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Free Legal Aid

Shubham Jain , 05 November 2012  
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INTRODUCTION:

Legal Aid implies giving free legal service to the poor and needy 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.

The concept of legal aid in the form of Article 39A into our constitutional framework. Hence, legal aid is not a charity or bounty, but is a constitutional obligation of the state and right of the citizens. The problems of human law and justice, guided by the constitutional goals to the solution of disparities, agonies, despairs, and handicaps of the weaker, yet larger brackets of Bharat’s humanity is the prime object of the dogma of “equal justice for all”. Thus, legal aid strives to ensure that the constitutional pledge is fulfilled in its letter and spirit and equal justice is made available to the downtrodden and weaker sections of the society. It is the duty of the State to see that the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity for all its citizens. It must therefore arrange to provide free legal aid to those who cannot access justice due to economic and other disabilities.

Justice Krishna Iyer regards it as a catalyst which would enable the aggrieved masses to re-assert state responsibility, whereas Justice P.N. Bhagwati simply calls it “equal justice in action”. But, again the constitution not being a mystic parchment but a Pragmatic package of mandates, we have to decode its articles in the context of Indian life’s tearful realities and it is here when the judiciary has to take center stage.

Time and again it has been reiterated by our courts that legal aid may be treated as a part of right created under Article 21 and also under Article 14 and Article 22(1)[Hussainara v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar[1]. Also Khatri v. State of Bihar[2], Suk Das v. Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh,[3] Kishore v. State of Himanchal Pradesh[4].

. The apex court has held access to justice as a human right.[ Tashi Delek Gaming Solutions v. State of Karnatka,[5]  thus, imparting life and meaning to law.

HISTORY OF LEGAL AID:

The earliest Legal Aid movement appears to be of the year 1851 when some enactment was introduced in France for providing legal assistance to the indigent. In Britain, the history of the organized efforts on the part of the State to provide legal services to the poor and needy dates back to 1944, when Lord Chancellor, Viscount Simon appointed Rushcliffe Committee to enquire about the facilities existing in England and Wales for giving legal advice to the poor and to make recommendations as appear to be desirable for ensuring that persons in need of legal advice are provided the same by the State.

Since 1952, the Govt. of India also started addressing to the question of legal aid for the poor in various conferences of Law Ministers and Law Commissions. In 1960, some guidelines were drawn by the Govt. for legal aid schemes. In different states legal aid schemes were floated through Legal Aid Boards, Societies and Law Departments

Legal Aid Schemes were floated through Legal Aid Boards, Societies and Law departments in various states in the Country. In 1980, a national committee was constituted, under the chairmanship of Honorable Mr. Justice P.N bhagwati then a judge of the Supreme Court of India to oversee and supervise legal Aid programs throughout the country. This committee came to be known as CILAS (Committee for Implementing Legal Aid schemes) and started monitoring legal Aid activities throughout the country. The introduction of Lok Adalats added a new chapter to the Justice Dispensation system of this country and succeeds in providing Supplementary forum to the litigants for conciliatory settlement of their disputes. The year 1987, proved to be very significant in Legal Aid History as the “Legal services Authorities Act” was enacted to give a statutory base to the legal system programs throughout the country and bring about a uniform pattern. This Act was finally enforced on the 9th of November, 1995 after certain amendments were introduced therein by the Amendment Act of 1994.    .

Contributions Made By Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer To The Development Of Legal Aid - ‘Processionals Justice To Poor’- A Report

The contribution of justice Krishna Iyer towards the development and incorporation of the concept of legal aid in the Indian legal system has been tremendous. His report titled Processionals justice to poor’ has gone a step further in enabling the recognition of the poor for the purpose of giving legal aid.

In a report on Free Legal Aid in 1971. Justice Bhagwati observed " even while retaining the adversary system, some changes may be effected whereby the judge is given greater participatory role in the trail so as to place poor, as far as possible, on a footing of equality with the rich in the administration of justice."

A similar report of the Committee on Legal Aid titled "processionals justice to poor" presided over by Krishna Iyer in 1973, dealt with the nexus between law and poverty, and spoke of PIL in this context. It emphasized the need for active and widespread legal aid system that enabled law to reach the people, rather than requiring people to reach the law.

The two judges joined forces as a two member committee on juridicare, released its final report in August 1977. The report while emphasizing the need for a new philosophy of legal service programme cautioned that it ‘must be framed in the light of socio-economic conditions prevailing in the Country’. It further noted that ‘the traditional legal service programme which is essentially Court or litigation oriented, cannot meet the specific needs and the peculiar problems of the poor in our country’. The report also included draft legislation for legal services and referred to Social Action Litigation.

Justice Krishna Iyer was appointed as the Chairman of Committee for Legal Aid. The Committee was formulated as on the 22nd day of October 1972. The Committee after conducting sample surveys of large part of the country submitted a 275 page report to the Government on the 27th day of May, 1973. This report came to mark the cornerstone of Legal Aid development in India. The report clearly laid down that it is a democratic obligation of the State towards its subject to ensure that the legal system becomes an effective tool in helping secure the ends of social justice. He coined the word "Juridicare" to cover a scheme of legal aid which brought justice to the doorstep of the lowly and which was comprehensive in its coverage.

The report clearly suggests the colonial hangover of the Indian legal system which has prevented it from realising its true potential and extent. It also recognises the fact that much of our law was created by

the British to suit their convenience and as a result of this it is mostly insensitive to the socio-economic problems of the masses it set out to govern and regulate.

The report also made an effort to classify those categories of persons who are most in need of Legal Aid, they are as follows:- 

1. The poor in general; 

2. Those persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes, i.e. that category of persons who have been both economically as well as socially exploited by the cultural elitists since time immemorial. 

3. Those persons who either by reason of being inhabitants of backward areas or who are so geographically placed that their voice cannot reach the Courts of justice, e.g. People who are inhabitants of Scheduled Areas, Mountainous terrain’s, landlocked regions etc. 

4.The workman and the peasantry class who toil and labour to earn rewards for their hard work of which they are often deprived. 

5. Those soldiers and armed forces personnel who in order to protect the boarders are stationed at the edge of the land for long periods of time. 

6. Women and children who are deprived social justice on grounds of biological infirmity. 

7. Untouchables or those who are referred to as Harijans and who even after abolition of Unctouchability under Article 17 of the Indian Constitution are shunned by the Administrative class on the ground of their unacceptance in the community.

The 14th Law Commission Report stated the fact that if laws do not provide for an equality of opportunity to seek justice to all segments of society the have no protective value and unless some arrangement is made for providing a poor man the means to pay Court fee’s, advocates fees and other incidental costs of litigation, he is denied an opportunity to seek justice.  Justice Krishna Iyer rightly observed that, "Such a consummation, a proposition to which we are constitutionally dedicated is possible only through an activist scheme of legal aid, conceived wisely and executed vigorously." He went on to state that Law and Justice cannot be regarded as two separate wings any longer and that it had become necessary that they in unison work towards resurrecting the faith of the poor man in the legal system by providing him with adequate non- Governmental as well as Governmental assistance.

Justice Krishna Iyer regarded the Legal Aid program as a catalyst which would enable the aggrieved masses to re-assert State responsibility under Part IV of the Constitution.

Most social evils are an outcome or creation of poverty and the misery that comes with being poor in a country like India, at the same time it also needs to be borne in mind that the judiciary no matter however committed it may be towards uplifting the cause of the poor is ultimately bound by procedural formalities which do not take into account the misery or problems of the masses. Therefore the sufferings being so may it is not possible for the legal system to remove even few of such problems. In keeping with the same view Justice Krishan Iyer asserted that poverty is a creation of unjust institutions and unjust society. Therefore in a country like India if you are poor you are ineffective socially as well as economically the only way that you can then be empowered is through radical revamping of the socio-economic structure. Such a radical change according to him could only be brought about in the form of a revolution that the legal service programme only is capable of gearing. Thus the legal aid programme aimed at revamping the socio-economic structure by way of removing the socially unjust institutions and creating a new order based upon the ethos of human liberty, equality and dignity of mankind.

He realised the fact that though the system had been flagged off under the term "We the people of India" it had no longer continued in the same direction want of procedural formalities had taken precedence over the people at the cost of which justice often suffered casualties. He came to recognise the fact that the Courts of law had merely become instruments for law’s sake and were not administering justice as such. However, he placed blame for the attitude of the judiciary on the colonial hangover of namely all institutional systems in the Country. This lead him to express faith in the Gandhian system which professed the resolution of disputes at the grass root level through village Panchayat’s.

The expert committee appointed under the chairmanship of justice Krishna Iyer has made significant contribution toward the development of the concept of legal aid in India. The various suggestions made by him can be summarized as under:

A national legal service authority accountable to the parliament but protected from official control was recommended. Simplification of the legal procedure and an emphasis on conciliated settlement outside court has to be the policy of legal aid schemes. The report adopted the three fold test laid down for determining eligibility: Means test- to determine people entitled to legal aid Prima facie test- to determine whether there was a prima facie case to give legal aid or not Reasonableness test- to see whether the defence sought by a person is ethical and moral.

In criminal proceedings the committee is not in favour of guaranteeing legal aid to habitual offenders and in cases, which essentially involve private claims. Regular arrangement for aid and advice to the undertrials was to be provided. A liberalized bail policy which was not to be dependent on financial consideration Legal services were to be extended to investigation as well as post conviction stage. Legal services should also include rehabilitative services. In criminal legal aid, the committee was in favour of salaried lawyers. The report also encourages payment of compensation to victims in criminal cases. Family courts should be established for women and children with women judges this is specially required in slum areas and rural villages. Public defence council should be appointed in children’s court.

In backward areas, legal advice bureau should be established in each development block. The report encourages the involvement of law students in legal aid schemes particularly for preventive legal services. Public law service should be an alternative available as against the private bar and legal services authority should fix the fees payable to the lawyer.

Contributions Made By Justice P.N.Bhagwati To The Development Of The Concept Of Legal Aid-Report On National Jurdicare: Equal Justice-Social Justice, Ministry Of Law And Justice And Company Affairs, 1977

Justice P.N. Bhagwati practiced at the High Court, Bombay, he became a Judge of the Gujarat High Court on 21st July, 1960, and became Chief Justice of Gujarat on 16th September, 1967. On 17th July, 1973, he became the judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also Chairman of the Legal Aid Committee appointed by the Government of Gujarat for suggesting ways and means of providing free legal aid and advice to the poor and weaker section of the community; and also acted as Chairman of the State Legal Aid Committee for running the Pilot Project of free Legal Aid and Advice in Gujarat. He worked successfully to build up an elaborate legal aid programme. He is widely regarded as the originator of India’s legal aid programme, including setting up of legal aid camps in rural areas, working with NGOs, establishing legal aid clinics etc.

The post independence legal aid development was initiated by formation of Bombay Committee, in 1949 under the chairmanship of Mr. NH Bhagwati, followed by the below mentioned sequence of reports, committees and rules. Trevor Harries Committee in West Bengal, 1949 Initiatives by the state governments such as The Legal aid formed in 1952 in UP, The Legal Aid Committee formed in Madras in 1954, and so on. Kerala Legal Aid (to the poor) Rules, 1957 14th Report of the Law Commission of India. Central Government Scheme 1960. National Conference on Legal Aid, 1970. The Gujarat committee along with Mr. P.N. Bhagwati (Chairman) constituted of Mr. J.M. Thakore, A.G., Mr. VV Mehta, Deputy Speaker, Gujarat Vidhan Sabha, Mr. Madhavsinh F. Solanki, M.L.A, Mr. Girishbhai C. Patel, Principal, New Lal College, and Ahemdabad.

The focus of the committee was the indigent person seeking to access justice. Answering to the question of inequality in the administration of justice between the rich and the poor the report clearly stated that there can be no rule of law unless the common man irrespective of the fact whether he is rich or poor is able to assert and vindicate to the rights given to him by the law. The machinery of law should be readily accessible to all. The poor must be placed in the same position as the rich by means of adequate legal service programme. It stated that the inequality between the rich and the poor in administration of the justice can be removed by establishing and developing effective system of the legal aid programme. Legal aid and advice should be regarded not as a matter of charity or bounty but as a matter of right. It is a part of social security programme just as much as medical aid is.

There was unanimous decision of the Committee that the State should regard it as an obligation to provide legal assistance to the poor and indigent. It stated that this obligation of the State was not merely, socio-economic or political but is also constitutional by reason of Articles 14 and 22(1}.

Further the report stated that the legislation and rules so made by the government should not be another piece of legislation made with the reference of any foreign legislation as there is a marked difference between socio-economic conditions prevailing in advanced countries and those prevailing in developing countries like India.

It also emphasized on having legal aid programmes and that the organization for effectuating the legal service programme must be responsive to the poor in giving legal service and must not be mechanical and wooden in its approach. Even after, such a programme is introduced there must be a continues examination of its utility and its responsiveness to the poor.

They also suggested that the penal law should be amended with a view to providing that if the accused willfully fails to appear in compliance with the order to appear or the promise contained in his recognizance he shall be liable to be punished with imprisonment or fine or both. The law should also provide that the failure of the accused to appear when required would constitute prima facie evidence that the failure was willful. The Magistrates may start releasing the accused on his own recognizance in cases where the offence charged does not involve imprisonment for more than one year. The committee further stated that if it was found from experience gained as a result of following this practice for a year or two, that the practice is working satisfactorily, the Magistrates may extend this practice to cases involving slightly higher offences.

Legal Aid Schemes were floated through Legal Aid Boards, Societies and Law departments in various states in the Country. In 1980, A national committee was constituted, under the chairmanship of Honorable Mr. Justice P.N bhagwati then a judge of the Supreme Court of India to oversee and supervise legal Aid programs throughout the country. This committee came to be known as CILAS (Committee for Implementing Legal Aid schemes) and started monitoring legal Aid activities throughout the country. The introduction of Lok Adalats added a new chapter to the Justice Dispensation system of this country and succeeds in providing Supplementary forum to the litigants for conciliatory settlement of their disputes. The year 1987, proved to be very significant in Legal Aid History as the “Legal services Authorities Act” was enacted to give a statutory base to the legal system programs throughout the country and bring about a uniform pattern. This Act was finally enforced on the 9th of November, 1995 after certain amendments were introduced therein by the Amendment Act of 1994.

LEGAL AID MOVEMENT:-

"Legal Aid scheme was first introduced by Justice P.N. Bhagwati under the Legal Aid Committee formed in 1971. According to him, the legal aid means providing an arrangement in the society so that the missionary of administration of justice becomes easily accessible and is not out of reach of those who have to resort to it for enforcement of its given to them by law" the poor and illiterate should be able to approach the courts and their ignorance and poverty should not be an impediment in the way of their obtaining justice from the courts. Legal aid should be available to the poor and illiterate. Legal aid as defined, deals with legal aid to poor, illiterate, who don't have access to courts. One need not be a litigant to seek aid by means of legal aid.

Article 39A of the Constitution of India Says 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.

The beginnings of the modern legal aid movement in India had materialized in the 1950s and 1960s when efforts were made to ensure legal representation for indigent persons who were accused in criminal cases. These initiatives were led by State governments and were mostly dependent on the participation of practicing lawyers. However, the real impetus came with the publication of the ‘National Juridicare Report’ in 1978 which made several recommendations to give meaning to the constitutional command of ensuring legal aid for needy persons, as per Article 39A which had been inserted in 1976. This was followed by the establishment of the Committee for the Implementation of Legal Aid Schemes (CILAS) under the leadership of Justice P.N. Bhagwati It was in pursuance of this body’s recommendations that the Legal Services Authorities functioning at different levels were conceived of and the same found its way into legislation

ANALYSIS OF ARTICLE 39A AND ITS PROVISIONS IN THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION:-

Article 39 A of Indian constitution says that:-“It is the duty of the State to see that the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity for all its citizens. It must therefore arrange to provide free legal aid to those who cannot access justice due to economic and other disabilities.”

Legal Aid implies giving free legal service to the poor and needy 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.

When free help is provided by lawyers to those who can’t afford the services of a lawyer for a case or any legal proceeding in a court or tribunal or any such authority, it is called legal aid. Legal aid is provided by the Legal Services Authority.

“If the accused does not have sufficient means to engage a lawyer, the court must provide one for the defense of the accused at the expense of the state.”

It has been held that this article may be used as an aid to the interpretation of art 21, and the result would be-

Where a prisoner, owing to indigence or incommunicado situation, is disabled from engaging a lawyer to exercise his statutory right of appeal, the court shall, if the circumstances of the case and the ends of justice so require, assign a competent counsel for the prisoner’s  defence, provided  the appellant does not subject to that lawyer. It is the duty of the state, in such a case to pay reasonable remuneration for the defence counsel (not a matter of charity), as may be equitably fixed by the court. The state must offer every reasonable facility to such counsel for conducting the appeal, as a condition of ‘reasonable, fair and just’ procedure, which is postulated by art. 21. This right to free legal aid arises when the accused is for the first time produced before the magistrate and continues throughout the trial.

It extends even to security proceedings.

But the court cannot issue mandamus to the state to supply a lawyer to the accused; his remedy would lie under the procedure laid down in s.304(1) of the Cr. P.C.,1973……gopalanachari v. state of Kerala [6]

4. The ideal of equal access to justice would go against the imposition of an excessive rate of court fees……central coal field v jaiswal coal co[7].

 The Free Legal Services include:

1. Payment of court fee, process fees and all other charges payable or incurred in connection with any legal proceedings;

2. Providing Advocate in legal proceedings;

3. Obtaining and supply of certified copies of orders and other documents in legal proceedings;

4. Preparation of appeal, paper book including printing and translation of documents in legal proceedings.

The principle contained in Article 39-A are fundamental directs the state to ensure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunities and further mandates to provide free legal Aid in any way-by legislation or otherwise so that justice is not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities. The crucial words to provide free legal aid” by suitable legislation or by schemes” or in any other way. These words used in Article 39A are very wide .In order to enable the state to afford free legal aid and guarantee sped trial a vast number of persons trained in law are essential. Legal Aid is required in many forms and at various stages, for obtaining guidance, for resolving disputes in court, tribunals and other authorities. The need for a continuing and well organized legal education is absolutely essential in view of new trends in the world order to meet the overgrowing challenges.

Article 39A ordains the state to secure a legal system which promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity. The language of article 39A is couched in mandatory terms as is clear by the use of the word “shall” twice therein.

 In the words of Delhi HC “it is emphasized that the legal system should be able to deliver justice expeditiously on the basis of equal opportunity and provide free legal aid to ensure that the opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities”.

Article 39A puts stress upon legal justice. to put it simply the directive requires the state to provide free legal aid to deserving people so that justice is not denied to anyone merely because of economic disability. The Supreme Court has emphasized that legal assistance to a poor or indigent accused who is arrested and put in jeopardy of his life and personal liberty is a constitutional imperative mandatory not only by article 39A but also by article 14 and 21.

In the absence of legal assistance, injustice may result. Every act of injustice corrodes the foundation of democracy .The court also ruled that it would make a mockery of Legal Aid if it were to be left to a poor, ignorant and illiterate accused person to ask for a free legal Aid. Accordingly the presiding judge has been obligated to inform the accused that he can obtain free legal service at the cost of the tate if he is unable to engage a lawyer because of his indigence.

Although the mandate in Article 39A is addressed to the legislature and the executives yet, as the court can indulge in some “Judicial law making within the interstices of the constitution or any statute before them for construction”. The courts too are bound by this mandatory.

For the legal Aid program to succeed it is necessary to involve public participation and, for this purpose, the best way is to operate through voluntary organization and social Action groups. The state should encourage and support such bodies in operating the legal aid program. The court fees should be correlated to expenditure on administration of justice as HC fees bar effective access to justice. The Supreme Court may have to consider whether such high court fees are just or legal.

The constitution has setup some norms according to which a person a entitled to get free legal Aid Service:

Eligible persons for getting free legal services include:

1. Women and children;

2. Members of SC/ST;

3. Industrial workmen;

4. Victims of mass disaster; violence, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial disaster;

5. Disabled persons;

6. Persons in custody;

7. Persons whose annual income does not exceed Rs. 50,000/-

8. Victims of Trafficking in Human beings.

Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.

Criterion for Providing Legal Aid

Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 prescribes the criteria for giving legal services to the eligible persons. Section 12 of the Act reads as under:- 

Every person who has to file or defend a case shall be entitled to legal services under this Act if that person is-

(a) a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe;

(b) a victim of trafficking in human beings or beggar as referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution; 

(c) a woman or a child;

(d) a mentally ill or otherwise disabled person;

(e) 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

(f) an industrial workman; or

(g) 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 

(h) 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);  

(i) in receipt of annual income less than rupees nine thousand or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the State Govt., 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 Govt., if the case is before the Supreme Court. (Rules have already been amended to enhance this income ceiling).

Legal Services Authorities after examining the eligibility criteria of an applicant and the existence of a prima facie case in his favour provide him counsel at State expense, pay the required Court Fee in the matter and bear all incidental expenses in connection with the case. The person to whom legal aid is provided is not called upon to spend anything on the litigation once it is supported by a Legal Services Authority

HIERARCHY OF BODIES UNDER THIS ACT:-

A nationwide network has been envisaged under the Act for proving legal aid and assistance. National Legal services authority is the apex body constituted to lay down policies and principles for making legal services available under the provisions of this act to frame most effective and economical schemes for legal services. It also disburses funds and grants to state legal services Authorities and NGO’s for implementing free legal Aid schemes and programmes.

In every state, State legal authority is constituted to give effect to the policies and directions of the central Authority (NALSA) and to give legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the state. State Legal services Authority is headed by the chief Justice of that High court who is the patron in chief. A serving or the retired judge of the high court is nominated as its executive chairman.

District legal services authority Act is constituted in every district to implement legal aid programmes and schemes. The district judge of that particular district is its ex-officio chairman.

Taluk legal services committees are constituted for each of the Taluk or Mandal or for groups of Taluk or mandals to coordinate the activities of legal services in the Taluk and to organize Lok Adalats. Every taluk legal services committee is headed by a civil judge operating within the jurisdiction of the committee who is its ex-officio chairman.

Right to get legal aid starts from the time the accused is arrested. If the person is not aware of this right then it is the duty of the Magistrate to inform the person about this. It is the duty of the police to inform the nearest ‘legal aid’ committee also about the arrest of an accused seeking legal aid for the first time and this goes on whenever the person is brought in for questioning.

Application made for free legal Aid can be rejected on the following basis:-

1. The applicant has enough money and can afford a lawyer,

2. Does not fulfill any of the eligibility criteria, or

3. The case does not deserve legal action.

If the application is rejected, then the reasons that it was rejected must be recorded and informed to the applicant. The applicant also has the right to appeal against the rejection to the Chairman of the authority.

The Legal Services Authority can’t arbitrarily take away the legal aid that they  have given you. But legal aid can be withdrawn if:

1. Applicant lied in his application for it.

2. Applicant is able to afford a lawyer.

3. Applicant misbehaves with any person.

4. Applicant does not cooperate with your lawyer.

5. Applicant hires another lawyer.

6. The process of law or the services of the lawyer are being misused.

7. You die - this applies only to criminal cases and not civil ones.

If the application is rejected, then the reasons that it was rejected must be recorded and informed to the applicant. The applicant also has the right to appeal against the rejection to the Chairman of the authority.

If a poor person doesn’t get a lawyer then the trial becomes meaningless. This could even lead to a sentence.

VARIOUS CASES IN WHICH FREE LEGAL AID IS NOT PROVIDED:-

1.Defamation,

2. Prosecution done out of vengeance

3. Contempt of court

4. Lying under oath

5. Proceedings related to elections

6.Cases where the fine imposed is not more than Rs. 50.

7. Economic offences and offences against social laws.

8. Cases where the person seeking legal aid is not directly concerned with

9. The proceedings and whose interests will not be affected, if not represented properly.

CHAPTER-IV: CASES UNDER FREE LEGAL AID

Hussainara Khatoon (IV) v Home Secretary, State of Bihar [(1980) 1 SCC 98]

In this case in the state of Bihar, a very large number of men and women, children including, were behind prison bars for years awaiting trial in courts of law. The offences with which some of them were charged were trivial, which even if proved, would not warrant punishment for more that a few months, perhaps a year or two, and yet they remained in jail, deprived of their freedom, for periods ranging from three to ten years without even as much as their trial having commenced. Hence, The Court ordered immediate release of these under trials many of whom were kept in jail without trial or even without a charge.

It was held that equality under Article 21 is impaired where procedural law does not provide speedy trial of accused; does not provide for his pre-trial release on bail on his personal bond, when he is impoverished and there is no substantial risk of his absconding; if an under-trial prisoner is kept in jail for a period longer than the maximum term of imprisonment which could have been awarded on his conviction and if he is not offered free legal aid, where he is too poor to engage a lawyer, provided the lawyer engaged by the State is not objected to by the accused.

Where the petitioner succeeds in establishing his case, the Court would grant him any relief which is necessary to afford proper justice, or to prevent manifest injustice regardless of technicalities such as to issue directions to the Government and other appropriate authorities, as may be necessary, to secure to a prisoner his constitutional rights.

The Supreme Court held that the state cannot be permitted to deny the constitutional right of speedy trial to the accused on the ground that the State has no adequate financial resources to incur the necessary expenditure needed for improving the administrative and judicial apparatus with a view to improving speedy trial.

In M.H. Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra

(AIR 1978, 3 SCC 81)

The Honorable court declared that "If a prisoner sentenced to imprisonment is virtually unable to exercise his constitutional and statutory right of appeal inclusive of special leave to appeal (to the Supreme Court) for want of legal assistance, there is implicit in the Court under Article 142 read with Articles 21 and 39-A of the Constitution, power to assign counsel for such imprisoned individual 'for doing complete justice".

In this case, it was held that an accused is expected to get free legal aid under article 39A. However, it doesn’t mean that he can move Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus compelling the state to give financial assistance to engage a counsel of his choice.

In Khatri & Others v. St. Of Bihar & others

(AIR 1981 SC 262) It was held in this case that “Right to free legal aid, just, fail and reasonable procedures is a fundamental right. It is elementary that the jeopardy to his personal liberty arises as soon as the person is arrested and is produced before a magistrate for it is at this stage that he gets the 1st opportunity to apply for bail and obtain his release as also to resist remain to police or jail custody. This is the stage at which and accused person needs competent legal advice and representation. No procedure can be said to be just, fair and reasonable which denies legal advice representation to the accused at this stage. Thus, state is under a constitutional obligation to provide free to aid to the accused not only at the stage of every individual of the society are entitled as a matter of prerogative."

In this case, the court declared the right to legal aid as a fundamental right of an accused person by a process of judicial construction of Article 21; most of the States in the country have not taken note of this decision and provided free legal services to a person accused of an offence. It is mandatory to the State  to provide free legal aid to an accused person who is unable to secure legal services on account of indigence, and whatever is necessary for this purpose has to be done by the State as per the constitution. The State may have its financial constraints and its priorities in expenditure but the law does not permit any Government to deprive its priorities in expenditure but the law does not permit any Government to deprive its citizens of constitutional rights on the plea of poverty.”

In Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain

(AIR 1977 SC 69)

"Rule of Law is basic structure of constitution of India. Every individual is guaranteed the it’s rights give to him under the constitution. No one so condemn unheard. Equality of justice should be given to everyone. There ought to be a violation to the fundamental right or prerogatives, or privileges, only then remedy goes to Court of Law. But also at the stage when he first is produced before the magistrate. In absence of legal aid, trial is vitiated."

In State of Maharashtra v. Manubhai Pragaji Vashi

(AIR 1995, 5 SCC 730)

The court widened the scope of the right to free legal aid. The right to free legal aid is guaranteed fundamental right under Art 21 and 39A provides “equal justice” and “free legal aid”.

Centre for Legal Research V. State of Kerala:

AIR 1986 SC 1322

In order to achieve the objective of article 39A, the state must encourage and support the participation of voluntary organizations and social action groups in operating the legal aid programme. The government setup a “suitors fund” to meet the cost of defending a poor or indigent. The Court held that although the mandate in article 39A is addressed to the legislature and executive, yet the courts too are bound by the mandate contained therein.

CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTION:-

1. The focus of legal aid is on distributive justice, effective implementation of welfare benefits and elimination of social and structural discrimination against the poor. It works in accordance with the Legal services Authority Act, 1987 which acts as the guideline of the rendering of free justice.

2. It is highly interesting to know the problems of the rural poor and urban poor separately and also to find out how they compare with the legal problems of the non-poor living in rural and urban India. An efficient organization of a legal services delivery system may have to take account of all of these differences in legal needs of the poor and design the program accordingly.

3. It’s a very wonderful right incorporated in our constitution in the Article 39A to promote Justice on equal basis. In the case of Khatri v. State of Bihar, the court held that the right to legal aid is a fundamental right under article 21 of the Indian constitution.

4. NALSA has formulated a strategy to provide basic and essential knowledge to the vulnerable groups so that they can understand the law and know the scope of their rights under the law and eventually assert their rights as a means to take action, uplift their social status and being in social change.

5. Lack of awareness is the main impendent in effective ‘legal aid’. Efforts should be made to inform the public of the existence of these services by using electronic media and aggressive campaigns. Government should also target rural areas for making them aware about this concept.

6. Free legal aid must not be read to imply poor or inferior legal services. The lawyers in the panel should be experienced. The legal services which are given to the poor should be qualitative.

7. A master plan for juridicare cannot succeed without sufficient financial resource. An annual amount of only Rs. 6 crore is being allocated to NALSA for the execution of its policies which is inadequate. So proper financial resources should be given in order to make the effective implementation of Legal Aid.

8. Awareness of schemes and programs to be able to guide the poor litigants about the issue of Legal Aid.

9. Each district legal aid service authority should be evaluated and compared with other district legal service authority as well as intra states to encourage legal aid.

[1] AIR 1979 SC 1377

[2] AIR 1981 SC 928

[3] AIR 1986 SC 99

[4] AIR 1990 SC 2140

[5] (2006) 1 SCC 442

[6] AIR 1921 SC 624

[7] AIR 1980 SC 2125


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