What is the right to legal aid?

by  Adv. Umapathi Natarajan  

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Right to legal aid

Right to Legal Aid is the provision of free legal assistance to the poor and needy who cannot afford to hire an advocate to represent them in a lawsuit or legal action before a court, tribunal, or judicial body.

The preamble of the Indian constitution aspires to provide social, economic, and political justice to the Indian people. Justice P.N. Bhagwati rightly remarked that the right to legal aid implies creating a social structure that makes the machinery of justice administration widely available and within reach of people who need to use it to vindicate the legal right to legal aid.

Article 38(1) states that the state is responsible for promoting the welfare of the people by ensuring and safeguarding the social order, which includes justice and the right to legal aid.

The State shall ensure that the legal system functions in a way that promotes justice on an equal footing, and shall, in particular, provide the right to legal aid for free, whether through appropriate legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that no citizen’s right to legal aid is denied due to economic or other disabilities.

It is the responsibility of the state to ensure that the legal system promotes justice for all of its residents. It must thus make arrangements to give the right to legal aid to persons who are unable to access justice owing to financial or other barriers. If the accused does not have adequate financial resources to hire an attorney, the court must provide one at the state’s cost.

The constitutional responsibility to offer legal aid begins when the accused is initially brought before the magistrate and continues every time he is brought before the magistrate for detention. A person who is eligible to appeal his or her sentence has the right to legal aid.

Services offered by the Legal Services Authority:

Right to legal aid is a fundamental right that is a part of the right to life. The services offered by legal services authority are:

  1. Fees for court and other procedures; 
  2. Fees for the preparation, writing, and filing of any legal actions; 
  3. Fees for a legal practitioner or legal advisor;
  4. The cost of acquiring decisions, judgments, orders, or any other legal papers;
  5. Paperwork costs, such as printing and translation.

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Duties of the Police and the Courts:

The police must promptly notify the nearest right to the Legal Aid Committee that a person is arrested. Every accused who appears before them and is not represented by a lawyer due to poverty or indigence must be informed that he is entitled to the right to legal aid at the expense of the State.

The trial would be void if the right to legal aid is not provided to an impoverished defendant unless it was denied. It might even result in a conviction and sentence being overturned if the right to legal aid is denied. 

When can Legal services be rejected?

 If the applicant has proper access to justice; does not meet the eligibility standards; or has no merits in his application that need legal action, then the right to legal aid may be rejected.

Cases for which legal aid is not available

The right to legal aid is not available when:

  1. Defamation, malicious prosecution, contempt of court, perjury, and other similar cases
  2. Election-related proceedings
  3. Instances in which the fine imposed is less than Rs.50/-;
  4. Economic offenses and social law violations;
  5. Cases in which the individual seeking legal advice is not actively involved in the proceedings and whose interests are unaffected.

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When can the legal services be withdrawn?

The right to legal aid can be withdrawn when: 

  1. the aid is obtained through misrepresentation or fraud; 
  2. any material change in the aided person’s circumstances; 
  3. the aided person engages in misconduct, misbehavior, or negligence; 
  4. the aided person refuses to cooperate with the allotted advocate; 
  5. the aided person appoints another legal practitioner; 
  6. the aided person dies, except in civil cases; 
  7. the proceedings are suspended.

Who is entitled to free legal aid?

The persons listed below are entitled to the right to legal aid. Any individual who is: 

  1. a member of one of the scheduled castes or tribes; 
  2. a member of one of the scheduled castes or tribes
  3. Any individual from a Schedule caste or tribe, natural disaster victims, industrial workers, minors, crazy people, handicapped people, those in detention, and those with a yearly income of less than Rs 1 lakh were eligible for free legal advice.
  4. a human trafficking victim or beggar;
  5. disabled, including mentally challenged individuals;
  6. a woman or a kid; 
  7. a victim of a mass tragedy, ethnic conflict, caste atrocities, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial calamity, or other unjustifiable famine;
  8. a worker at a factory;
  9. in detention, including protective custody; 
  10. facing a charge that might result in imprisonment; and
  11. unable to hire a lawyer and get legal services due to financial hardship, indigence, or an incommunicado position; 
  12. in circumstances of considerable public importance; 
  13. Unique cases deemed deserving right to legal aid for free

The Concept of Lok Adalat:

The Lok Adalat is a judicial body established to facilitate the peaceful settlement of disputes between litigants. It has the same authorities as a regular civil court, such as summoning witnesses and scrutinizing evidence. Its orders are similar to those of a court, but the parties cannot appeal to them. Except for non-compoundable criminal cases, Lok Adalat can settle any issues. 

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Conclusion

Every person who cannot afford a lawyer can at the state’s expense get legal assistance. The accused has the right to legal aid for free. The State also has to provide legal aid as everyone has the right to put forward their defense in the Court of Law and be assisted by a good lawyer or else it would amount to a violation of natural justice. 

Apart from saving time, legal assistance makes your task easier. If any legal assistance is required, consult a Lawyer

Adv. Umapathi Natarajan

Adv. Umapathi Natarajan

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With 24 years of independent practice, Advocate Umapathi Natarajan has gained extensive experience in handling legal cases while providing legal consultancy and advisory services with a focus on achieving results in an ethical and professional manner. Advocate Umapathi Natarajan, who can speak English, Tamil, and Telugu, possesses excellent communication skills that enable him to articulate arguments persuasively in both written and verbal forms.

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