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Home > Know Your Rights > Right to Free Legal Aid
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Q1.  What is meant by right to free legal aid?

A1.  Right to Free Legal Aid implies giving free legal services to the poor and needy who cannot afford the services of a lawyer for fighting their case in court. This means that the court will appoint a lawyer for such person at the expense of the Government. The right is given so as to ensure that every person, howsoever poor he may be, is given equal opportunity to make his grievance heard in the court of law and is able to use his right to get justice.


Q2.  Who is eligible to get free legal aid?

A2.  The Legal Services Authorities Act gives certain criteria for giving free legal aid to people. It includes persons who are:

1.  A member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.

2.  A victim of trafficking in human beings or begar as referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution.

3.  A woman or a child.

4.  A mentally ill or otherwise disabled person.

5.  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.

6.  An industrial workman.

7.  A person in custody or in a juvenile home or in a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric nursing home.

8.  A person whose annual income is less than rupees nine thousand, if the case is before a court other than the Supreme Court, and less than rupees twelve thousand, if the case is before the Supreme Court.


Q3.  What expenses are covered under the legal aid scheme?

A3.  The Legal Services Authorities provides, to the person eligible for getting free legal aid, legal counsel at State expense, pays the required Court Fee in the matter and bear all incidental expenses in connection with the case. The person to whom legal aid is provided is not called upon to spend anything on the litigation once it is supported by a Legal Services Authority.


Q4.  Who is responsible for providing legal aid to the poor? Who should I approach?

A4.  A nationwide network has been set up under the Legal Services Authorities Act for providing legal aid and assistance. National Legal Services Authority is the apex body constituted to lay down policies and principles for making legal services available to the needy. It also disburses funds and grants to State Legal Services Authorities and NGOs for implementing legal aid schemes and programmes. In every State a State Legal Services Authority is constituted to give effect to the policies and directions of the Central Authority (NALSA) and to give legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State. State Legal Services Authority is headed by the Chief Justice of the State High Court. Then there are District Legal Services Authority constituted in every District to implement Legal Aid Programmes and Schemes in the District. The District Judge of the District is its ex-officio Chairman. Below that are Taluk Legal Services Committees for each of Taluk or Mandal or for group of Taluk or Mandals. 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.


Q5.  What contribution has been made by the Legal Service Authorities for the poor people?

A5.  The Legal Service Authority helps the poor by

1.  Establishing Permanent and Continuous Lok Adalats in all the Districts in the country for disposal of pending matters as well as disputes at pre-litigative stage.

2.  Establishing separate Permanent & Continuous Lok Adalats for Govt. Departments, Statutory Authorities and Public Sector Undertakings for disposal of pending cases as well as disputes at pre-litigative stage.

3.  Funding of NGOs for Legal Literacy and Legal Awareness campaign.

4.  Appointment of "Legal Aid Counsel" in all the Courts of Magistrates in the country.

5.  Publicity to Legal Aid Schemes and programmes to make people aware about legal aid facilities.

6.  Providing legal aid facilities in jails.

7.  Setting up of Counseling and Conciliation Centers in all the Districts in the country.

8.  Sensitisation of Judicial Officers in regard to Legal Services Schemes and programmes.

9.  Enhancement of Income Ceiling to Rs.50,000/- p.a. for legal aid before Supreme Court of India and to Rs.25,000/- p.a. for legal aid upto High Courts.

10.  Steps for framing rules for refund of court fees and execution of Awards passed by Lok Adalats.


Q6.  How can I get my case transferred to the Lok Adalat for a speedy decision?

A6.  Cases can be referred for consideration of Lok Adalat only when they meet certain requirements. A case can be referred if both the parties to the disputes agree to do so. It can also be reffered to a Lok Adalat if one of the parties makes an application for reference. If the Court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to be taken cognizance of by the Lok Adalat, then also it can be referred. So, you can file an application in the court requesting to refer your case to a Lok Adalat and if the court deems it fit, it will do so. However, the decision of the Lok Adalat shall be binding on you as no appeal lies from the award of the Lok Adalat.

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