Article 21 of the Constitution of India states, No person shall be
deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure
established by law
. Hence ensuring legal aid to everyone is necessary for
ensuring substantive equality. Legal Aid means giving free legal services to the
poor and weaker section of society who cannot afford to take the service of
advocate to conduct a case or any legal proceeding before the court of law, any
judicial authority or before any judicial tribunal.
Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides that State shall secure that
the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal
opportunity, and shall in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable
legislation 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
Legal aid strives to ensure that constitutional pledge is fulfilled in its
letter and spirit and equal justice is made available to the poor, downtrodden
and weaker sections of the society. The preamble of the Indian constitution
basically aims to secure to the people of India justice - socio- economic and
political. Article 21 clearly says that every person has an equal right to life
and liberty except according to the procedure established by the law.
The State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice,
on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal
aid, by suitable legislation 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.
In M.H. Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra
, the Supreme Court said while
holding free legal aid as an integral part of fair procedure the Court explained
that the two important ingredients of the right of appeal are:
- firstly, service
of a copy of a judgement to the prisoner in time to enable him to file an appeal
- secondly, provision of free legal service to the prisoner who is
indigent or otherwise disabled from securing legal assistance.
This right to free legal aid is the duty of the government and is an implicit
aspect of Article 21 in ensuring fairness and reasonableness, this cannot be
termed as government charity. In other words, an accused person at lease where
the charge is of an offense punishable with imprisonment is entitled to be
offered legal aid, if he is too poor to afford counsel. Counsel for the accused
must be given sufficient time and facility for preparing his defense. Breach of
these safeguards of a fair trial would invalidate the trial and conviction.