All citizens of India have the right to free legal aid. According to Article 14 of the Constitution, everyone has been given an equal opportunity of justice. The Legal Services Authority Act, 1987, is an Act to constitute legal services authorities to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
Individuals who want to avail free legal services need to apply to the relevant authority or committee. Even if the application is not in the concerned jurisdiction, it is to be forwarded to the concerned legal services authority.
Free legal aid is providing of free legal services in civil as well as in criminal matters under Legal Services Authority Act, 1987. Eligible persons for free legal aid in Maharashtra are:
- Any woman or child.
- Any person having an annual income of less than Rs 3 lakh.
- Any person with disabilities.
- Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe applicants.
- Victims of trafficking or begging.
- Victims of mass disaster/ethnic violence/caste atrocity/ flood/ earthquake or industrial disaster.
- Industrial workpersons.
- Persons in custody/protective home/juvenile home/psychiatric hospital/psychiatric nursing home.
- Acid attack victims.
- Women of any income group are eligible for free legal services.
Free legal services can be availed from the High Court Legal Services Committee, the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority, and from all the district-level legal services authorities.
HOW TO APPLY?
Anyone can apply for free legal aid either offline or online. Ready-made form/application form is available at nearest legal services authority which needs to be filled up and submitted at either the authority physically, or can be posted to the authority.
An application in writing can also be made on paper with the necessary details such as name, gender, residential address, employment status, nationality, whether SC/ST (with proof), income per month (with affidavit), the case for which legal aid is required, reason for seeking legal aid, etc and submitted physically or send by post to the authority.
Another option is to send the application online to NALSA (at email@example.com), or through the online application form available online at NALSA’s website www.nalsa.gov.in by going on the ‘Online Application’ link on the home page along with uploading necessary documents. It is also possible to make the application orally -- a paralegal volunteer or an officer of the concerned legal services authority will assist in such cases.
Fees of panel lawyers, expenses such as process fees, drafting fees, typing fees, clerkage, as well as (during or after the case is completed) are borne by the legal service institutions. After the application is submitted, the Scrutiny and Evaluation Committee will evaluate the application for legal service and decide whether the applicant is entitled to free legal service.
In case of denial of free legal service, appeal can be made to the chairman of the authority/committee on denial of grant of legal services (or) before the executive chairperson of the legal services institution and the decision of the chairperson will be final. The writer is a Vile Parle-based social activist.
The writer is a Vile Parle-based social activist.