Prelims level : Polity governance Mains level : Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
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  • Article 39 A of the Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society, to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity. Articles 14 and 22(1) of the Constitution also Make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law.

National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)

  • National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) is a statutory body constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society.
  • The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and the Senior most Judge of the Supreme Court of India is the Executive Chairman of the Authority.
  • The Legal Services Authorities Act establishes statutory legal services authorities at the National, State and District level.
    It makes provisions in relation to Lok Adalat.

The main object of the Lok Adalat is to provide quick justice at less expense.


  • The principal objective of NALSA is to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society and to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities, and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
  • To strengthen the system of Lok Adalats and other Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanisms.
  • To organize legal awareness camps in the rural areas.

Who is Entitled to 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:
  • (a) A member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe;
  • (b) A victim of trafficking in human beings or begar 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 receipt of annual income less than rupees nine thousand 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 rupees twelve thousand or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the Central Government, if the case is before the Supreme Court. Other Laws and International Conventions providing free legal aid. The Code of criminal Procedure and the Code of Civil Procedure also contain provisions in relation to the free legal aid.
  • Section 304 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides that where in a trial before the Court of Session, the accused is not represented by a pleader and where it appears to the Court that the accused has not sufficient means to engage a pleader; the Court shall assign a pleader for his defence at the expense of the State
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also under Article14 (3)(d) guarantees to everyone: “Right to be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing, in any case where the interests of justice so require, and without payment by him in any such case if he does not have sufficient means to pay for it” Issues in free legal Aid lack of legal awareness. People are not aware of rights and protection available under the law. people don’t have faith over the services of legal aid counsel (LAC) under the free legal aid services due to a variety of factors.

Way Forward:

  • In a democracy, where rule of law is supreme; it is essential to ensure that even the weakest amongst the weak, poorest among the poor, in the country does not suffer injustice arising out of any abrasive action on the part of State or private person.
  • India’s per capita lawyer ratio is better than most countries in the world and this need to be utilised.
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