Barathkumar K M, III year B.B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.)
The purpose of the legal aid is to provide free legal services to the poor and the needy people who cannot hire an advocate for their case. Our Constitution aims to provide equal rights to all citizens. In India, there are many poor people, there are some people who cannot afford a house to live in and they are sleeping on the platform, it is not possible for them to hire an advocate for their case. Until and unless the poor or needy man is not legally assisted, he is denied equality in the opportunity to seek justice. Hence, to provide justice to the poor or needy man, the judiciary has provided free legal services to them. The free legal services are provided under the Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution, a Directive Principle of State Policy provides for ‘Equal Justice and free Legal Aid’.
Services provided under Legal Aid
1. Payment of court fee, process fee and all other charges payable
2. Providing service of lawyers in legal proceedings
3. Obtaining and supply of certified copies of orders and other documents in legal proceedings
4. Preparation of appeal, a paper book including printing and translation of documents in legal proceedings
Persons who are entitled to get legal aid
To make the Legal Aid more effective, the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 was passed by the Parliament. The act enlisted the persons who are eligible to get free legal services. The eligible persons are as follows:
1. Persons belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe
2. Women and children
3. Industrial workmen
4. Victims of a mass disaster, ethnic violence, flood, drought, earthquake or industrial disaster
5. A mentally ill or disabled person
6. Persons in custody, including custody in a protective home or in a juvenile home
7. Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings or slave
8. Persons whose annual income is less than Rs. 1 lakh (Rs. 1,25,000 in the Supreme Court)
According to the Legal Services Authority Act, the word ‘Court’ includes the civil court, criminal court, revenue court, tribunal and also authority constituted under any law.
How to apply for free legal aid?
A person can apply for free legal aid either online or offline. That person has to submit his application to the Legal Services Authority, which is located nearer to his location, and submit the same at either the Authority physically or post the application to the Authority. The application can be made in a simple piece of paper with the necessary details such as name, gender, residential address, employment status, nationality, whether SC/ST (with proof in support), income (with affidavit) and the person has to submit it physically or send by post or send by email NALSA (at email@example.com) or send by online at NALSA’s website at (https://nalsa.gov.in/) by going on the ‘Online Application’. A person can also apply by oral to the Legal Service Officer.
Bodies under the Legal Services Authorities Act
1. For nationwide networks, the National Legal Services Authority is the apex body constituted to lay down policies and principles to make free legal service.
2. Every state has a State Legal Services Authority, the apex body constituted to give effect to the policies and principles of the NALSA.
3. Every district has a District Legal Services Authority to implement Legal Aid Programmes and Schemes in the district.
4. Every Taluk has Taluk Legal Services Committees to coordinate the activities of free legal services in the Taluk. The Senior Civil Judge is the head of the committee.
5. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has also set up the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee to ensure free legal services to the poor and the needy people. A Judge of the Supreme Court is the head of the committee and has distinguished members nominated by the Chief Justice of India. It also has a panel of competent Advocates on Record with a certain minimum number of years of experience who handle the cases in the Supreme Court.
The primary objective of Legal Aid is to ‘provide equal justice for all’. But the Legal Aid is not effective; there is a wide gap between the goals set and met. The major defect of Legal Aid is the lack of awareness about Legal Aid among the people.
It is suggested that the Judiciary should focus more on Legal Aid; they should make awareness about Legal Aid among the people. The Legal Aid committees should increase their speed on the process of compromise between the parties.