Free legal aid is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all the citizens of the country. Article 21 of the Constitution of India states, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”. Hence ensuring legal aid to everyone is necessary for ensuring substantive equality.
Article 39A 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.
Need of free legal aid:
- Necessary to establish rule of law.
- Democratic access to free legal aid will ensure the dispense of justice in true sense.
- Legal aid is an expensive affair and slightly favours the rich. Hence, ensuring free legal aid is necessary to provide justice to the vulnerable section i.e. Women, SC,ST, Poor.
- Most of the undertrials are from vulnerable section and they are devoid of justice due to unavailability of free legal aid.
- Social, political, economic liberty is not possible without providing free legal aid.
In 1987, the ‘Legal Services Authorities Act’ was enacted by Parliament, which came into force on 9 November, 1995 to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society.The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free legal services to weaker sections of the society.
The Chief Justice of India is the patron-in-chief and the second senior-most judge in the Supreme Court is the executive chairperson of the authority.
NALSA works in close coordination with various state legal services authorities and district legal services authorities to ensure free legal aid to people. Free legal services include free legal aid in civil and criminal matters for those poor and marginalised 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.
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