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Right To Legal Aid: A Fundamental Right And DPSP

The right to legal aid is a cornerstone of justice and a fundamental human right that guarantees everyone, regardless of means, equal access to the judicial system. It is essential to a just and equitable society because it ensures that everyone has access to justice and that it is not merely a privilege for the rich.

Several international human rights treaties are the foundation for the right to legal aid. The significance of offering legal aid to individuals in need is emphasised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and regional treaties like the European Convention on Human Rights. These documents acknowledge that a fair trial and equal protection under the law may not be provided to people without sufficient legal counsel and that access to justice is a crucial component of the rule of law.

Access to legal aid is crucial in upholding the principles of due process and fair trials. When individuals have access to competent legal representation, they can present their cases effectively and navigate complex legal procedures. This, in turn, enhances the integrity of judicial outcomes and prevents wrongful convictions or judgments based on inadequacies in legal representation. Both Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution play a role in shaping the framework for legal aid.

Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP): Article 39A of the DPSP mandates that the state make sure the functioning of the judicial system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity. It expressly states that the state must offer free legal aid through appropriate laws, programmes, or any other method to ensure that no citizen's access to justice is restricted because of their financial situation or another obstacle.

Fundamental Rights: Fundamental Rights are enforceable rights that individuals can directly seek the protection of the courts for, in contrast to DPSPs which are non-justiciable principles. The right to life and personal freedom is guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which is a part of Fundamental Rights. The judiciary has broadened its interpretation of this right over time to encompass the right to uncompensated legal aid. This means that if a person cannot afford legal representation and their personal liberty is at stake, they have the right to access free legal aid.

The shift from DPSP to Fundamental Rights regarding legal aid can be seen in the evolving interpretation of Article 21 by the Indian courts. The judiciary has played a vital role in helping the state recognise the value of legal aid as a fundamental right for guaranteeing justice and access to justice for everyone, regardless of economic position. At the same time, DPSPs provide general guidelines for the state's obligations.

From being a requirement in the DPSP to being acknowledged and upheld as a crucial component of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution, legal aid has undergone significant change. This change reflects a greater focus on ensuring that all citizens have access to justice.

Legal aid is a fundamental entitlement that supports the very foundation of a just and equitable society. It is not only a choice. Regardless of socioeconomic background, it is a potent weapon for guaranteeing equitable access to justice and preserving human rights for all individuals. Governments and societies show their dedication to upholding the rule of law and defending the rights and liberties of their citizens by funding legal aid programmes.

To make justice a reality for every person in need, it is critical that we keep bolstering and extending legal aid services as we move forward. Then and only then will we actually be able to create a society that promotes the values of justice, equality, and human dignity.

Objective Of The Study:
  1. To study the "Free Legal Aid in India" provided in the Indian constitution.
  2. To analyze the enforcement of the concept of free legal Aid in India according to the provisions along with case laws.

Literature Review:
This researcher has used various 'books, articles published in journals and various online resources.

Research Methodology:
The researcher has used the 'Doctrinal Method' of study to find answers to the research questions.

Scope Of The Study:
The researcher has used the Doctrinal Method of study to find answers to the research questions.

Significance Of The Study:
This study will help the reader understand the significance of legal aid in India with its case laws and its evolution.

Research Questions:
  1. Whether there exist any constitutional provisions on legal aid?
  2. Whether the enforcement of the concept of free legal Aid in India according to the provisions of article 21 as a fundamental right?
  3. Whether there is any evolution or change in legal aid?

According to political scholar Charles de Montesquieu, "In the condition of nature...all persons are born equal, but they cannot stay in this equality. They lose it due to society, and the only way they can regain it is via legal aid." To maintain equitable justice, it is crucial to protect those who are weak, impoverished, and uneducated under the law. One way to ensure that no one is denied the chance to get justice due to poverty, illiteracy, etc. is through the provision of legal assistance.1

Legal aid is free legal help provided to the disadvantaged sections of society with the goal of enabling them to utilise the legal rights granted to them. Legal assistance is needed in many different ways and at different times in order to acquire direction and to resolve issues before courts, tribunals, or other authorities. It has several aspects. The vast changes brought about by scientific, technological, and other developments, the population explosion, the expanded scope of human activity reflected in modern society, and the ensuing rise in court cases and other legal disputes necessitate the availability of competent legal professionals at various stages and at various levels.

In a democracy where the rule of law is paramount, it is crucial to make sure that no one, not even the weakest among the weak or the poorest among the poor, suffers injustice as a result of any aggressive action taken by the government or a private individual. Moving ahead, it's important to make sure that legal aid movement capacity is built. This necessitates improving the abilities of those involved in legal assistance, including professors of law, solicitors, students of law, and volunteers.

The constitution itself contains both explicit and indirect references to the need for legal help. The preamble's explicit mention of social and economic justice and article 14's concept of substantive equality serve as the state's primary directives for providing legal aid to those in need. The Supreme Court's interpretation of Article 21's a particular phrase on "liberty" and "life with all human dignity" makes it obvious that this country's destitute and defenceless citizens must get legal aid.

Legal assistance is typically understood to refer to a coordinated effort by the government, the bar, and the community to offer free or reduced-cost legal services to people who cannot afford them. However, according to the Committee on Legal assistance's suggestion, legal assistance refers to "every indigent person's right" and "the government's constitutional obligation."

It also includes legal advice, legal awareness, legal mobilisation, public interest litigation, law reform, and a variety of strategies and preventive services that, rather than assisting each person on an individual basis, will help them as a class to avoid helplessness brought on by poverty and promote equal access to justice. It also includes legal representation through a lawyer at the state's expense in court proceedings. In this regard, legal assistance serves as a potent weapon in the "war against poverty."2

The 14th Law Commission stated that unless some arrangement is made for providing the poor man with the means to pay court fees, advocates' fees, and other incidental costs of litigation, he is denied an opportunity to seek justice. If laws do not provide for an equality of opportunity to seek justice to all segments of society, they have no protective value.

The committee on legal aid stressed the necessity for an active and extensive legal aid system that allowed law to reach the people rather than forcing people to approach law in its 1973 report titled Processionals Justice to Poor, chaired over by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer. The Legal Aid programme was viewed by Justice Krishna Iyer as a catalyst that would enable the oppressed people to once again demand governmental accountability under Part IV of the Constitution.

The last report on the legal assistance programme in 1977 emphasised the necessity for a new legal service programme but advised that it must be designed in consideration of the socio- economic circumstances existing in the nation.

The first legal aid movement began in 1851, when a French law establishing legal help for those who were poor and deprived was established. Legal assistance was founded on the belief that particular individuals live in every society but are unable to engage in the legal system. In the United States, it started in 1876 with the creation of a group in New York that offered legal aid to certain immigrants.3 Legal assistance was initially not given to the poor on humanitarian grounds as an offer of legal services from advocates, but rather as a social service funded by a separate institution.

Despite having a clear purpose, the campaign for legal assistance was fragmented until 1919, the year when Reginald Heber Smith released Justice and the Poor. In his writings, Reginald Heber advocated the idea of providing the underprivileged with free legal representation. Smith urged the legal profession to view it as part of its duty to ensure that everyone has access to justice, regardless of their capacity to pay. Without equitable access to the law, he claimed, the system not only deprives the poor of their only means of defence but also gives their oppressors access to the most potent and brutal weapon ever created.4

The legal aid movement continued in the following years at a decent, steady pace, but it wasn't until the early 1930s that policy-oriented legal assistance really started to take shape. A model in the public interest that is totally financed by small donations has emerged, with a focus on the Black population. 5The approach was created in order to operate quickly and in an ordered manner when delivering legal assistance. All American Public Interest Law initiatives still in some way adhere to the ideas outlined in this paradigm.

In the year 1974, the legislation created an independent Public Corporation to manage the legal services was passed. Although there is an inherent risk of government dominance and control when governments finance legal aid systems, the Legal Services Programme is currently firmly established, institutionalized, and operates independently with government financial assistance but free from government control over regulations.

The legal fraternity in England was initially, during the 19th century, reluctant to change the settled rules. However, the development of legal assistance in England was significantly influenced by the judiciary. These initiatives helped legal aid to develop and a statutory criminal legal aid system to be created. This was eventually finished in 1933, but the judges operated it in a very constrained manner.

The 'Legal Aid and Advice Act, 1949' marked the beginning of a new era for the English legal aid movement. Legal aid in civil matters was covered by the Legal Aid Act of 1949, and in criminal cases it was expanded in 1967. This act laid down the principle that legal aid was not charity but national responsibility funded by the state.

The other key principle was that the new legal aid system needed to have constitutional safeguards to guarantee the professional independence of both the body overseeing the system's administration and the attorneys representing clients who have received assistance.7

History Of Legal Aid In India

The necessity to achieve justice based on equality is essentially required in a nation like ours where the proportion of the destitute and indigent is considerable. The notion of legal assistance as an essential component of justice is clear from Mr. Justice Brennan's well- known statements from his book, Legal assistance and Legal Education:

"Nothing in the human heart is viler than a looming sense of injustice. We can put up with illness. However, injustice makes us want to destroy things. Because democracy's very existence depends on making the machinery of justice so effective that every citizen will believe in it and benefit from it, when only the wealthy can enjoy the law as a dubious luxury and the poor, who need it most, cannot have it because of its expense, the threat to its continued existence is not hypothetical but very real".8

Thus, the necessity to provide the possibility for equitable justice came when we formed our own Constitution with a priceless Preamble that vows to promote justice. So, in 1952, different state governments such the State of Uttar Pradesh, State of West Bengal, and State of Madras developed plans for providing legal assistance to those who could not pay the fees of litigation. The Indian government began discussing the issue of legal aid for the underprivileged at various gatherings of law ministers and law commissions. The law commission stated in its XIV report that the state need to offer free legal help as a service.

In 1960, acting to the recommendations by the law commission some guidelines was drawn by the Govt. for legal aid schemes but due to lack of finances the scheme did not survive.

Thus, the necessity to provide the possibility for equitable justice came when we formed our own Constitution with a priceless Preamble that vows to promote justice. So, in 1952, different state governments such the State of Uttar Pradesh, State of West Bengal, and State of Madras developed plans for providing legal assistance to those who could not pay the fees of litigation. The Indian government began discussing the issue of legal aid for the underprivileged at various gatherings of law ministers and law commissions. The law commission stated in its XIVth report that the state need to offer free legal help as a service.

A national committee was established in 1980 to manage and monitor legal assistance projects across the nation. Its chairman was Hon. Mr. Justice P.N. Bhagwati, who was then a judge on the Supreme Court of India. The committee supported the idea of nyayalayas and legal help camps in rural areas. The committee suggested including the idea of legal aid in the constitution in its report.

The committee for the implementation of legal assistance schemes (CILAS), which is run by the central government, was created in 1980. It started monitoring legal aid activities around the nation and provided funding and support for numerous committees operating at various levels. The introduction of Lok Adalats opened a new chapter in the country's justice system and was successful in giving litigants a second platform for the peaceful resolution of their issues.

Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 was passed in to provide a legal foundation for legal assistance programmes at the national, state, and district levels across the nation in a consistent manner. After the Amendment Act of 1994 introduced some revisions, this Act was eventually put into effect on November 9th, 1995.9

Right To Fair Trial And Free Legal Aid

People accept restrictions on their freedom in exchange for peaceful coexistence, and they anticipate that in the event of a conflict between people or between the state and its citizens, there will be a neutral third party with the power to mediate a peaceful resolution that includes all relevant parties.

It is also the duty of the State to guarantee that the impoverished and economically disadvantaged groups, regardless of their caste, creed, religion, or geographic location, have free access to fair and impartial justice.

In a democratic society, the protector of individual rights is an unbiased, independent court. All individuals must have access to the courts when needed if they are to have confidence in their legal system.

Article 14 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees to everyone: "The right to be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing, to be informed if he does not have legal assistance, of his right; and to have legal assistance assigned to him in any case where the interests of justice shall require, and without payment by him in any such case if he does not have sufficient means to pay for it."
  1. Right to Fair Trial
    Article 21: Protection of Life and Personal Liberty
    The right to life and personal freedom is protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The judiciary has broadened this clause to include the right to a fair trial through diverse interpretations. According to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the right to a fair trial guarantees that legal proceedings are carried out fairly and without undue influence.10
  2. Right to Free Legal Aid
    Article 39A: Equal Justice and Free Legal Aid
    Article 39A of the Indian Constitution emphasizes the value of equal justice and the availability of free legal representation. According to Article 39A of the Indian Constitution, the State is required to make sure that no citizen is denied the ability to pursue justice because of their financial situation or another obstacle. In order to ensure that everyone has access to justice, regardless of their financial situation, the right to free legal aid assists those who cannot pay it.

Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987:
In accordance with Article 39A, the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, was passed to guarantee that possibilities for attaining justice are not denied to anybody due to economic or other impairments and to provide free and competent legal services to the poorer segments of society.

Legal Framework
To ensure access to justice and promote the ideals of equality, fairness, and the rule of law, legal provisions and rights pertaining to the right to legal aid are crucial. The framework for the right to legal aid in India is jointly established by specific constitutional and legislative provisions, international agreements, and other legal instruments.
  1. Constitution of India:
    Article 22(1): Right to Legal Representation:
    Every individual who is arrested has the right to consult with and be represented by a lawyer of their choosing, according to Article 22(1) of the Indian Constitution. This clause emphasizes the value of legal representation as a fundamental right, notably in criminal trials.

    Article 39A: Equal Justice and Free Legal Aid
    The State is required by Article 39A of the Indian Constitution to make sure that no citizen is denied the ability to pursue justice because of their financial situation or another obstacle. It promotes equal access to justice by requiring the State to offer free legal aid to individuals who cannot afford it.
  2. Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987
    The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 was passed to create legal services authorities at the federal, state, and local levels to provide free legal aid and make sure that everyone can access legal services, especially those who are members of underprivileged groups and marginalized communities.
  3. Supreme Court Guidelines
    The Supreme Court of India, recognizing the importance of legal aid in ensuring a fair trial, has laid down various guidelines to operationalize the right to free legal aid. For instance, in the case of Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar (1979), 11 the court emphasized the right to free legal aid as an essential element of Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty).
  4. Legal Aid Authorities
    At the ground level, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs), and District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs) operate across the country to ensure effective implementation of legal aid schemes, promoting equal justice and access to legal services for all.

Constitutional Provision Of Legal Aid

The Indian Constitution, which protects fundamental rights, establishes the legal assistance right and recognizes its significance in promoting justice, fairness, and equal opportunity in legal procedures. This important right is affirmed and safeguarded by a number of constitutional provisions, mostly under Part III and Part IV.
  1. Right to Legal Aid as a Fundamental Right
    Article 22(1)
    Article 22(1) of the Constitution, which protects the rights of those who have been arrested, implicitly recognizes the right to legal assistance. According to Article 22(1) of the Indian Constitution, every individual who is detained or imprisoned is guaranteed the right to legal representation by a lawyer of their choosing.
  2. Right to Legal Aid as a Directive Principle of State Policy
    Article 39A
    The Directive Principles of State Policy in the Indian Constitution emphasize the value of equal justice and unrestricted access to the courts. In order to guarantee that no citizen is denied the opportunity to secure justice because of financial or other disabilities, the State must ensure that the legal system operates in a way that promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity. In particular, the State must provide free legal aid through appropriate legislation, programs, or other means.

    Not only does Article 39-A of the constitution require legal assistance to a poor and needy accused person who is detained and faces danger to his life or personal liberty, but Articles 14 and 21 of the constitution also compel it. The nation's central and state governments have been urged by the court to launch an extensive legal services program. The Supreme Court has repeatedly used Article 39-A, which guarantees free legal assistance, in favour of this proposal and has construed Article 21 in light of Article 39-A.
  3. Right to Legal Aid and Access to Justice
    Article 14 and Article 21
    The right to legal assistance is implicitly covered by the principles of equality before the law (Article 14) and protection of life and individual freedom (Article 21). The right to legal representation is inextricably linked to the right to a fair trial and due process [Constitution of India, Articles 14 and 21].

    Articles 14 and 22(1) also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity to all.

    Article 39(e) and (f)
    Additionally, Article 39(e) and (f) of the Indian Constitution direct the State to guarantee that the administration of the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity and to offer free legal aid, ensuring that no citizen is denied the opportunity to obtain justice due to financial or other limitations.
  4. Constitutional Duty of the State
    The State is required by the Constitution to ensure a social order for the advancement of justice (Article 38) and seek to reduce wealth, status, and opportunity disparities (Article 38(2)).
This constitutional foundation establishes the legal assistance right in India and emphasizes the importance of this right in advancing justice, maintaining equality, and safeguarding fundamental rights.

Journey Of Legal Aid Through Supreme Court Pronouncement

Over the course of ten years, the Supreme Court has made a number of judicial rulings that have evolved the idea of legal aid. The Indian judiciary has been instrumental in shaping the notion of free legal aid. The Supreme court has often engaged in extensive discussions over the provision of free legal help to the impoverished and destitute.

The linkage between Article 21 and Article 39-A, the right to free legal aid was forged in the decision in Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar. 12 The situation in this case, where thousands of undertrial defendants were let to languish in Bihar jails for years at a time without ever being given legal representation, horrified the court.

The court determined that the right to free legal representation must be seen as implicit in the guarantee of Article 21 since it is unquestionably a necessary component of a reasonable, fair, and just process for an individual facing criminal charges. Every accused individual who is unable to afford legal representation due to financial hardship has the constitutional right to this.

The case served as a catalyst for the legal assistance movement in India and resulted in the release of many under trial defendants who had been detained for extended periods of time without a fair trial.

The court declared that "there can be no doubt that speedy trial, and by speedy trial, we mean reasonably expeditious trial, is an integral and essential part of the fundamental right to life and liberty enshrined in Article 21."

The question that whether the accused has to ask for lawyer or a lawyer should be made available without being asked was answered in the case of Khatri & others v. State of Bihar13. The apex court in this case ruled that,

"The Magistrate or the Sessions Judge before whom an accused appears must be held to be under an obligation to inform the accused that if he is unable to engage the services of a lawyer on account of poverty or indigence, he is entitled to obtain free legal aid at the cost of the State.

We deplored, that in that case, where the accused were blinded prisoners, the Judicial Magistrate failed to discharge his obligation and contended himself by merely observing that no legal representation has been asked for by the blinded prisoners and hence none was provided.

We accordingly directed the Magistrates and Sessions Judges in the country to inform every accused who appears before them and who is not represented by a lawyer on account of his poverty or indigence that he is entitled to free legal services at the cost of State unless he is not willing to take advantage of the free legal aid provided by the State.

We also gave a general direction to every state in the country . . . to make provision for grant of free legal service to an accused who is unable to engage a lawyer on account of reasons such as poverty, indigence or incommunicado situations, the only qualification being that the offence charged against an accused is such that on conviction, it would result in as sentence of imprisonment and is of such a nature that the circumstances of the case and the needs of social justice require that he should be given free legal representations."

The issue in the case of Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra, 14was in relation to protection in police lock-up.

The Supreme Court advised:
  1. Whenever a person is arrested by the police without warrant, he must be immediately informed of the grounds of his arrest and in every case of arrest it must immediately be known to the arrested person that he is entitled to apply for bail. The Maharashtra State Board of Legal Aid and Advice will forthwith get a pamphlet prepared setting out the legal rights of an arrested person and the State of Maharashtra will bring out sufficient no. of printed copies of the pamphlet in Marathi which is the language of the people in the State of Maharashtra as also in Hindi and English and printed copies f the pamphlet in all the three languages shall be a fixed in each cell in every police lock-up and shall be read out to the arrested person in any of the three languages which he understands as soon as he is brought to the police station.
  2. Whenever a person is arrested by the police and taken to the police lock-up, the police will immediately give intimation of the fact of such arrest to the nearest legal aid committee and such committee of legal aid will take immediate steps for the purpose of providing legal assistance to the arrested person at state cost, provided he is willing to accept such assistance. The state government will provide necessary funds to the concerned legal aid committee for carrying out this direction.

The relation between legal aid and legal education and the payment of fees to a lawyer for free legal service were discussed in the case of State of Maharashtra v. M.P. Vashi, 15In which the apex court held that in a fit case, the court can direct the ruling politicians to carry out the Directive Principles of State Policy even though these are stated to be non-justifiable in a court of law. Further, when there is inaction or slow action by the politicians and administrative officers, the judiciary will intervene. The politicians can't plead paucity of funds against such directions.

The Supreme Court ordered the state to rebuild and reorganize the falling standards in legal education and combined legal aid with legal education. The court believed that in order to provide free legal aid, a large number of people with legal training were required. Lack of appropriate infrastructure, capable faculty and staff, law colleges, and facilities would have a negative impact on the caliber of free legal aid services as well as the standard of legal education.

Free legal aid should never be sacrificed on the name of quality; otherwise, it will merely be forced upon people, made up, illusory, or a pointless ritual. In this decision, the Supreme Court ordered the state to award grants to accredited law schools in order to allow them to operate effectively and meaningfully and produce a sufficient number of graduates who are adequately prepared or outfitted. This will therefore make it possible for the government to offer free legal assistance and guarantee that no citizen is denied the chance to obtain justice because of a disability. These elements logically follow from Articles 21 and 39A of the Indian Constitution.

The Apex Court has discussed the role and significance of voluntary organizations in the case of Centre for Legal Research v. State of Kerala. 16 In this instance, it was questioned whether the state government should fund social action groups or voluntary organizations participating in the legal aid program, and if so, to what degree and under what circumstances.

In this decision, the supreme court ruled that public engagement is an absolute necessity for the success of the legal assistance program. In order to guarantee that the functioning of the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equality, the state government surely has a duty under Article 39-A of the Constitution, which incorporates a Directive Principle of State Policy, draw establish a comprehensive and effective legal aid program.

However, it was acknowledged that no legal aid program could endure if management continued to control its operations. Therefore, it was crucial that participants in legal aid programs be considered as individuals. But without volunteer organizations and social action groups, this would not have been feasible.

These groups work at the grassroots level with the underprivileged and vulnerable segments of society, therefore they are familiar with the issues and challenges that these ignored segments of Indian society face. They are able to identify the root causes of injustice and exploitation and provide social or distributive justice to the populace. Chief Justice Bhagwan of the Court stated the opinion that the state should promote and encourage volunteer organizations and social action groups in their efforts to run the legal aid program.

Case Analysis 1. M.H. Hoskot Vs State Of Maharashtra 17
In this case, the Supreme Court established some prohibitive guidelines for free legal aid to inmates that all Indian courts must abide by. These guidelines include providing a free transcript of the judgment promptly after it is rendered, among other things. If an inmate seeks to file an appeal or revision, the jail administration must provide all necessary facilities to waive these rights.

If an inmate is unable to exercise his constitutional and statutory rights of appeal, including special leave to appeal due to lack of legal assistance, the court has the implicit authority under Article 142, read with Article 21 and 39-A of the Indian Constitution to assign counsel to the prisoner, provided the prisoner does not object.

Facts Of The Case
Dr. Madhav Hayawadanrao Hoskot, the petitioner, held his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees while employed at Saurashtra University as a reader. According to Sections 417, 467, 471, and 511 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, he was found guilty of the offence of attempting to falsify university degree certificates, for which he was arrested. He was sentenced to a simple life in prison and a penalty since he hailed from a middle-class family, the emphasis of the current punishment is on the corrective component, which cannot be neglected, and the Public Prosecutor had no objections to the common term. Subsequently, the State and the Appellant submitted independent appeals to the High Courts.

The Appellant fought against his conviction while the State filed a lawsuit to augment the sentence of imprisonment. In 1973, the appellant's case was rejected by the High Court, which increased the sentence by three years of incarceration. Four years following the High Court's decision, in 1978, the petitioner filed a Special Leave Petition with the Supreme Court of India. The petitioner's copy of the ruling was delivered late by the High Court, which justifies this delay.

Issue Referred To The Court:
  • Whether the Supreme Court will uphold the petitioner's special leave petition or not?
  • Is Article 21 of the Indian Constitution applicable to the Right to Free Legal Aid? 17 (1978) 3 SCC 544

Arguments in Support of the Petitioner:

  • The competent counsel for the petitioner contended that on December 10, 1973, the petitioner made a request for a copy of the High Court's ruling via the jail administrations in accordance with Sections 363(2) and 387 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. He did not, however, obtain a copy of the decision.
  • Furthermore, it was asserted that the petitioner was no longer able to file a Special Leave Petition to appeal and was forced to file a petition for condonation after receiving a second certified copy from the High Court.
  • In addition, the knowledgeable lawyer drew attention to the petitioner's signature being missing from the register while requesting a copy of the judgment. It follows that it is clear that the petitioner never received a copy of the ruling.

Arguments put forth by the respondent:

  • The respondent's knowledgeable attorney made an argument that his client wasn't to blame for the holdup.
  • According to the argument, a clerk did provide a copy of the High Court's decision but later returned it because it was missing a petition for mercy from the government asking for the sentence to be commuted.
  • Due to the aforementioned fact, the petitioner received a copy of the ruling in 1978.

In the Madhav Hayawadanrao Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra case, the concept of free legal was discussed and ultimately decided to be included in the Indian Constitution. In this instance, the petitioner filed a Special Leave Petition because, four years after the High Court's decision, the petitioner obtained a copy of the judgment.

As a result, the first appeal from the Sessions Court to the High Court exemplifies the value upheld in Article 21. Article 21 of the Constitution states that "no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except following procedure established by law," which refers to a fair and reasonable procedure. The petitioner's Special Leave Petition was denied by the

Supreme Court because it was unable to intervene in the concurrent rulings of the two lower courts.

The case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India served as an example of how important fair judicial processes are to Article 21 for the Court. The fair legal procedure includes the right to appeal, which is comprised of two essential components: (1) serving the prisoner with a copy of the judgment in time for him to file an appeal; and (2) providing free legal services to a prisoner who is indigent or otherwise unable to obtain legal assistance.

The Court also emphasized Article 142 of the Constitution, read with Articles 21 and 39-A, which gives the Court the authority to appoint a lawyer for an imprisoned person to ensure that complete justice is served if the prisoner serving a sentence of imprisonment is unable to exercise his legal or constitutional rights of appeal, including the right to special permission to appear. Thus, any Jailor who knowingly withholds the copy of the judgment and obstructs the court's proceedings breaches Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Suk Das v Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh
In this case, the appellant is accused of threatening to rescind the transfer orders of a Public Works Department employee. The Indian Penal Code's section 506 was utilized to accuse the appellant. Due to his financial hardship, the appellant was unable to pay for legal counsel and was thus unable to cross-examine the prosecution's witnesses. In an attempt to cross-examine the relevant witnesses, the appellant made an effort. However, the appellant received a sentence of two years in ordinary jail.

The appellant subsequently filed an appeal with the High Court. The allegation was that the trial was tainted because the appellant's defence was not provided with free legal counsel. The appellant had a clear constitutional right to free legal aid, but the High Court held that the verdict could not be reversed because the appellant did not ask for legal aid or seek legal assistance from the Additional Deputy Commissioner. After his conviction was upheld by the High Court, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.

Legal Issues:
  • Whether the fundamental right of free legal assistance be lawfully denied if the accused has failed to seek legal aid service?
  • Whether the trial can proceed lawfully without the requisite legal counsel if the accused has not applied for legal aid service.
  • Whether the Magistrates or Sessions Judges have a responsibility to tell the accused of his right to obtain legal aid service and ask if he would like to have state-provided defense counsel.
  • Whether an unrepresented accuser's conviction stands if he was convicted without having been informed about free legal aid service.

According to the Court, the appellant was never made aware of his right to receive pro bono legal representation. Despite without having a lawyer to represent him, he was found guilty. The appellant's conviction and sentence must be overturned as a constitutional flaw tainted the trial.

However, if the conviction were overturned, the appellant would have to go through a new trial after being provided with free legal representation by the state, as required by law. But the Court decided that the appellant did not need to face a new trial. By ensuring a fair trial in this manner, the court achieved the goal outlined in the Constitution.

Manubhai Pragaji Vashi v State of Maharashtra
Facts Of The Case
Government-recognized non-government law colleges in Maharashtra have been discriminated against by having their Grant-in-Aid Scheme applications denied. This judgment's ratio is as follows.

Maharashtra is widely acknowledged as India's preeminent state. There are numerous faculties in education, including the arts, sciences, business, engineering, and medicine. The government provides grants-in-aid to them.

In the whole State of Maharashtra, there is just one law college run by the government. It's Bombay's Government Law College.

The State's demand for legal education has been steadily rising year. For that issue, there were roughly 25,700 law students enrolled in Maharashtra during the 1985�1986 academic year.

According to the government's knowledgeable counsel, Mr. Saldhana, who is known for his impartiality, there are currently between 27,000 and 28,000 of these students.

Issues Of The Case:
  • Whether there is any discrimination on behalf of the government for the establishment of private law colleges in Maharashtra

The one government-run law college in Bombay could not possibly meet this high demand for legal education.

Consequently, non-governmental or private law colleges emerged in Bombay and other regions of Maharashtra. The government recognizes them.

These law schools number 38.

There are roughly 544 full-time teachers on staff, of which 91 are part-timers. There are also roughly 400 full-time non-teaching employees.

Despite being recognized by the government, these law colleges do not get any grant-in-aid from it, in contrast to other faculties such as those in the arts, sciences, business, engineering, and medical.

As we will see in a moment, here is where the discrimination complaint is filed. The Marathwada University Law Teachers Association first requested in 1975 that the government apply the Grant-in-Aid Scheme to such law colleges. 12 January 1982.

The Chairman of the Bar Council of India restated this plea. Resolutions were adopted, meetings were called, talks occurred, the government requested and got information from the various principals, data was complied with, more meetings, more talks, and communication were all undertaken. Thus, it continued.

The government never truly refused to award grant-in-aid to those law institutions for a time, but it never to the point of actually doing so. The mechanism went through a lot of activity but no success.

The Supreme Court ruled that a person is entitled to legal help for the whole trial process, including the appeals phase. The court further declared that the trial is tainted and needs to be redone if someone has been refused legal representation at any point during it.

Helping those who would not otherwise be able to afford legal representation and court attendance is known as legal aid. Legal aid plays a crucial role in facilitating access to justice by guaranteeing three rights: equality before the law, the right to counsel, and a fair trial. Its goal is to guarantee welfare provisions by making the courts and legal counsel accessible. It is a fundamental component of the Welfare State as defined by a democracy.

Under statutory provisions pertaining to legal services and constitutional provisions (Art. 39A), legal aid has been established in India.

Ensuring that no one in the nation, not even the poorest among the poor, experiences injustice due to harsh actions by the government or private individuals is crucial in a democracy where the rule of law is paramount. To move forward, the legal aid movement needs to guarantee capacity building. To achieve this, legal aid stakeholders including volunteers, attorneys, law professors, and law students must improve their skill sets. Members of the local panchayat, for example, to serve as a middleman between rural residents and legal aid organizations.

The absence of legal knowledge is the main obstacle facing the legal aid movement in India. People are ignorant of their legal rights and protections. It must be acknowledged that the legal fraternity is not the only organization tasked with raising awareness of legal aid. It is also the responsibility and concern of society as a whole. The preservation of the constitutional guarantee of legal aid depends on society's willingness to assist its most vulnerable members.

  1. VarunPathak;ABriefHistoryOfLegalAid;IndiaLegalServices.
  2. Shaikh, D. A. (2019). The Indian Constitutional Provisions legal aid service Protection in India. A Legal Critical Analysis. SSRN Electronic Journal.
  3. Justice T. Mathivanan; Legal aid issues, challenges and solutions-an empirical study
  4. Supra n.
  5. Dr. Mamta Rao; Public interest litigation legal aid and lok adalats; 2nd edition; eastern book company;2002.
  6. Supra n. 1
  7. Supra n. 1
  8. Supra n. 1
  9. Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra, (1983) 2 SCC 96: AIR 1983 SC 378: (1983) 1 crimes 602
  10. AIR 1979 SC 1369 (1373) : (1979) 3 SCR 532
  11. AIR 1979 SC 1369 (1373) : (1979) 3 SCR 532 : (1980) 1 SCC 98 : 1980 SCC (Cr) 40],12 13 (1981) 1 SCC 635:1981 SCC (cri) 235
  12. (1983) 2 SCC 96: AIR 1983 SC 378: (1983) 1 crimes 602 15 (1995) 5 SCC 730
  13. (1986) 2 SCC 706: AIR 1986 SC 1322
Legal Resources Books:
  1. Dr. Mamta Rao, Public Interest Litigation, 2nd edition (Eastern Book Company Lucknow 2002).
  2. Dr. J.N. Pandey, "The Constitutional Law of India," 49th edition (Published in 2012, Central Law Agency).
  3. M.P. Jain, "Indian Constitutional Law," 10th edition (Lexis Nexis, Wadhwa Publication Nagpur).
  1. - Lawyers Club India
  2. - Press Information Report
  3. - Blog: Official
  4. Justice T. Mathivanan, Legal Aid Issues, Challenges, and Solutions - An Empirical Study.
  5. Varun Pathak, A Brief History of Legal Aid.
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