District Legal Services Authorities and Taluk (Tehsil) Legal Services Committees to provide free Legal Services to the eligible persons.
What Services are provided under Legal Aid
Payment of court fee, process fees and all other charges payable or incurred in connection with any legal proceedings;
An Advocate in legal proceedings;
Obtaining certified copies of orders and other documents in legal proceedings;
Preparation of appeal documents, including printing and translation of documents in legal proceedings
Who can obtain legal services?
Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, provides a list of sections entitled for free
legal services, they are:
A member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe;
A victim of trafficking in human beings or beggar as referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution;
A woman or a child;
A mentally ill or otherwise disabled person;
A victim of a mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster;
An industrial workman; or
A person in custody, including custody in a protective home or in a juvenile home.
A person psychiatric hospital or psychiatric nursing home within the meaning of clause (g) of section 2 of the Mental Health Act, 1987.
In receipt of annual income less than rupees nine thousand or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the State Government, if the case is before a court other than the Supreme Court, and less than rupees twelve thousand or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the Central Government, if the case is before the Supreme Court.
What proof do you need to prove eligibility?
An affidavit with your income and Identity proof are sufficient documentation to be eligible for free legal services.
Where can you get legal services?
1. Taluk Legal Services Committee.
2. District Legal Services Authority which is in the premises of the District Court.
3. State Legal Services Authority in every state.
4. The High Court Legal Services Committee which is in the premises of the concerned High Court.
5. The Supreme Court Legal Services Committee for cases before the Supreme Court.
How to apply for legal aid?
You can apply either offline or online. For offline, a person can approach the concerned authority or committee through an application in written form, or by filling up the forms prepared by the said authorities. It can be made orally in which case an officer of the concerned legal services authority or a paralegal volunteer can assist the person.
A person can also apply online for getting Legal Aid to any Legal Services Institution in the country by filling up the Legal Aid Application form available online at NALSA’s website by going on the ‘Online Application’ Link on the Home Page, along with uploading necessary documents.
Various other legal services authorities also have application forms available on their websites.
If a person cannot afford to represent his case in the court of law he can ask for free legal-aid and it is also duty of the state to provide legal-aid to the person. Thus, the Constitution of India obliges the state to ensure that the legal system promotes justice to all and for the purpose various legislative and administrative actions have been taken so that justice cannot be denied to anyone.