This page covers about free legal aid to weaker sections of the society.
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 are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disability. Articles 14 and 22(1) also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity to all. Legal aid strives to ensure that constitutional pledge is fulfilled in its letter and spirit and equal justice is made available to the poor, downtrodden and weaker sections of the society.
National Legal Services Authority
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.
NALSA is located at New Delhi. In every State, State Legal Services Authority has been constituted to give effect to the policies and directions of the NALSA and to give free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State. The State Legal Services Authority is headed by Hon’ble the Chief Justice of the respective High Court who is the Patron-in-Chief of the State Legal Services Authority.
In every District, District Legal Services Authority has been constituted to implement Legal Services Programmes in the District. The District Legal Services Authority is situated in the District Courts Complex in every District and chaired by the District Judge of the respective district.
Free Legal Services offered by NALSA/State Authority/District Authority
Free legal services entail the provision of free legal aid in civil and criminal matters for those poor and marginalized people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer for the conduct of a case or a legal proceeding in any court, tribunal or before an authority.
Provision of free legal aid may include:
- Payment of court fee, process fees and all other charges payable or incurred in connection with any legal proceedings;
- Providing Advocate in a legal proceedings;
- Obtaining and supply of certified copies of orders and other documents in legal proceedings.
- Preparation of appeal, paper book including printing and translation of documents in legal proceedings.
- Rendering of any service in the conduct of any case or other legal proceeding before any court or other Authority or tribunal.
- Giving of advice on any legal matter.
Eligible persons for getting free legal services
The sections of the society as enlisted under Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act are entitled for free legal services, they are :
- Women and children
- Members of SC/ST
- Industrial workmen
- A victim of trafficking in human beings or beggar as referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution
- Victims of mass disaster, violence, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial disaster.
- A mentally ill or otherwise disabled person
- Person 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 in a juvenile home within the meaning of clause(j) of Section 2 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 (53 of 1986); or in a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric nursing home within the meaning of clause (g) of Section 2 of the Mental Health Act, 1987(14 of 1987);or
- Persons whose annual income is less than Rs 9,000 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 Rs 12,000 or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the Central Government, if the case is before the Supreme Court.
Free Legal Services can be availed from:
- Supreme Court Legal Services Committee,109, Lawyers Chambers, Supreme Court of India, New Delhi for Supreme Court Cases.
- State Legal Services Authority
- High Court Legal Services Committee situated at High Court Complex in every High Court for High Court cases.
- District Legal Services Authority situated in the District Courts Complex in every District.
How to apply
A person in need of free legal services can approach the concerned authority or committee through an application which could either be made by sending in written form,or by filling up the forms prepared by the said authorities stating in brief the reason for seeking legal aid or 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. To access the online application, click here .
Various SLSAs/DLSAs/SCLSC/HCLSCs/TLSCs also have application forms available on their websites.
Lok Adalat is a forum where the disputes/cases pending in the court of law or at pre-litigation stage are settled/compromised amicably. The Lok Adalat has been given statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. Under the said Act, the award made by the Lok Adalats is deemed to be the decree of a civil court and is final and binding on all parties and no appeal lies before any court against its award.
Nature of cases to be referred to Lok Adalat
- Any case pending before any court
- Any dispute which has not been brought before any court and is likely to be filed before the court
Provided that any matter relating to an offence not compoundable under the law shall not be settled in Lok Adalat.
How to get the case referred to the Lok Adalat for settlement
A) Case pending before the court:
- If the parties agree to settle the dispute in Lok Adalat or
- One of the parties makes an application to the court or
- The court is satisfied that that the matter is an appropriate one for settlement in Lok Adalat
B. Any dispute at pre-litigative stage
The State Legal Services Authority or District Legal Services Authority as the case may be on receipt of an application from any one of the parties to any pre-litigation stage matter refer such matter to the Lok Adalat for amicable settlement.
Websites of State Legal Services Authority
- ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR
- ANDHRA PRADESH
- ARUNACHAL PRADESH
- DADRA AND NAGAR HAVELI
- DAMAN AND DIU
- HIMACHAL PRADESH
- JAMMU AND KASHMIR
- MADHYA PRADESH
- TAMIL NADU
- UTTAR PRADESH
- WEST BENGAL
Source : NALSA