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Justice Blackmun correctly stated that "the idea of seeking justice cannot be linked with the worth of money. Money has no bearing on the pursuit of justice. Justice has never come easily or free. In order to obtain justice through the courts, one must pay a significant sum at each stage. In accordance with Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, everyone is guaranteed equal protection under the law, regardless of their caste, race, sex, religion, or place of birth.Additionally, No individual who is detained can be denied the right to contact and be represented by a lawyer of their choosing, as stated in Article 22(1). This is in line with the core legal principle of Audi Alteram Partem, which states that no party shall be excluded from a hearing. The poor continue to suffer significantly because they cannot afford the exorbitant expense of the legal system and frequently have to put up with injustice, despite the fact that access to justice is a fundamental right.

Legal Aid stands as an upholder for the underprivileged who cannot afford to attend court proceedings. It entails providing low-income individuals with free legal representation in all types of legal matters, including judicial, administrative, and quasi-judicial hearings. Legal aid, in the opinion of Justice P.N. Bhagwati, is an approach to provide the underprivileged and illiterate with simple access to the legal system so that their ignorance and lack of resources won't prohibit them from seeking justice.


The primary objective of this programme is to provide fair justice to the disadvantaged and downtrodden. This includes services like Lok Adalats, Legal Awareness, Legal Advice, Public Interest Litigation, Legal Mobilisations, and many others that could prevent injustice in addition to the free provision of legal representation from an advocate in court proceedings.


After the Declaration of Independence, many states adopted the idea of providing poor people with legal assistance. A major focus of the 1958 14th Law Commission Report was on providing the underprivileged with free legal representation and just justice. A Kerala Legal Aid project for the impoverished was first introduced in Kerala. Similar initiatives to provide free legal aid to the disadvantaged and illiterate were created in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. The Hon. Justice P.N. Bhagwati presided over a committee in 1971 that was formed to emphasise the significance of judges in ensuring that everyone has access to justice and the functioning of the several legal aid committees, which were-

(i) Taluka Legal Aid Committee

(ii) District Legal Aid Committee

(iii) State Legal Aid Committee. 

A report on "Processuals Justice to Poor" was released in 1973 by the Hon. Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer-led Expert Committee on Legal Aid. The report placed a strong focus on the necessity of providing legal assistance with a statutory foundation, the establishment of legal aid clinics in law schools, the importance of Public Interest Litigation, and other measures to make the legal aid system widely accessible to people. Then, in 1977, Justices Krishna Iyer and P.N. Bhagwati collaborated on a study titled "National Judicial Equal Justice and Social Justice."The study looked at the operation of legal aid systems, acknowledged the value of lawyers in seeking restitution or justice, and presented a suggestion to establish the National Legal Service Authority (NALSA).

In 1976, the 42nd Constitutional Amendment made free legal aid a legal requirement by inserting Article 39A under the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), on "Equal Justice and Free Legal Aid," which stated that the State and the Court must ensure equal access to justice for everyone and provide free legal aid to those in need so that financial or other barriers do not prevent anyone from seeking justice.

Under the leadership of Hon'ble Mr. Justice P.N. Bhagwati, the Committee for Implementation of Legal Aid Scheme (CILAS) began monitoring and supervising the legal aid operations taking place in the nation in 1980. It also created Lok Adalats, a useful instrument for amicably resolving disputes.

Awareness of Legal Aid In India:

Legal awareness, often known as public legal education, is the process of educating people about legal matters. It aids in advancing legal culture awareness, participation in the creation of laws, and the rule of law. People who are knowledgeable about the law are better able to demand justice, accountability, and efficient remedies at all levels. We are all aware that India is a nation free of widespread illiteracy, poverty, and uncouthness, and that it is able to educate its citizens on a wide range of issues. No matter their level of literacy, everyone in this country needs to be aware of the fundamental laws that govern it.

They need to become aware of the legal assistance system and its policies. There are several non-governmental organisations that effectively serve the objective of raising awareness. These groups educate the populace about their legal rights and encourage them to take use of free legal representation in court. The government established numerous committees and programmes to improve the lives of those who are economically and socially disadvantaged. There is still some delay in taking advantage of that chance and right due to public ignorance. Therefore, even though they are uneducated and underprivileged, people should assert their rights, go to court, and seek justice without taking into account their circumstances.

Issues And Challenges:

India's legal aid programme has not been effective. The National Legal Services Authorities has not been able to provide effective legal aid for four key reasons:

  • There is a general lack of knowledge about legal aid's availability, a belief that free services cannot be of high quality, a shortage of lawyers provided by the legal services authorities, and a general lack of interest on the part of lawyers in offering competent legal assistance due to financial limitations.
  • Furthermore, it happens much too frequently that attorneys hired to offer legal assistance and paid with public resources do not faithfully represent their clients, which seriously calls into question the validity of the programme for providing legal aid to the most vulnerable members of society. Some attorneys hired by legal assistance organisations use delay strategies to hold their clients' cases ransom. Even though they are meant to get their fees from the legal aid committee, these attorneys force their clients—many of whom are innocent—to pay them additional sums of money. The legal aid committee's compensation for solicitors is quite meagre and does not even cover incidental costs, which may be a factor in this.
  • The distribution mechanism for legal aid in India is a huge barrier as well because it is simply too ineffective. A campaign should be started to raise awareness of free legal aid, and more lawyers should be encouraged to provide it. As long as people are unaware of their fundamental rights, the legal aid movement will not succeed in its mission. The impoverished are vulnerable to exploitation and eventually denied the rights and advantages that the law is supposed to provide them with when they are unaware of their legal rights. Thus, raising public awareness and improving delivery methods are essential for a successful free legal aid programme.
  • The government must launch a campaign to teach and educate the general public about their right to free legal help for it to successfully provide legal aid in India. Additionally, the government must use more effective procedures to enhance the delivery of legal aid, including, but not limited to, higher compensation for legal aid attorneys. The constitutional entitlement to free legal help is meaningless in the absence of such.


Legal aid  is neither a gift or a charity; rather, it is a duty of the state and a constitutional right of the people. Distributive justice, efficient welfare benefit implementation, and the abolition of structural and social discrimination against the poor are the main goals of legal aid.Legal ignorance is the main barrier to the movement for legal help in India. The goal of the legal aid movement has not yet been accomplished because people are still unaware of their fundamental rights. Lack of legal knowledge is what causes the poor to be exploited and deprived of their rights and advantages.

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