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{The Indian Society have suffered from inequality on economic and social grounds
for centiries and it can only be removed by Constituional process and Implement
ation of Directive Principles of State Policy as enshrined under Part IV of the
Constituion.In a country like India where Rule of Law prevails, Legal Aid Mechan
ism is an conferment of justice to the poor.}
'Right to Life' as contained under Article 21 of the Constituion covers a wide a
mbit of rights such as clean environment, Right to Education, Livelihood, Access
to Justice and so on. Justice bhagwati in his book 'Legal Aid as a Human Right'
has stated that legal aid as a human right has been implicitly provided under A
rticle 7,8 and 10 of Universal Declaration of Human Right as well as under Inter
national Convetion of Civil and Political Rights. Right to Free Legal Aid has be
en included in 'Right to Life and Personal Liberty' as enshrined under Article 2
1 of the Constituion.
According to Justice P.N Bhagwati 'Legal Aid' means providing such services to t
hose classes of people who either cannot afford to pay the requisite court fees
or our incapable of understanding the court proceeding morevover the technicalit
ies involved in it.The poor and illiterate people must have a fair oppurtunity o
f being represented and thier poverty should not be a hindrance in acheiving jus
tice from the court.
For the purpose of acheiving and securing justice for every citizen of the natio
n and to check that such a justice has not been denied due to economic or any ot
her disability, Government of India appointed a committee for implementing lega
l aid schemes in 1980 headed by Justice P.N Bhagwati. The Committee prepared a D
raft - Legal Aid Programme that would be applicable throught India. The Legal Se
rvices Authority Act,1987 was passed to establish Statutory Legal Services Autho
rities which also conatined provisions relating to Lok Adalats.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Historical Background
The earliest legal aid movement appears to be in France in the year 1851 for pro
viding legal assistance to the indigent. In 1944 in Britain, the history of the
organised efforts on the part of the State to provide legal services to the poor
and needy was when Lord Chancellor, Viscount Simon appointed Rushcliffe Committ
ee to enquire about the facilities existing in England and Wales for giving lega
l advice to the poor and to make recommendations as appear to be desirable for e
nsuring that persons in need of legal advice are provided such srvices by the St
ate. Since 1952, the Goverment of India also started addressing to the question
of legal aid for the poor in various conferences of Law Ministers and Law Commis
Expert committees were constituted, from 1950, to advise governments on providin
g legal aid to the poor. It was a unanimous opinion that the formal legal system
is unsuited to the needs of the poor.The legal aid schemes were floated in seve
ral states through Legal Aid Boards, Societies and Law Departments.In 1980, a Co
mmittee at the national level was constituted to oversee and supervise legal aid
programmes throughout the country under the Chairmanship of Hon.Justice P.N. Bh
agwati (the then Judge of the Supreme Court of India). This Committee came to be
known as CILAS (Committee for Implementing Legal Aid Schemes) and started monit
oring legal aid activities throughout the country.
Another issue which was the major source of concern for the Bar, Bench and Legal
Luminaries as well as the Government that the backlog and excess delay in dispo

sal of cases pending in courts. For tackling such a problem several committees w
ere set up and reports were submitted most noteworthy is the Malimath Committee,
which had two prominent members Justice P.D Desai and Justice Dr. A.S.Anand. Th
e State and Central Tribunals were also inadequate in handling the pendency of l
itigation and suffered from delayed justice. The law commission along with the M
alimath Committee favoured ADR mechanism such as arbitration, conciliation and m
ediation for provinding speedy justice and lessening the pendency of cases.
It was felt that the adoption of ADR methods would be the best alternative in pr
oviding speedy justice and also to lessen the burden of courts. The government f
elt that the old Arbitration Act, 1940 must be replaced by The arbitration and c
onciliation act, 1996 as the former has become outdated. It was also agreed that
the expansion of Lok Adalats System as an ADR mechanism would be promote speedy
juctice more efficiently.
The act was finally brought into force on 9th November, 1995.It provides for the
constituion of National Legal Service Authority and State Legal Service Authori
ty at National and State Level respectively. Sections 19 to 22 contains provisio
ns relating to the composition, function, jurisdiction etc. of Lok Adalats whic
h are given statutory status and recognition under the act.It also deals with pr
eventive legal aid services, legal literacy and para-legal services which needs
to be extended to the remotess area for the benefit of the rural population.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Object of the act
Legal Services Authority Act owes its origin from Article 39-A of the constituio
n which aims at providing free legal aid services to the weaker section of the s
ociety and also ensuring that these classes of people are not
denied justice due to the economic and other disabilities.The act also aims to p
romote equal opputunity to all citizens.
Moreover as the constitution being supreme law of the land it maintains a check
on the legislative supremacy and executive arbitriness and empowers the supreme
court to act as a protector of the fundamental rights of the citizen. At various
instances, the courts has recognized the State's obligation to provide legal a
id services to the weaker section of the society, poor, handicapped, down-trodde
n etc. and which is not only confined to prisoners in jail. Protection of human
rights is a paramount obligation of the State and any violation is should be adr
essed seriously
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Salient Features
Section 2 1.'Legal Service' includes the rendering of any service in the conduct any case
or other legal proceeding before any court or other Authority or tribunal and th
e giving of advice on any legal matter;
2.'Lok Adalat' means a Lok Adalat organised under Chapter VI;
3. 'Scheme' means any scheme framed by the Central Authority, a State Authority
or a District Authority for the purpose of giving effect to any of the provision
s of this Act;
4. 'State Authority' means a State Legal Services Authority constituted under Se
ction 6;
5. Any reference in this Act to any other enactment or any provision thereof sha

ll, in relation to an area in which such enactment or provision is not in force,

be construed as a reference to the corresponding law or the relevant provision
of the corresponding law, if any, in force in that area.
Section 19
1. Central, State, District and Taluk Legal Services Authority has been created
who are responsible for organizing Lok Adalats at such intervals and place.
2. Conciliators for Lok Adalat comprise the following: A. a sitting or retired judicial officer.
B. other persons of repute as may be prescribed by the State Government in consu
ltation with the Chief Justice of High Court.
Section 20: Reference of Cases
Cases can be referred for consideration of Lok Adalat as under:1. By consent of both the parties to the disputes.
2. One of the parties makes an application for reference.
3. Where the Court is satisfied that the matter is an appropriate one to be take
n cognizance of by the Lok Adalat.
4. Compromise settlement shall be guided by the principles of justice, equity, f
air play and other legal principles.
5. Where no compromise has been arrived at through conciliation, the matter shal
l be returned to the concerned court for disposal in accordance with Law.
Section 21
After the agreement is arrived by the consent of the parties, award is passed by
the conciliators. The matter need not be referred to the concerned Court for co
nsent decree. The Act provisions envisages as under:
1. Every award of Lok Adalat shall be deemed as decree of Civil Court .
2. Every award made by the Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all the part
ies to the dispute.
3. No appeal shall lie from the award of the Lok Adalat.
Section 22
Every proceedings of the Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings f
or the purpose of :1. Summoning of Witnesses
2. Discovery of documents
3. Reception of evidences
4. Requisitioning of Public record
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Entitlement of Legal Services
Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 prescribes the criteria f
or giving legal services to the eligible persons. Section 12 of the Act reads as
under:Every person who has to file or defend a case shall be entitled to legal service
s 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 2
3 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 in

dustrial disaster; or
(f) an industrial workman; or
(g) in custody, including custody in a protective home within the meaning of cla
use (g) of section 2 of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956; or in a juve
nile 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
(h) in receipt of annual income less than nine thousand rupees or such other hi
gher amount as may be prescribed by the State Govt or if the case is before a co
urt other than the Supreme Court, and less than rupees twelve thousand or such o
ther higher amount as may be prescribed by the Central Govt or if the case is be
fore the Supreme Court.
It is noteworthy that when the legal services authority has acknowledge that the
re is a prima facie case in which a person suits to the eligibility criteria for
grant of 'legal aid', the concern authority is required to pay the requisite co
urt fees and also to bear all the expenses incidental to the proceeding and no a
mount shall be paid in whatsoever circumstances by the person to whom such servi
ces is granted.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Case Laws
1.Hussainara Khatoon Vs. State of Bihar, AIR 1979 SC 1369
Article 39 - A was inserted with the sole objective to bestow the operation of t
he legal system as to provide free legal aid services and to check that the it p
romotes justice on the basis of equal oppurtunity solely on the shoulders of the
state. It shall also be the duty of the state that no individual shall be denie
d 'Legal Aid' on the basis of economic and other disabilities. Besides, the righ
t to free legal aid has now been included as part of right to life and personal
liberty guranteed under Article 21 of the constituion.
2. Ellanath Sahu Vs. State (1990 CLT 358 (Ori.))
The High Court of Orissa held that free legal aid services at the State's cost i
s a fundamental right of a person accused of an offence which may involved jeopa
rdy to his life and personal liberty and this fundamental right is implicit in t
he requirement of a resonable, fair and just procedure prescribed in Article 21
of the Constitution. The Courts of a Judicial System are the sentinel of human r
ights and a common man looks upon it as its saviour, in the context of responsib
ility under the constitution they have a legal obligation to be more concerned a
bout the rights of the poor and illiterates but generally those who hardly have
capacity to protect themself.
3.In Khatri & Others v. St. of Bihar & others AIR 1981 SC 928
Right to free legal aid, just, fail and reasonable procedures is a fundamental r
ight (Khatoon's Case). It is elementary that the jeopardy to one's personal libe
rty arises as soon as the person is arrested and is produced before a magistrate
for it is at this stage that he gets the 1st opportunity to apply for bail and
obtain his release as also to resist remain to police or jail custody. This is t
he stage at which an accused person needs competent legal advice and representat
ion. No procedure can be said to be just, fair and reasonable which denies legal
advice representation to the accused at this stage.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Legal Services Authority Amendment Act, 2002 along with Criticism.

During the discussion of the amendment bill (2002) in Rajya Sabha on 26th May, 2
002 the then law minister Arun Jaitley said that the parent act of 1987 had two
principal aspects. One was to provide for a State - level and district - level a
uthorities for securing legal aid to the poor and indigent people, and the secon
d one was that to recognize Lok Adalats as effect ADR mechanism for out-of-court
conciliation and dispute settlement. Over the years Lok Adalats have gained hug
e apparisal for its exceptional work for being cheaper, quicker and consumer-fri
Main Features of the amendment Act :
(1) The amendment seeks to conceive of having Pre-litigation Lok Adalats in rela
tion to public utility services. At present, if the settlement or compromise in
Lok Adalat fails, the matter goes back to the Court by which it was referred to
the Lok Adalat. In the proposed Act, a mandatory provision is made that in dispu
tes relating to the public utility services the party instead of going to a Cou
rt for litigation, can . in raise the grievance before the Lok Adalat directly.
This change would help the poor who cannot reach the courts at district or State
level as also the Supreme Court.
(2) The establishment of permanent Lok Adalats I will certainly put an end to th
e protracted litigation. Since the Chairman of the Lok Adalat would be a sitting
or a retired Judge, and the other two members will be persons having adequate e
xperience in the field, there is no scope for doubting the credibility of the pe
rmanent lok adalat. The other aspect is that regular sitting of these Adalats wi
ll expedite disposal of cases and it will help the people to get timley justiceThese Permanant Lok Adalats will have jurisdiction to dispose of cases upto the
value of ten lack rupees.'
(3)The adjudication of criminal cases has to be left out of the purview of p Lok
Adalats as they involve long trials.
Thus, the proposed amendment Act seeks to integrate the non-formal Lok Adalat sy
stem and extend its jurisdiction so that it may meet the basic needs of the soci
ally and economically marginalized sections of the people and at the same time t
ackle the "menace and monstrosity of what is known as docket explosion an unmanage
able upsurge in the number of pending cases before regular courts.
Lok Adalats have come to stay as an alternative dispute redressal (ADR) forum fo
r the last nearly two decades. Though they are courts from the point of view of
their functioning but they cannot be equated with conventional law Courts. Howev
er, they certainly have a supportive role to play in the present system of justi
ce administration.