2023 GS2 Answer

Q. Who are entitled to receive free legal aid? Assess the role of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) in rendering free legal aid in India.

Question from UPSC Mains 2023 GS2 Paper

Model Answer: 

Free Legal Aid in India

Free legal aid is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of India under Article 39A. It is intended to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities. The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free legal services to the weaker sections of society and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.

Who are entitled to receive free legal aid?

1. Members of Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes: As per the Legal Services Authorities Act, any member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe is eligible for free legal aid.

2. Victims of trafficking or begar: Any victim of trafficking in human beings or begar as referred to in Article 23 of the Constitution is entitled to receive free legal aid.

3. Women and children: The Act also provides for free legal aid to all women and children. This includes victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.

4. Persons with disabilities: Persons with disabilities as defined in clause (s) of section 2 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 are also eligible for free legal aid.

5. Persons in custody: Any person in custody, including juveniles, is entitled to free legal aid.

6. Persons with an annual income less than the prescribed limit: Any person whose annual income is less than Rs. 1,00,000 (in case of Delhi, the limit is Rs. 2,00,000) or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the State Government, if the case is before a court other than the Supreme Court, is entitled to free legal aid.

Role of NALSA in rendering free legal aid:

1. Legal Aid Counsel: NALSA provides a counsel who defends and pleads the case on behalf of the needy persons.

2. Legal Literacy and Awareness: NALSA organizes legal literacy and awareness camps to make people aware of their rights and duties.

3. Dispute Resolution: NALSA organizes Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.

4. Legal Aid Clinics: NALSA has established legal aid clinics in villages to bridge the gap between the common people and the justice system.

5. Training and Development: NALSA conducts training programs for legal aid lawyers and para-legal volunteers to ensure effective legal aid delivery.

6. Monitoring and Evaluation: NALSA monitors and evaluates the implementation of legal aid programs and schemes.


NALSA plays a pivotal role in providing free legal aid to the marginalized sections of society and ensuring that justice is not denied to anyone on the grounds of economic or other disabilities. However, there is a need to strengthen the legal aid system in India by increasing the budgetary allocation for legal aid, enhancing the quality of legal aid services, and promoting greater awareness about legal aid among the public.

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