National Legal Aid Movement in India- Its Development and Present Status
Faculty Of Law University Of Kashmir , One Day National seminar on legal aid to marginalized: The Efficacy and Challenges, Under the auspices of project: ACESS TO JUSTICE:NE and J&K, Department of Justice, GOI, New Delhi. PRESENTED BY Mustafa Majid Sheikh Research Scholar School of Education Central University of Kashmir
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - National Legal Aid Movement in India- Its Development and Present Status
National Legal Aid Movement in India- Its Development
and Present Status
Faculty Of Law University Of Kashmir
One Day National seminar on legal aid to marginalized:
The Efficacy and Challenges
Under the auspices of project: ACESS TO JUSTICE:NE and
J&K, Department of Justice, GOI, New Delhi.
Mustafa Majid Sheikh
Research Scholar School of Education
Central University of Kashmir
The concept of seeking justice cannot be
equated with the value of dollars. Money
plays no role in seeking justice.
---- Justice Blackmun in Jackson v Bish
WHAT IS LEGAL AID ?
Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people
otherwise unable to afford legal representation and
access to the court system. Legal aid is regarded as
central in providing access to justice by ensuring
equality before the law,
the right to counsel,
and the right to a fair trial
EQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW
Equality before the law, also known as equality
under the law, equality in the eyes of the law,
or legal equality, is the principle under which all
people are subject to the same laws of justice.
The law and the judges must treat everyone equally
before the law regardless of their race, gender,
gender identity, national origin, colour, ethnicity,
religion, disability, or other characteristics,
without privilege, discrimination, or bias
RIGHT TO COUNSEL
Right to counsel means a defendant has a right to
have the assistance of counsel (i.e., lawyers), and if
the defendant cannot afford a lawyer, requires that
the government appoint one or pay the defendants
RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL
Article 10 states that:
"Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and
public hearing by an independent and impartial
tribunal, in the determination of his rights and
obligations and of any criminal charge against him."
WHY LEGAL AID?
Legal aid to the poor and weak is necessary for the
preservation of rule of law which is necessary for the
existence of the orderly society. Until and unless poor
illiterate man is not legally assisted, he is denied
equality in the opportunity to seek justice. Therefore
as a step towards making the legal service serve the
poor and the deprived; the judiciary has taken active
interest in providing legal aid to the needy in the
THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION
The Indian Constitution provides for an independent and
impartial judiciary and the courts are given power to
protect the constitution and safeguard the rights of people
irrespective of their financial status. Since the aim of the
constitution is to provide justice to all and the directive
principles are in its integral part of the constitution, the
constitution dictates that judiciary has duty to protect
rights of the poor as also society as a whole. The judiciary
through its significant judicial interventions has
compelled as well as guided the legislature to come up
with the suitable legislations to bring justice to the
doorsteps of the weakest sections of the society
Ailments of Indian Judicial System
India being a Welfare state Legal Services is very
essential, the rule of law without legal Services is a
judicial myth. Indian Judiciary is suffering from “ABC”
ailments: A - Accessibility of Justice B – Backlog of
cases C – The cost of litigation. To cure these
diagnosed “ABC” disease in the judiciary, The Legal
Service Authorities Act 1987, has prescribed “Three
Drug” combination of which can be named as “Three
LAS i.e. Legal Aid, Legal Awareness and Lok Adalats
Constitutional Provisions To Legal Services
• Article 14 of the Constitution states that the state shall not deny to any person
equality before law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of
• The Constitution of India provides the fundamental rights including
protection of life and liberty in Article 21.And provision of legal aid services is
an integral part of the article.
• Article 38(I) states that the state shall strive to promote the welfare of the
people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may, as social order in
which justice – social, economic and political shall inform all the institutions
of national life.
• Article 39(A) “Provides equal justice and free legal aid”. It states that the state
shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on the
basis if 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. This is a piece of legislation which deals with
several aspects relating to providing legal aid to the poor and the down
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal
Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections
of the society and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
In 1987, the Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted by the Parliament which
came into force on 9th November, 1995 with an object to establish a nationwide
uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker
sections of the society on the basis of equal opportunity.
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal
Services Authorities Act, 1987 to monitor and evaluate implementation of legal
services available under the Act.
The Act empowers the State to establish a Four Tier System of providing speedy and
informal justice at the National, State, District and Taluk Levels.
The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987
The Act prescribes the criteria for giving legal
services to the eligible persons. It makes a person
eligible for assistance under the act if he is -
a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled
a victim of trafficking in human beings or begar as
referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution;
a woman or a child;
a mentally ill or otherwise disabled person;
a person under circumstances of undeserved want such as
being a victim of a mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste
atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster;
or an industrial workman; or
in custody, including custody in a protective home or in a
of in a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric nursing home
within the meaning of clause (g) of section 2 of the Mental
Health Act, 1987;
(i) A person whose annual income less than rupees fifty
thousand or such other higher amount as may be
prescribed by the State Government
Free Legal Aid In India : The Positive Contribution Of
Hussainara Khatoon V Home secretary, state of bihar
The petitioner brought to the notice of Supreme Court that
most of the under trails have already undergone the
punishment much more than what they would have got
had they been convicted without any delay. The delay was
caused due to inability of the persons involved to engage a
legal counsel to defend them in the court and the main
reason behind their inability was their poverty. Thus, in
this case the court pointed out that Article 39-A
emphasized that free legal service was an inalienable
element of reasonable, fair and just‘ procedure and
that the right to free legal services was implicit in the
guarantee of Article 21
Khatri v. State of Bihar
The right to free legal services is an essential ingredient of reasonable, fair
and just procedure for a person accused of an offence and it must be held
implicit in the guarantee of Article 21 and the State is under a
constitutional mandate to provide a lawyer to an accused person if the
circumstances of the case and the needs of justice so require…The State
cannot avoid this obligation by pleading financial or administrative
inability or that none of the aggrieved prisoners asked for any legal aid.
In, State of Haryana v. Darshana Devi, the
Court said that: "the poor shall not be priced out of the justice market by
insistence on court-fee and refusal to apply the exemptive provisions of
order XXXIII, CPC.
A case of Juveniles
Justice Bhagwati while delivering the judgment in the
case of Kara Aphasia v. State of Bihar, where the
petitioners were young boys of 12-13 years when
arrested, and were still languishing in jail for over 8
years. They also alleged to have been kept in leg irons
and forced to do work outside the jail, directed that
the petitioners must be provided legal representation
by a fairly competent lawyer at the cost of the State,
since legal aid in a criminal case is a fundamental
right implicit in Article 21.
After the constitution of the Central Authority and the establishment of
NALSA office towards the beginning of 1998, following schemes and
measures have been envisaged and implemented by the Central Authority:-
(a) Establishing Permanent and Continuous Lok Adalats in all the Districts in
the country for disposal of pending matters as well as disputes at pre-
(b) Establishing separate Permanent & Continuous Lok Adalats for Govt.
Departments, Statutory Authorities and Public Sector Undertakings for
disposal of pending cases as well as disputes at pre-litigative stage;
(c) Accreditation of NGOs for Legal Literacy and Legal Awareness campaign;
(d) Appointment of "Legal Aid Counsel" in all the Courts of Magistrates in the
(e) Disposal of cases through Lok Adalats on old pattern;
(f) Publicity to Legal Aid Schemes and programmes to make people aware about
legal aid facilities;
(g) Emphasis on competent and quality legal services to the aided
(h) Legal aid facilities in jails;
(i)Setting up of Counseling and Conciliation Centers in all the
Districts in the country;
(j) Sensitisation of Judicial Officers in regard to Legal Services
Schemes and programmes;
(k) Publication of "Nyaya Deep", the official newsletter of NALSA;
(l) Enhancement of Income Ceiling to Rs.1,25,000/- p.a. for legal aid
before Supreme Court of India and to Rs.1,00,000/- p.a. for legal aid
upto High Courts; and
(m) Steps for framing rules for refund of court fees and execution of
Awards passed by Lok Adalats
Constitution And Hierarchy Of NALSA
• In every State, a State Legal Services Authority and in every
High Court, a High Court Legal Services Committee has been
• District Legal Services Authorities and Taluka Legal Services
Committees have been constituted in the Districts and most of
the Talukas in order to give effect to the policies and directions
of the NALSA and to provide free legal services to the people
and conduct Lok Adalats in the State.
• The State Legal Services Authorities are chaired by Hon'ble
Chief Justice of the respective Districts and the Taluk a Legal
Services Committees are chaired by the Judicial Officers at the
• Supreme Court Legal Services Committee has been constituted
to administer and implement the legal services programme in
so far as it relates to the Supreme Court of India.
Functioning of National Legal Services
The NALSA issues guidelines for the State Legal Services Authorities
to implement the Legal Aid Programmes and schemes throughout the
Primarily, the State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services
Authorities, Taluka Legal Services Committees, etc. have been asked
to discharge the following two main functions on regular basis
To Provide Free Legal Services to the eligible persons;
To organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
The Free Legal Services include:
• Payment of court fee, process fees and all
other charges payable or incurred in
connection with any legal proceedings
• Providing Advocate in legal proceedings;
• Obtaining and supply of certified copies of
orders and other documents in legal
• Preparation of appeal, paper book including
printing and translation of documents in legal
Eligible persons for getting free legal
Women and children;
Members of SC/ST;
Victims of mass disaster; violence, flood, drought,
earthquake, industrial disaster;
Persons in custody;
Persons whose annual income does not exceed Rs.
Victims of Trafficking in Human beings.
The NALSA has formulated the following schemes to perform
its functions under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987
Legal and Counsel Scheme
Permanent and Continuous Lok Adalat
Counseling and Conciliation Scheme
Legal Literacy Programme
Legal Aid Camps
Accreditation of Voluntary Social Service
Present Status NALSA
The Act empowered the State to establish a Four Tier System of
providing speedy and informal justice at the National, State, District
and Taluk Levels.
The Thirteenth Finance Commission (TFC) has provided Rs. 5000
crore (USD 1 billion) for the period 2010-2015 to the Justice sector,
primarily for reducing pendency, improving infrastructure, legal aid,
training and speedy justice delivery.
The Government has also allocated Rs.130 crore (USD 26 million)
during the 12th Five Year Plan period (2012 – 2017) for setting up
Another forward-looking initiative of the Department of Justice is the
setting up of the National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal
Reforms10 with the twin objectives of a) Increasing access by reducing
delays and arrears in the system, and b) Enhancing accountability
through structural changes and by setting performance standards and
The Access to Justice Project (2009-2012)
The Access to Justice Project (2009-2012) implemented by the Department of
Justice in collaboration with the UNDP is an example of efforts being made for
creating sustainable and positive change across the States.
Achievements of the Access to Justice Project
Over 2 million people have been made aware of their rights and entitlements.
Over 7000 paralegals have been trained.
Over 300 legal aid lawyers have been trained and sensitized.
Knowledge products have been created to sensitize judiciary and other
stakeholders on laws and issues relating to marginalized communities.
Till 31.03.2009 about 96.99 lakh people have benefited
through legal aid and advice throughout the country in
which about 13.83 lakh persons belonging to Scheduled
Caste and 4.64 lakh people of Scheduled Tribe
communities were beneficiaries. More than 10.22 lakh
people were women and about 2.35 lakh people in
custody were also benefited. About 7.25 lakh Lok
Adalats have been held throughout the country in
which more than 2.68 crore cases have been settled. In
about 16.87 lakh Motor Accident Claim cases, more
than Rs. 7593 crore has been awarded as
During the period from 1st April, 2011 to 30th
September, 2011 more than 6.95 lakh persons have
benefited through legal aid services in the country.
Out of them, more than 25.1 thousand persons
belonged to the Scheduled Castes, about 11.5
thousand Scheduled Tribes, about 24.6 thousand
were women and 1.6 thousand were children. During
this period, 53,508 Lok Adalats were organised. These
Lok Adalats settled more than 13.75 lakh cases. In
about 39.9 thousand Motor Vehicle Accident Claim
cases, compensation to the tune of Rs. 420.12 crore
has been awarded.
Over 56,000 cases across the country were disposed
in the third National Lok Adalat held in 2015 which
also saw disbursal of Rs 265 crore as claims towards
final settlement in bank recovery and cheques bounce
The second National Lok Adalat saw the disposal of
over 1.25 crore cases. In 2013, the first National Lok
Adalat had seen disposal of 71.50 lakh cases.
What can be done?
Legal aid is not a charity or bounty, but is an obligation of the state
and right of the citizens.
The prime object of the state should be ―equal justice for all.
Lack of legal awareness - It is the absence of legal awareness which
leads to exploitation and deprivation of rights and benefits of the
Legal services institutions have until now functioned in uncharted
waters, often making their presence felt only at certain ports of call
like court-based legal services, organising legal literacy camps and Lok
Now, with a paradigm shift in the concept of legal services, legal
services authorities are reaching out to the people to facilitate ‘access
to justice' to all in the most practicable and economical manner.
Para-legal volunteers can help bridge the gap between the ordinary
citizen and legal services institutions.
What can be done?
Bringing in more competent, well-known and senior
lawyers for rendering Legal Services and Legal Aid.
Payment of better honorarium to the lawyers who
provide Legal Aid.
Inclusion of all designated senior lawyers in the
Legal Aid Schemes and requesting them to undertake
at least two cases free of charge every year.
In appropriate cases, payment of the entire
expenses including the normal fees of the lawyers.
Annual evaluation of the progress of cases in which
Legal Aid was given.