The Indian constitution’s preamble seeks to provide the people of India with fairness, both socioeconomic and political. The Indian constitution’s Articles 38 and 39A are noteworthy.

Article 38(1) states that the state shall promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting the social order, including justice, and Article 39-A states that the state shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, through appropriate legislation or schemes, to ensure that no citizen’s opportunities for securing justice are denied.

When the Legal Services Authorities Act went into force in 1995, it made free legal services available throughout India to people who are socially and economically poor. One of the key components of the legislation, which seeks to provide equal access to justice for all, mandates pro bono attorneys and advocates to give their services free of charge to those who cannot afford it. In practise, however, it is extremely difficult, preventing it from reaching its full potential and denying the poor access to high-quality justice.

Legal aid in India

In order to maintain the rule of law in a democratic society, everyone, especially the poor, marginalised, and disadvantaged, must have access to justice. The state shall guarantee that all people are treated equally before the law and have access to a judicial system that maintains justice based on fairness, according to Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. In 1976, the Indian Parliament incorporated Article 39A of the Constitution, which established free legal assistance as a basic principle.

This notion was given formal support with the enactment of the Legal Services Authorities Act in 1987 and the subsequent founding of NALSA in 1995. It has subsequently come to symbolise hope for people who do not have it.

Following Legislations enacted in favour of Legal Aid is discussed below:

  • The Bar Council of India
  • Bar Council of India Legal Aid Rules, 1983
  • Legal Practitioners (Regulation and Maintenance of Standards in Profession, Protecting the Interest of Clients and Promoting the Rule of Law) Bill, 2010

Although these legislations are in place, there still lies a cavity on the efficient functioning of Legal Aid services in India.

In Sheela Barse vs. State of Maharashtra1, It was decided that providing legal help to a poor accused who has been detained and placed in danger of losing his life or personal liberty is a fundamental need stipulated not only by article 39-A but also by articles 21 and 14 of the constitution.

Legal aid in India refers to the provision of free legal services to individuals who are unable to afford legal representation or access to the justice system. The primary objective of legal aid is to ensure that justice is accessible to all, regardless of their financial circumstances. Here are some key points about legal aid in India.

Constitutional Right: The right to legal aid is enshrined in Article 39A of the Indian Constitution, which states that the State shall provide free legal aid to ensure that opportunities for obtaining justice are not taken away from any citizen due to economic or other disabilities.

Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987: The Legal Services Authorities Act was enacted in 1987 to provide a statutory framework for the provision of legal aid in India. Under this act, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs) were established at the national and state levels, respectively.

Eligibility: Legal aid is generally provided to economically disadvantaged individuals, members of marginalized communities, women, children, and other vulnerable groups. The particular aspect of eligibility may differ from state to state.

Services: Legal aid includes legal advice, representation in court, drafting of legal documents, and other forms of legal assistance. It covers a wide range of legal matters, including criminal cases, civil disputes, family matters, and more.

Legal Aid Clinics: Legal aid clinics are set up in various parts of the country to provide legal assistance at the grassroots level. These clinics are often run by lawyers and paralegal.


Legal aid is a crucial component of India’s legal system, aiming to provide equal access to justice and protect the rights of all citizens, especially those who are economically disadvantaged. The legal aid system plays a vital role in upholding the rule of law and ensuring justice for all.

Legal aid plays a vital role in ensuring that justice is accessible to all individuals, regardless of their economic or other disadvantages. It is an integral component of India’s legal system and is enshrined in Article 39A of the Indian Constitution, which emphasizes the importance of equal access to justice. The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, provides the legal framework for the provision of free legal aid in India, establishing the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs) to facilitate its implementation.

Written by Adv Rohit Yadav

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