What is Legal Aid?
Legal Aid refers to any service provided in the conduct of any case or other legal proceeding before any court or other authority and the advice provided on any legal matter. Legal aid is required for many reasons and at various stages, for obtaining guidance and for resolving disputes in Courts, tribunals or other authorities.
What law governs Legal Aid in India?
“Legal Aid in India is governed by the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 and various related regulations and State based legislations. Article 39-A in the Directive Principles of State Policy (1976) ensures justice on the basis of equal opportunity by providing free legal aid. Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India also provide for the Right to equality before law as under the Right to Equality and the Right to protection of life and personal liberty as under the Right to Freedom respectively.”
Are there different State laws for Legal Aid in India?
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) issues the same guidelines for all State Legal Services Authorities as well as District Legal Services Authorities and Taluk Legal Services Committees to provide free Legal Services to the eligible persons. Different states may go about this in different ways. For example, Haryana has permanent and continuous Lok Adalats established to enable the public to possibly settle their disputes at pre- litigative stage. Haryana also has counselling centres and offers accreditation to NGOs in the field of legal services to aid the increase of legal access. Whereas, Delhi has Permanent Legal Services Clinic (open 24/7) and Mobile Legal Service Clinic to assist those in need and increase awareness of rights.
Are you eligible to obtain legal services?
Every woman and child is entitled to free legal aid regardless of income. You may also be eligible to obtain free legal aid if you are unable to obtain a lawyer due to financial reasons. Each state has a different financial cap that determines eligibility for legal aid on financial conditions.
Other eligibility criteria include:
- Member of the scheduled castes or tribes;
- Persons suffering from natural calamity, industrial worker, children, handicapped individuals, persons in custody and those having annual income less than Rs 1 lakh
- Victim of human trafficking
- Disabled, including mentally disabled individuals
- Victim of mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake and industrial
Where can you get legal services?
- a) Taluk Legal Services Committee which is in the premises of the Court in that Taluk
- b) District Legal Services Authority which is in the premises of the District Court in the District Headquarters
- c) The concerned State Legal Services Committee
- d) The High Court Legal Services Committee which is in the premises of the concerned High Court
- e) The Supreme Court Legal Services Committee for cases before the Supreme Court.
How can you apply for legal aid?
Fill up an application form, free of cost from all District Headquarters and at all the Sub-Divisional Headquarters in every state. Here is a link to a copy of an application form with the Delhi Legal Services Authority
You can also send in the application by mail/letter in written form, or make your case orally in which case an officer of the concerned legal services authority or a paralegal volunteer will assist you.
You can also seek legal aid by applying online through the online application process on the official website of NALSA
What proof do you need to prove eligibility?
An affidavit with your income and Identity proof are sufficient documentation to be eligible for free legal aid.
What are you entitled to as a recipient of free legal aid?
As a recipient of free legal aid, you are entitled to:
- Payment of court fee, process fees and all other charges payable or incurred in connection with any legal proceedings;
- An Advocate in legal proceedings;
- Obtaining certified copies of orders and other documents in legal proceedings;
- Preparation of appeal documents, including printing and translation of documents in legal proceedings.
Are there any ways to convey grievances online?
Some state commission websites have online complaint forms, for example, Himachal Pradesh, that can also be a helpful outlet to file your complaint in order to obtain assistance and legal services. You can access ecourts.gov.in and then choose which state you require services in and then choose your district and navigate the respective website which can have contact details, an online form or both.
What can you expect after applying for legal aid?
Once the application is submitted with the proper authority, the concerned Legal Services Institution will decide what action is needed. Information about next steps will then be sent to you and can vary from providing counselling/advice to providing a lawyer to represent them in the court.
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