What is Free Legal Aid?

Free legal aid means providing legal services, free of cost, to certain sections of the society like a beggar, differently-abled person, etc., as and when required. This does not mean that anyone can go and ask for legal aid. You have to be eligible to apply for it.


The purpose of providing legal aid is to ensure that no person is deprived of legal services and justice due to lack of money1. You can get free legal aid when:

  • You cannot afford to pay or engage a lawyer to represent you in court or for any other purpose. For example, you can get legal aid when you are appealing your sentence2, or if you are appearing in front of the Magistrate for the first time3 etc.
  • You want legal advice, legal services or legal steps to take for a problem.
  • You need help with getting legal documents ready.
  • You need help to pay court fees for a case or any other fee required for legal processes
  • You want to apply for compensation or get money through the Court.


You have a constitutional right to legal aid 4, which means that the state is constitutionally bound to provide legal aid to you at all stages i.e. not only at the stage of trial but also when you are first produced before the Magistrate or let off on bail, etc. Legal aid authorities cannot deny you this right stating excuses or reasons like the fact that you did not ask for help or that the authorities have financial or administrative constraints5. If you are eligible for legal aid, you have every right to get it. 


Please note that this explainer only gives a general central overview of the procedures in relation to getting free legal aid, and the procedure varies across states. 

  1.  FAQs, National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/faqs.[]
  2. Madav Hayavadanrao Hoskot Vs. State of Maharastra (1978)3 SCC 544.[]
  3. Khatri II Vs. the State of Bihar, (1981) 1SCC; 1981 SCC (Cri) 228; 1981 Cri. LJ 470.[]
  4. Article 22, 39-A, Constitution of India, 1950; Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar [(1980) 1 SCC 98].[]
  5. Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar [(1980) 1 SCC 98][]

Legal Services

If you are looking for legal aid in India, then this includes a lot of legal services.1 Legal services are 2 any service with respect to a case or any other legal proceeding before any Court, authority or tribunal. Getting legal advice is also a part of legal service. 


To get legal aid, you will have to approach a Legal Service Authority to whom you can ask for help for your situation.  You have a right to ask for any of the legal services given below3:

  • Representation by a lawyer in legal proceedings. 
  • Payment of all costs including process fees, expenses of witnesses and all other charges payable or incurred in connection with any legal proceedings. 
  • Preparation of memo of appeal, paper book including printing and translation of documents in legal proceedings.
  • Drafting of legal documents, special leave petitions etc.
  • Supply of certified copies of judgments, orders, notes of evidence and other documents in legal proceedings.
  1. Section 2(c), Legal Services Authority Act, 1987.[]
  2. Section 2(c), Legal Services Authority Act, 1987.[]
  3. FAQs, National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/faqs; Nature Of Free Legal Services, National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/lsams/nologin/natureOfFreeService.action[]

Eligibility for Legal Aid

If you want legal aid, you will need to go to a legal service authority. Once you approach the authority, they will check:


  • Whether you are eligible for legal aid. 

You are eligible based on two criteria:  – either based on who you are or as per the income you get. You only need to qualify for one of these criterias to be eligible for receiving legal aid.


  • Genuine nature of your case

After checking whether you are eligible for legal aid, the authority will then check  if you have a genuine case to prosecute or to defend 1. This discretion lies with the authorities and they will take the final call on whether your case itself requires legal aid. There is no bar as to which kind of cases you can apply and not apply for. 


However, if certain conditions are fulfilled, your legal aid may be withdrawn. 


Persons who can apply for legal aid

The following persons can apply for legal aid irrespective of their income:2 :

  • A member of the scheduled castes or tribes;
  • A victim of human trafficking or a beggar;
  • Any disabled person, including persons who are mentally disabled3;
  • A woman or child;
  • A victim of mass disaster, ethnic violence, caste atrocity, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial disaster and other cases of undeserved want;
  • An industrial workman;
  • Those in custody, including protective custody4, juvenile home5, psychiatric hospital or psychiatric nursing home;6
  • Any person facing a charge which might result in imprisonment7 


Maximum Income Earned

A person receiving an annual income less than the amount as mentioned below8 can apply for legal aid within their own State:

State Income Ceiling Limit
Andhra Pradesh Rs. 3,00,000/- 
Arunachal Pradesh Rs. 1,00,000/-
Assam Rs. 3, 00, 000/-
Bihar Rs. 1,50,000/-
Chhattisgarh Rs. 1,50,000/-
Goa Rs.3,00,000/-
Gujarat Rs.1,00,000/-
Haryana Rs. 3,00,000/-
Himachal Pradesh Rs. 3,00,000/-
Jammu & Kashmir Rs. 1,00,000/-
Jharkhand Rs. 3,00,000
Karnataka Rs. 1,00,000
Kerala Rs. 300,000
Madhya Pradesh Rs. 1,00,000
Maharashtra Rs. 3,00,000
Manipur Rs. 3,00,000
Meghalaya Rs. 1,00,000
Mizoram Rs. 25,000
Nagaland Rs. 1,00,000
Odisha Rs.3,00,000
Punjab Rs. 3,00,000
Rajasthan Rs. 1,50,000
Sikkim Rs. 3,00,000
Telangana Rs.1,00,000
Tamil Nadu Rs. 3,00,000
Tripura Rs. 1,50,000            
Uttar Pradesh Rs. 1,00,000
Uttarakhand Rs. 3,00,000
West Bengal Rs. 1,00,000
Andaman & Nicobar Islands Rs.3,00,000


Rs. 3,00,000


Dadra  & Nagar Haveli  Rs. 15,000
Daman & Diu Rs. 1,00,000
Lakshadweep Rs. 9,000
Delhi General – 1,00,000

Transgender – 2,00,000

Senior Citizen – 2,00,000

Puducherry Rs. 1,00,000

To prove your income, you can submit an affidavit as proof of income to the authorities. This affidavit will be scrutinized by the authorities and the discretion to allow your application lies with the authority.9 To make an affidavit, take the help of a lawyer.

  1. Section 13,  Legal Services Authority Act, 1987.[]
  2. Section 12,  Legal Services Authority Act, 1987[]
  3. Section 7 (4) (c), Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.[]
  4. Section 2 (g), Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956.[]
  5. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.[]
  6. Section (g) of Section 2 of the Mental Health Act, 1987.[]
  7. Khatri II Vs. State of Bihar, (1981) 1SCC.[]
  8.  FAQs, National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/faqs.[]
  9. Section 13(2), Legal Services Authority Act, 1987.[]

Costs in Legal Aid

There is no charge for getting an application form for free legal aid.1 You are not required to spend any money for either getting or submitting the application. Even expenses like Process Fees, Drafting Fees, Typing Fees, Clerkage, etc. are borne by the legal service institutions.2


You do not have to pay any money if you get legal aid. You do not need to pay for:

  • Getting an application form for requesting free legal aid.3  You are not required to spend any money for either getting or submitting the application. 
  • Expenses like Process Fees, Drafting Fees, Typing Fees, Clerkage, etc.3.
  • Expenses of witnesses and all other charges payable or incurred in connection with any legal proceedings. 
  1.  FAQs, National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/faqs[]
  2.    FAQs, National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/faqs[]
  3. FAQs, National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/faqs[][]

What are the eligibility criteria for Muslim marriages?

For a marriage to be legally recognized as a Muslim marriage, the following conditions must be met:1 




A couple can get married if they have attained puberty (usually 15 years). 


Mental State 


A person with mental illness can get married if their guardian has given consent to the marriage. ‘Consent’ or agreeing to get married is an important part of a Muslim marriage. Even though it is assumed that a person with mental illnesses does not have the ability to get married, the law allows such marriages if the guardian agrees to it. 




A boy or girl who has not attained puberty (minor) is not competent to enter into a contract for marriage but the guardian may contract their marriage for them after they attain puberty.2

  1. Mulla, D. F., Sir. (n.d.). Principles of Mahomedan Law (20th ed.) p.251.[]
  2. Shoukat Hussain and another v. State of Punjab and others [CRWP No.733 of 2021 (O&M)].[]

What are the essential conditions of a Muslim marriage?

There are a few essential steps that need to be followed to make the marriage valid1:

Proposal and Acceptance

There has to be a proposal made by or on behalf of one person and it has to be accepted by the other for a valid marriage.


Consent is a very important criteria for a marriage and the criteria for consent changes according to the different schools of law.


Witnesses are those people who are present at the marriage and can state that it took place. They are an important requirement for a valid muslim marriage.

Prohibited Relationship

Some relationships within a family and extended family are prohibited, meaning, one cannot marry these people as such relationships are prohibited under custom. There are strict prohibitions in muslim law which have to be followed.

  1. Mulla, D. F., Sir. (n.d.). Principles of Mahomedan Law (20th ed.) p.331.[]

Where do you go for Legal Aid

You can approach the following authorities for applying for legal aid: 

  • State Legal Services Authorities – They are in charge of governing and providing legal aid services in their particular state and governing the same at the District and Taluk level. For example, in New Delhi, it is known as the Delhi State Legal Services Authority. Read here to see the list of state authorities. 
  • District Legal Services Authorities – The powers and functions of this Authority are determined by the respective State Legal Service Authority and providing legal aid in the district. Generally,  you can approach this authority if you require help and support, to submit an application for legal aid, etc. and they will be able to direct you. It coordinates the activities of the Taluk Legal Services Committee and other legal services in the District,  organizes Lok Adalats, etc. 
  • Supreme Court Legal Services Committees – Its functions include receiving applications for legal services, maintaining a panel of advocates to provide legal advice, determining costs related to legal services, etc.
  • High Court Legal Services Committees – Its functions are the same as the Supreme Court Legal Services Committees, but they are to be performed at the state level and these functions have been prescribed by the state authority. 

What are prohibited relationships under the law?

Certain relationships are prohibited under the law. This means that a person cannot marry certain kinds of relatives:1

Blood Relations 

You cannot marry your mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, great-niece, aunts, or great-aunts. You also cannot marry someone who is also related to you through such relatives. For example, you cannot marry your great granddaughter.


Relatives through Marriage 

You cannot marry your wife’s mother/grandmother, wife’s daughter/granddaughter, son’s wife in the case of a second, third or fourth marriage. 


Relatives through Fosterage 

All relations prohibited through blood relations and marriages apply to foster relationships as well. Example, a man cannot marry his foster mother’s daughter.


  1. Mulla, D. F., Sir. (n.d.). Principles of Mahomedan Law (20th ed.) p.332.[]