Questions

Legal Aid

 

What is legal aid?

Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people otherwise unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system. Legal aid is regarded as central in providing access to justice by ensuring equality before the law, the right to counsel and the right to a fair trial.

What is pro bono?

Pro bono is a Latin word that stands for “public good”. It refers to free provision of services in order to safeguard public interest. In legal parlance it refers to discharge of free legal aid by legal practitioners.

Does our constitution provide for legal aid?

Yes. Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides 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.

Who is eligible for legal aid?

Section 12 of the legal services authorities act 1987 lays down certain criteria that need to be met in order to be eligible for legal aid.

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

a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe;

a victim of trafficking in human beings or beggar as referred in article 23 of the Constitution;

a woman or a child;

a person with disability as defined in clause (i) of section 2 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 (1 of 1996);

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

an industrial workman; or

in custody, including custody in a protective home within the meaning of clause (g) of section 2 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, or in a Juvenile home within the meaning of clause (j) of section 2 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 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; or

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.

Section 13 further states, “13. Entitlement to legal services – (1) Persons who satisfy or any of the criteria specified in section 12 shall be entitled to receive legal services provided that the concerned Authority is satisfied that such person has a prima-facie case to prosecute or to defend.

What is NALSA?

NALSA is short for The National Legal Services Authority which has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.

What is the main purpose of NALSA?

The NALSA issues guidelines for the State Legal Services Authorities to implement the Legal Aid Programmes and schemes throughout the country.

Primarily, the State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services Authorities, Taluka Legal Services Committees, etc. have been asked to discharge the following two main functions on regular basis:

To Provide Free Legal Services to the eligible persons; and

To organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.

What is KSLSA?

Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA) is a Statutory Body constituted under a Central Legislation Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.

What are legal aid clinics?

Legal aid Clinics are facilities that are established in a district by its District Legal Services Authority that work to provide free legal services to those eligible for free legal aid (Refer to FAQ 4) using lawyers and paralegal volunteers. This includes those clinics that are student-run and based in a law college.

What are the various services that these clinics provide?

LACs are supposed to work like a one-stop shop for the legal problems faced by disadvantaged people. Apart from core legal advice about disputes, LACs also help with activities like drafting applications for job cards under MGNREGA scheme, for ID Cards, filling up forms for different schemes, and other problems with government officials. In fact, para legal volunteers are bound to accompany the client to government offices, if it is necessary in that situation.

What are law school based legal aid clinics?

The bar council of India mandates each legal education institution to establish and run a Legal Aid Clinic under the supervision of a Senior Faculty Member who may administer the Clinic run by the Final year students of the Institution in cooperation with the Legal Aid Authorities with list of voluntary lawyers and other Non-Government Organizations engaged in this regard in the locality generally from which the student community of the Institution, hail from.

Can current law students in student-run clinics represent clients or give them formal legal advice?

Only final year students can render legal services in the LACs, under the supervision of a faculty member. They may be assisted by juniors. Also, these legal services are largely restricted to drafting petitions, notices and representations and do not include the work of a lawyer. For formal advice and litigation, the clinic acts like a middleman between the lawyer and the needy clients.

Can a child/juvenile avail free legal aid?

Yes, as clearly mentioned in section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.

What is a Lok Adalat?

A Court which has been organized by High Court Legal Services Committee or District Legal Services Authority or Taluk Legal Services Committee for the purpose of amicably settling a dispute between two parties by way of compromise is called lok adalat.

Who should I approach for legal advice?

For legal aid, if you satisfy the first eligibility criteria. You need to take the following steps:

1. Make an application for legal aid to the SCLSC. The forms for these can be obtained in person or through post or e-mail from the SCLSC at the address indicated below or from any of the nearest Taluk / District / State / High Court Legal Services Committee.

2. You have to submit the completed application form to the SCLSC along with full documentation. For instance, if you seek to file an appeal against the order of a High Court, you are required to submit a copy (preferably certified) of the order of the High Court, copies of orders, if any, of the courts below the High Court, copies of all the papers filed in your case before the lower court and High Court, comments of the lawyer on the judgement. If these are in a language other than English, please try and send translated copies.

What is a District Legal Services Authority?

In every District, District Legal Services Authority has been constituted to implement Legal Services Programmes in the District. The District Legal Services Authority is situated in the District Courts Complex in every District and chaired by the District Judge of the respective district.

What is a Taluk Legal Services Committee?

Taluk Legal Services Committees are constituted for each of the Taluk or Mandal or for group of Taluk or Mandals to coordinate the activities of legal services in the Taluk and to organise Lok Adalats. Every Taluk Legal Services Committee is headed by a senior Civil Judge operating within the jurisdiction of the Committee who is its ex-officio Chairman.

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