Introduction - 

         The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 has been enacted to provide Legal Aid to the poor and needy people. The Advocate act 1961 the bar council of India rules has also contain provisions relating to Legal Aid. The central government has made the national legal services authority rules 1955 and the Supreme Court Legal Services committee regulations, 1996 to provide legal Aid full stop State government have also made state legal services authorities rules to provide Legal Aid.
Constitution of India, Article 39A provides that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity and shall, in particular, provides free legal aid by suitable legalization 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 disabilities.  The Criminal Procedure Code 1973, also contains the provisions of free Legal Aid.

1) Criteria for giving legal Aid - 

           According to Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987, every person who has to file or defend a case shall be entitled to legal services under this Act if that person is -
(a) a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe;

(b) a victim of trafficking in human beings or begar as referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution;

(c) a woman or a child;

(d) a mentally ill or otherwise disabled person;

(e) 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

(f) an industrial workman; or

(g) in custody, including custody in a protective home within the meaning of clause (g) of Section 2 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956(104 of 1956); or in a juvenile home within the meaning of clause(j) of Section 2 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 (53 of 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(14 of 1987);or

(h) 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.

2) Entitlement for Legal Aid - 

           According to Section 13 of the Legal Services, Authorities Act 1987 the following are entitled to Legal Aid and services.

(1) Persons who satisfy all 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.

(2) An affidavit made by a person as to his income may be regarded as sufficient for making him eligible to the entitlement of legal services under this Act unless the concerned Authority has reason to disbelieve such affidavit.

3) When legal Aid may be refused - 

Legal services or legal Aid may be Refused -

(1) to a person in a case of contempt of court.

(2) To a person in a proceeding relating to any election.

(3) In proceedings under immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956, expect to a victim of trafficking in human beings.

(4) In proceeding under the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 except the person who is subjected to any disability under the said Act.

(5) To a person accused of an offense committed under the Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989.

(6) to a person in a case of defamation or malicious prosecution where this secretary is satisfied that it is suitable case for such refuser in the totality of facts.

4) Modes of providing legal aid - 

   Legal servicesmay be given in any one or more of the following modes -

(i) Towards payment of court fee, process fee and other charges payable or incurred in connection with any legal proceedings;

(ii) True engagement of a legal practitioner;

(iii) For obtaining and supply of certified copies of judgment order and other documents in legal proceedings.

         Payment of court fee process fee and other expenses shall be allowed to the extent as per the general order of State authority.

5) Statutory provisions of legal aid - 

           Section 304 of the code of criminal procedure provide that -  (1) Where, in a trial before the Court of Session, the accused is not represented by a pleader, and where it appears to the Court that the accused has not sufficient means to engage a pleader, the Court shall assign a pleader for his defense at the expense of the State.

    (2) The High Court may, with the previous approval of the State Government, make rules providing for-

        (a) the mode of selecting pleaders for defense under sub-section (1);

        (b) the facilities to be allowed to such pleaders by the Courts;

        (c) the fees payable to such pleaders by the Government, and generally, for carrying out the purposes of sub-section (1).

   (3) The State Government may, by notification, direct that, as from such date as may be specified in the notification, the provisions of sub-sections (1) and (2) shall apply in relation to any class of trials before other Courts in the State as they apply in relation to trials before Courts of Session.

See also...

Classes of criminal courts (Criminal Procedure Code 1973)

Legislation : Advantages and Disadvantages of Legislation

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