Guide on Applying for Legal Aid

How can the guide help you?

The Nyaaya Guide on Applying for Legal Aid helps citizens understand how to obtain legal services free-of-cost from Legal Services Authorities in India. This includes information on online and offline application for legal aid along with eligibility criteria to request legal aid. It is important for the citizens to understand how to apply for legal aid so as to ensure that the opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disability.

 

What are the laws discussed in the guide?

The Nyaaya Guide on Application for Legal Aid discusses the law on legal aid outlined in the Constitution of India1, 1950, Code of Criminal Procedure, 19732, Code of Civil Procedure, 19083 and Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.

Checklists

  1. Check whether the applicant is eligible for free legal aid.
  2. Ensure the applicant has all the relevant documents required for seeking legal aid.
  3. Decide the mode in which application should be filed – online or offline.
  4. Look for the nearest Legal Services Authority if the offline mode is chosen.
  5. Approach the front office of the concerned Legal Services Authority to get the legal aid application form, to seek legal advice, to know status of the case and for any further legal assistance.

 

Sources of Information

  1. Claiming Free Legal Aid / Application Procedure, National Legal Services Authority, available at https://nalsa.gov.in/services/legal-aid/claiming-free-legal-aid-application-procedure
  2. Getting Started Guide, National Legal Services Authority, available at https://nalsa.gov.in/lsams/pdf/NALSA-Getting_Started_Guide_0.1.pdf
  3. Websites of State Legal Services Authorities, National Legal Services Authority, available at https://nalsa.gov.in/home
  4. Front Office Guidelines, National Legal Services Authority, available at https://nalsa.gov.in/acts-rules/guidelines/front-office-guidelines
  5. Legal Aid, Nyaaya, available at https://nyaaya.org/topic/legal-aid/
  6. FAQs, National Legal Services Authority, available at https://nalsa.gov.in/faqs
  7. The National Legal Services Authority (Free and Competent Legal Services) Regulations, 2010 available at https://nalsa.gov.in/acts-rules/regulations/national-legal-services-authority-f ree-and-competent-legal-services-regulations-2010

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
Chandigarh 

 

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[][]

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. 

How to Apply for Legal Aid?

When you apply for legal aid, you will require the following documents at the minimum:

  • A proof of identification: Aadhar Card is most commonly accepted, but you can ask if your State’s authority accepts other proofs. 
  • An affidavit proving you are eligible for legal aid. For example, if you are claiming you are eligible because your income is below the level specified, then you will have to give an affidavit of your income, as proof. 

 

Apart from the two documents given above, please ask your nearest Legal Authority Office for more details on the documents required, as the procedure varies across states. 

 

You can apply for free legal aid in four ways1:

  • Online (Through the Website)
  • Online (By Email)
  • In-person (In Writing)
  • In-person  (Orally/Speaking directly to the authorities)

 

Online Procedure (Through the Website)

Step 1: You should log in on the National Legal Services Authority’s website here

Step 2: You should fill in all the required details, which have been divided into six parts: Legal Aid Application, Legal Aid, Personal Details, Legal Aid Details, Case Details and Attach Document. For detailed instructions on filling the form, please see here

Step 3: Once you have filled out the form, and attached the required documents as per your case, click on “Submit”.

Step 4: You can track the status of your application here

 

Online Procedure (By Email)

You can send your application online to this email address. If you choose this option, ensure you add the necessary details, such as  your name, gender, residential address, employment status, nationality, whether SC/ST (with proof in support), income per month (with affidavit), the case for which legal aid is required, reason for seeking legal aid, etc.2

 

In-Person Procedure (In Writing)

Step 1: You should go to the front office of the nearest Legal Services Authority. You can approach NALSA  anytime between Monday and Friday – from 9:30 am to 6 pm. The address of NALSA is 12/11, Jam Nagar House, New Delhi-1100113. The other Legal Services Authorities in your state, district or taluk can also be approached within their office hours at their addresses which can be checked on their respective websites. You can access the website of your state’s Legal Services Authority through the list given here

Step 2: You should fill up the ready-made form/application form that is available. You can also find this form online. For example, for Delhi, you can access the form here.  You can also make an application in writing on a simple piece of paper with the necessary details such as your name, gender, residential address, employment status, nationality, whether SC/ST (with proof in support), income per month (with affidavit), the case for which legal aid is required, reason for seeking legal aid, etc. 

Step 3: You should submit the filled-out form/application at either the authority physically, or post the application to the authority. They will guide you on the next steps to take, clarification or other documents required.

 

In-Person Procedure (Orally)

It is also possible to make your application orally – a paralegal volunteer or an officer will assist you in such cases at the front office of the legal service authority. 

 

Once your application has been accepted, it will be processed and you will receive confirmation about whether or not you will receive legal aid. 

  1. FAQs, National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/faqs; National Legal Services Authority- Getting Started Guide, https://nalsa.gov.in/lsams/pdf/NALSA-Getting_Started_Guide_0.1.pdf; Claiming Free Legal Aid / Application Procedure, National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/services/legal-aid/claiming-free-legal-aid-application-procedure.[]
  2.   Claiming Free Legal Aid / Application Procedure, National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/services/legal-aid/claiming-free-legal-aid-application-procedure.[]
  3. Claiming Free Legal Aid / Application Procedure, National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/services/legal-aid/claiming-free-legal-aid-application-procedure.[]

Help and Support

You can reach out to the National Legal Services Authority to lodge a complaint here. You can lodge a grievance and track your application.

 

You can email or call the state-wise authorities (Legal Service Authorities) given below in case of a grievance, or if you need help and support. 

State Helpline Number/Contact Number Email Address Postal Address 
Delhi 1516 dslsa-phc@nic.in

dlsathebest@rediffmail.com

Delhi State Legal Services Authority,

Central Office, Pre – Fab Building,

Patiala House Courts, New Delhi.

Haryana 18001802057 http://www.hslsa.gov.in/helpline Haryana State Legal Services Authority,

Institutional Plot No.09,Sector-14 Panchkula (Near Kisan Bhawan)

Kerala +91 9846 700 100 kelsakerala@gmail.com Member Secretary,

Office of the Kerala State Legal Services Authority,

Niyama Sahaya Bhavan,

High Court Compound

Ernakulam, Kochi,

Kerala State

Himachal Pradesh +91 94180 33385

15100 (toll-free)

Nyaya Sanyog: 0177-2629862

mslegal-hp@nic.in The Member Secretary, HP State Legal Services Authority, Block No. 22, S.D.A. Complex, Kasumpti, Shimla
Maharashtra 1800 22 23 24 mslsa-bhc@nic.in 105, High court (PWD) Building, Fort, Mumba.
Gujarat 18002337966  msguj.lsa@nic.in 3rd Floor, Near Gujarat High Court Post Office,

Gujarat High Court Campus,

Sola, Ahmedabad

Madhya Pradesh 15100 mplsajab@nic.in
Assam  0361-2601843, 2516367 mailto:assamslsa1@gmail.com Assam State Legal Services Authority, Adjacent to Gauhati High Court New Block
Orissa 0671-2307071 oslsa@nic.in Odisha State Legal Services Authority,

S.O.20,

Cantonment Road (Gopabandhu Marg), Cuttack

Tamil Nadu 1516 tnslsa.lae@gmail.com Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority,

North Fort Road, High Court Campus,

Chennai 

Karnataka 1800-425-90900 Karslsa@gmail.com Karnataka State Legal Services Authority,

Nyaya Degula Building, 1st Floor, H.Siddaiah Road,

Bengaluru

Further, if you do not find your lawyer suitable for your needs and want a different one, you can request this. Read more here

Appeal

If you are not satisfied with the decision given by the relevant Legal Service Authority on your application for a grant of legal aid, there is a provision to appeal against the decision. 

To appeal, you can appeal to the Executive Chairman or Chairman of the relevant Legal Services Authority1. The decision resulting from the appeal would be a final one.

  1.  Regulation 7(5), National Legal Services Authority (Free and Competent Legal Services) Regulations 2010.[]

Denial/Withdrawal of Legal Aid Services

After you fill out your application for legal aid, it can be denied or accepted. It can also be withdrawn at a later stage after the application has been accepted and legal aid has been provided.

 

Denying Legal Aid

Legal aid can be denied 1:

 

Withdrawing Legal Aid

Legal aid can be withdrawn in the following circumstances 1:

  • Where the person who applied under the income category is found to possess sufficient means to pay for legal services required.
  • Where the person obtained legal services by misrepresentation or fraud.
  • Where the person does not cooperate with the Legal Services Authority/Committee or with the legal services lawyer. 
  • Where the person engages a legal practitioner, like a lawyer, other than the one assigned by the Legal Services Authority/Committee. 
  • Where the person has died, except in the case of civil proceedings where the right/liability is still present
  • Where the application for legal service or the matter in question is found to be an abuse of the process of law or of legal services.
  1. FAQs, National Legal Service Authority, https://nalsa.gov.in/faqs.[][]