Legal aid means providing barrier-free justice to the poor and illiterate. It was first started by PN Bhagwati under the Legal Aid Committee constituted in 1971. Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides that 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.
Articles 14 and 22(1) make it mandatory for the state to ensure equality before the law and a legal system that promotes justice to all based on equal opportunity.
Those who are not able to pay the court fees take the government’s free legal aid service by which they ensure justice based on equal opportunity.
The legal aid service scheme came to be known as CILAS(Committee for Implementing Legal Aid Schemes).and started monitoring legal aid activities throughout the country.
How Legal Aid Services Started?
The first legal aid movement came into force in 1851 when certain provisions were introduced in France to provide legal aid to the poor people of the society.
Efforts to provide free legal aid services to needy people in Britain were started in 1944. From 1952, the Government of India also began to address the question of legal aid for the poor at various conferences of Law Ministers and Law Commissions.
Some provisions were framed by the government in 1960 For legal aid schemes.
Legal aid schemes in various states were run through legal aid boards, committees, and law departments. In 1980, a committee was constituted at the national level to oversee and supervise legal aid programs across the country under the chairmanship of Hon. Mr. Justice P.N. Bhagwati was then a judge of the Supreme Court of India.
Expert committees were formed in 1950 to advise the government. Regarding providing legal aid to the poor.
People who are entitled to free legal aid under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987
The norms for rendering legal services are prescribed under section 12 of the said Act. Every person who has to file or defend a case shall be entitled to legal services under this Act if that person is –
- a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe;
- Victims of human trafficking or beggars referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution;
- woman or child;
- Persons with disabilities as defined in clause (i) of section 2 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation); Act, 1995
- a person in circumstances of an unmet need such as being the victim of a mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster; or an industrial worker; or in custody, including custody in a protective home within the meaning of clause (g) of section 2 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (104 of 1956), or juvenile in a juvenile home within the meaning of clause (j) of section 2 in a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric nursing home within the meaning of clause (g) of section 2 of the Justice Act, 1986 (53 of 1986), or the Mental Health Act, 1987 (14 of 1987); or in receipt of an annual income of fewer than nine thousand rupees or such other higher sum as may be determined by the State Government, if the matter is before a court other than the Supreme Court, and less than twelve thousand rupees or such other higher amount as may be [Determined by the Central Government, if the matter is before the Supreme Court.
Also, there are factors of disqualification from seeking legal aid – as per the rules, the following persons are not entitled to legal aid, unless the chairman of the committee approves it as a special case-
Disqualification from seeking legal aid
- proceeding in whole or in part in respect of a defamatory or malicious prosecution or any incidental proceeding;
- a person charged with a proceeding of contempt of court or any incidental proceeding;
- the person alleging perjury;
- Proceedings relating to any election.
- Proceedings in respect of offenses where the fine imposed does not exceed Rs. 50/-
- Proceedings in respect of economic offenses and offenses against social laws, such as the Civil Rights Act, 1955 and the Protection of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, unless assistance is sought by the victim in such cases :
Legal aid is also denied where the person seeking legal services –
(1) relates to the proceedings only in a representative or official capacity; Or
(2) If a formal party to the proceeding is not materially concerned in the outcome of the proceeding and his interests are not likely to be prejudicially affected by the absence of proper representation.
In the above two circumstances, even the Speaker cannot grant legal aid as a special case.
The functions of the State Authority are prescribed under Section 7 of the said Act, which is as follows
- It shall be the duty of the State Authority to implement the policy and directions of the Central Authority.
- Without prejudice to the generality of the functions referred to in sub-section (1), the State Authority shall do all or any of the following functions, namely:
- To render legal services to persons fulfilling the criteria laid down under this Act;
- Conduct (Lok Adalats including Lok Adalats for High Court cases) preventive and strategic legal aid programs; and perform other such
Section 8 of the said Act requires the State Authority to act in coordination with other agencies etc. and to be subject to the directions given by the Central Authority – In the discharge of its functions, the State Authority shall appropriately co- co-operate with other Government agencies, non- Co-ordination with Government voluntary social service institutions, universities and other bodies engaged in promoting the cause of legal services to the poor and shall be guided by such directions as the Central Authority may give to it in writing.
The functions of the District Authority under section 10 of the said Act are:
- It shall be the duty of every District Authority to perform such functions of the State Authority in the district as may be assigned to it by the State Authority from time to time.
- Without prejudice to the generality of the functions referred to in sub-section (1), the District Authority may do all or any of the following functions, namely:
- Coordination of activities of Taluk Legal Services Committee and other legal services in the district;
- Organizing Lok Adalats in the district; And
- To perform such other functions as may be prescribed by the State Authority by regulations.
Section 11 of the said Act requires the District Authority to act in coordination with other agencies and to be subject to the directions given by the Central Authority etc. – In the discharge of its functions under this Act, the District Authority shall, wherever shall, as appropriate, work in coordination with other Government and non-Government institutions, universities and others engaged in the work of promoting the cause of legal service to the poor and shall be guided by such directions as the Central Authority of the State Authority may give. are in writing for this.
Constitutional provisions relating to legal aid
Legal aid is a constitutional right – Articles 21 and 39-A of the Constitution are as follows:-
“21. Protection of life and personal liberty – No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except by procedure established by law.
“39A. Equal justice and free legal aid – The State shall ensure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice based on an equal opportunity, and in particular, shall provide free legal aid through appropriate legislation or schemes or in any other manner. To ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen because of economic or other disabilities”.
Article 21 is a fundamental right granted under Part III of the Constitution. Whereas Article 39-A is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy under Part IV of the Constitution.
Chandra Bhavan Boarding and Lodging, Bangalore v-The State of Mysore, AIR 1970 SC 2042 in 2050, para 13, it has been held by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court that “While the rights conferred under Part III are fundamental, the directions are fundamental in the governance of the country under Part IV. There is as a whole no conflict between the provisions contained in Part III and Part IV. They compliment and complement each other.
Legal awareness regarding legal aid scheme
Many people in our country are not aware of the free legal aid service because of which on the direction of the authority, all the district legal service authorities are organizing legal literacy / legal awareness camps in the remote rural areas of the state.
At least once in a Week i.e. Sundays/Holidays, on topics related to SC/ST, Women and Children, and the general public, so that the common man can be made aware of his legal rights. following steps have been taken by authority for legal Campaign.
- Legal literacy/legal awareness camps/seminars
- Implementation of legal literacy missions
- Prisoners legal literacy missions(PLLM)
- Legal literacy mission for empowerment of underprivileged(LLUP)
Role of lawyers in spreading views on legal aid
Lawyers are those persons who know the rights and liabilities of the weaker section by which they must spread awareness about free legal aid service in the society. Advocates were also asked to address legal literacy clubs set up in schools and colleges. Topics are given in the list prepared for legal literacy camps.
Panel of lawyers
According to regulation 8 of the National Legal Services Authority (Free Competent Legal Services) Regulations, 2010, all District Legal Services Authorities and Sub-Divisional Legal Committees have prepared a panel of advocates.
As per regulation 8 of NLSA Regulations, 2010, HLSA (Haryana State Legal Services Authority) has appointed ten empanelled advocates of DLSA/five empanelled advocates of SDLSC as a retainer on a rotation basis in each district and each sub-division of Haryana. nominated in.
Advocates present the ideas of legal aid service in front of the society through the workshop, many officers like social welfare, protection officer, field officer, project officer, MNREGA have also participated in the workshop.
As per Rule 7(2) of the NLSA (National Legal Services Authority) Regulations, 2010, the HLSA (Haryana State Legal Services Authority) has constituted a Screening Committee in each district and each sub-division of Haryana to scrutinize and evaluate the applications. has done. For legal services under the said scheme.
(NALSA), Regulations, 2010, (HSLSA), a monitoring committee in each district and each sub-division of Haryana to closely monitor court-based legal services and monitor the progress of the state in legal aid matters. has been constituted.
Landmark Cases of Legal Aid Scheme
Abdul Hassan Vs. Delhi Electricity Board [AIR 1999 Del 88: 1999 (77) DLT 640:1999 (2) AD (Del) 105:: 1999 RLR 100:1999 (2) RCR (Civil) 291]
The Delhi High Court held that “Article 39A emphasizes that the legal system should be capable of delivering justice expeditiously based on equal opportunity and should provide free legal aid to ensure that justice is achieved to any citizen because of economic or other disabilities.
It is in this context that Parliament enacted the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987. One of the objectives of the Act is to organize Lok Adalats to ensure that the legal system operates based on equal opportunity to deliver justice. Promotes.
The provisions of the Act based on the indigenous concept are complementary to the Court system. They will go a long way in resolving the dispute with almost no cost to the litigants and with minimum delay. The Act relieves the courts of the heavy burden of cases. There is a legislative effort to reduce that.”
Moni Mathai v Federal Bank Ltd., [AIR 2003 Ker 164 at 170]
By the High Court of Kerala, Lok Adalats are also bound to follow the principles of natural justice, equality, fairness, and other legal principles.
All these unfortunate controversies could have been avoided if the committee had taken care of issuing notices to the petitioners and obtaining a written statement along with their statements and placed it before the Lok Adalat. Lok Adalats should also not forget that their duty is not to dispose of cases by any means but to settle cases amicably.