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Home > Know Your Rights > Right to Free Legal Aid
FAQ's | Landmark Judgements | Legal Frameworks

Landmark Judgments

·  In State of Maharashtra Vs. Manubhai Pragaji Vashi, the Court has considerably widened the scope of the right to free legal aid. It held that – “The right to free legal aid and speedy trial are guaranteed fundamental rights under Art. 21. Art 39A provides "equal justice" and "free legal aid". It means justice according to law. In a democratic policy, governed by rule of law, it should be the main concern of the State to have a proper legal system. The crucial words are to "provide free legal aid" by suitable legislation or by schemes" or "in any other way" so that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities. These words in Article 39A are of very wide import. In order to enable the State to afford free legal aid and guarantee speedy trial vast number of persons trained in law are needed."


·  In Sunil Batra Vs. Delhi Administration, the court gave two situations in which a prisoner would be entitled for legal aid. First, to seek justice from the prison authorities and second, to challenge the decision of such authorities in the court. Thus, the requirement of legal aid was brought about in not only judicial proceedings but also proceedings before the prison authorities which were administrative in nature.


·  In Hussainara Khatoon Vs. State of Bihar, the Courtsaid: “it is an essential ingredient of reasonable, fair and just procedure to a prisoner who is to seek his liberation through the court’s process that he should have legal services available to him. Free legal service to the poor and the needy is an essential element of any reasonable, fair and just procedure.”


·  In Suk Das Vs. Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh, it was held that - "It may therefore now be taken as settled law that free legal assistance at State cost is a fundamental right of a person accused of an offence which may involve jeopardy to his life or personal liberty and this fundamental right is implicit in the requirement of reasonable, fair and just procedure prescribed by Article 21."


·  In M.H. Hoskot Vs. State of Maharashtra, the court declared: “If a prisoner sentenced to imprisonment is virtually unable to exercise his constitutional and statutory right of appeal inclusive of special leave to appeal (to the Supreme Court) for want of legal assistance, there is implicit in the Court under Article 142 read with Articles 21 and 39-A of the Constitution, power to assign counsel for such imprisoned individual ‘for doing complete justice.”

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